Under the stewardship of Ambrose McGinn, Abbey National intermediary services are going to be booted into the 21st Century. McGinn, the new director for sales and marketing across the Abbey group, is relishing lacing up his Dr Martens to do the job justice.
The 42-year-old claims he is unhampered by industry doctrine. His background in commercial goods marketing with stints at Grand Metropolitan and Unilever has equipped him with a good eye for brands, he says, and Abbey has a “solid” retail brand which he wants to structure into an equally strong brand for IFAs.
Under the new restructured regime at Abbey, the wealth management and long-term savings division across all products and services are being brought under the Abbey umbrella. This will see sales and marketing for Scottish Mutual, Scottish Provident, Cater Allen, James Hay and Abbey National intermediary mortgages come under McGinn's remit.
The blurb from Abbey says that the new management and operational structure will be organised “by function rather than brand”. The move will see all of Abbey's intermediary businesses brought together in one team for the first time.
According to McGinn, branding will be key. Towards the end of this month and the start of August, Abbey will be rolling out the new look intermediary business with a new logo and a “clearer overall Abbey branding approach”.
McGinn says he wants to play to all of Abbey's product and services strengths: “We will be maximising the potential of our unsung heroes, like James Hay.”
When asked why this had not been done sooner, he smiles and says: “Because they didn't have me before”.
McGinn displays the kind of confidence normally only displayed by Americans and generally slated in the UK as arrogance. Or maybe it is just because he is not a cradle-to-grave industry man that he shows unnerving faith in his own abilities.
“Too often, businesses in this sector are run by technical gurus who can't think out of the box. I have experience in a number of different areas and will bring fresh eyes to the business.”
He strikes you as a man who does not really care what people think of him so long as he manages to achieve what he sets out to do. He has set himself a tall order in wanting to make Abbey National one of the top three brands recommended by IFAs across the product range.
He is hitting the road in the search of face-to-face broker feedback. “From the initial sounding out there is definitely room for a more straightforward approach. You have to dare to be different and I believe Abbey can do that. There are too many people out there overcomplicating finance. You have to keep things simple – that does not mean you can't be sophisticated though.”
As far as the product range is concerned, nothing is sacred. “I have no qualms about dropping products that don't come up to scratch or with filling any gaps in product offerings through careful selection.” White-labelling has not been ruled out but McGinn will not be drawn the details, saying instead that it is all being evaluated.
He sets out his stall for success in business as identifying expectations and clearly managing your team towards them: “I am very much hands-on and a team player.” The hands-on approach carries over into actively shaping products and services and McGinn will be canvassing opinion and generating debate among key brokers on what they want to see from Abbey.
Despite trudging the length and breadth of the country getting the Abbey message across, McGinn insists he is not a workaholic. He regularly indulges in his passion (second only to his family) of taking his customised Land Rover to offroading competitions – with his eight-year-old son and the family dog in tow.
Not content with churning up the British countryside, McGinn wants to take his Land Rover to South America and trailblaze there too: “Latin America still has the largest tranche of relatively untravelled land in the world. It is my ambition to drive across it, down it, around it.”
Closer to home he is in the process of evaluating the prospect of “joint brand or co-label” of Inscape for the intermediary market to give the wealth management arm a boost.
“We will promote access to other people's investments from our platform. I am fairly agnostic when it comes to where the money goes. Whatever is best for the broker and their client, that is what will drive any changes.”
McGinn's other immediate focus is Scottish Provident and the protection market, which he sees as a key growth area.
Brushing aside the threat of pretenders for the protection throne, McGinn says he is confident that, given the swell in the market, there is “plenty for everyone”. But he is quick to point out that ScotProv will not take any erosion of its market share lying down: “We will continue to dominate. I certainly won't let any of the new entrants come in and take over what is ours.”
Safeguarding the company's share of the protection market aside, where does he want to take Abbey? “We need to get noticed and be dynamic,” says McGinn.
It will be a while yet before dynamic and Abbey National sit happily together in the same sentence but McGinn is bullish: “We have all the elements there, we just need to have them all pointing in the right direction. I know we can do it, I stake my reputation on it.”
Lives: Oving, Bucks with wife and son
Education: Marycourt school, Liverpool 5 A Levels, University College London BA Hons in Philosophy
Career to date: Started with Grand Metropolitan and then moved to Unilever, where he held a number of marketing roles. Since joining Abbey National in 1989 he has held a variety of marketing positions across the UK retail business, including marketing director and product director with responsibility for brand, customer and product management
Career ambition: “I want to make a big impact.”
Life ambition: “To spend lots of time with my family and to drive across South America in a four-wheel drive.”
Likes: Straight talking, good humour and success
Dislikes: Bureaucracy, jargon and time wasting
Peers say: “He's great fun to work with.”
Car: Range Rover Vogue “with all the extras” and bespoke Land Rover for offroading