Andy Briggs is a man firmly committ-ed to the dual causes of Britain’s savings and protection crises. Scottish Widows’ new managing director of marketing and distribution says the firm is striving towards helping people maximise their savings and retirement funds that motivates him.
“The reason I work in this industry and have done for so long, is that there are too many people retiring with too little income. If I can play a part in helping to improve that situation, that is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Briggs was a keen sportsman in his youth, excelling in volleyball and representing his country in the England Under 20s team but he accepted that his professional fate lay elsewhere.
He is still keen on sports, playing golf off a 14 handicap, graded down from an impressive nine “when I played more regularly” and is a keen rugby fan.
His main goal, however, is addressing the country’s dire financial needs. He says he joined Scottish Widows for its potential to become the UK’s leading life and pensions company, which he says is largely due to its unique distribution network of combining Scottish Widows’ IFA-focused arm to Lloyds TSB’s bancassurance model, believing no other insurer has this inherent advantage.
“The strengths of the Lloyds TSB and Scottish Widows brands are second to none and the unique power of that combination enables us to build bigger and better routes to market.”
He also respects Widows’ commitment to domestic success, a feature some of its rivals might not be in a position to boast, particularly his former employer.
Although Briggs did not aspire to work in financial services distribution as a young child: “I did not sit there at school and think ‘when I grow up I want to be an act-uary’ but I did know I wanted to work in general management.”
Briggs is a talented mathematician and during his degree, read at Southampton, he decided he wanted to work in general management. He took up with the Pru immediately and found his studies to be relevant by incident rather than intention.
He qualified as an actuary after two years but moved around a number of areas including customer services and marketing before settling into his role in distribution.
In the 19 years he was with the firm, before his departure at the end of last year, Briggs witnessed many changes.
He joined just after Pru’s acquisition of Jackson National Life. Briggs says the busi-ness was in a state of flux and he was glad to experience such integration first hand.
The key change during his career at Pru seems to be its twin shift away from its direct salesforce and the UK. He reckons at the time of joining the majority of Pru’s business was through its DSF and about 80 per cent was UK-centric. Today, it seems only about 30 per cent of the business is directed at the UK, with a mere 10 per cent of it written direct.
Although Briggs was at Prudential during The Man from the Pru days, he has retained a focus on the IFA space.
Briggs says the days of a salesforce of that magnitude are over.
“People have not changed. They still have a level of need for financial services, even if they do not recognise that themselves. It is important to go with someone who person-alises that need. The Man from the Pru gave an accessibility that was unprecedented.”
However, the modern regulatory environ-ment means that the economics of having 6,000 blokes running around the country-side just did not stack up.
He is constantly being told by IFAs that they spend far too much time doing admin and he wants Widows to solve that problem. If Widows can be the provider to put the systems in place, such as its new Retirement Account, to reduce IFAs’ administrative burden, enabling them to spend more time with clients, he says he will have achieved one of his goals. Briggs says he realises that most IFAs use the top couple of IT platforms, whether it be back office, point of sale or quotation platforms, but he wants to help them consolidate that work, linking into the system that count.
Lifestage recognition is a theme that Briggs is fond of, when it comes to identifying key opportunities for new business, but he is aware people should be thinking harder and earlier about their financial futures.
Briggs’s personal life-stage is split, his time divided between Edinburgh and London’s well-heeled Holland Park. Briggs tries to reside in Scotland, where his new bride, Suzanne, is from. The pair married in November.
But it does allow him to indulge his other two great loves, his 11 and 15-yearold daughters, professed shopaholics and “very excited” about the opening of the new riot-inducing Primark store opening in London’s Oxford Street this month.
Briggs assures us his family were not amid the commercial chaos, rather his time in the bargain haven would be spent not in a frenzied rush for the new cropped, spring jacket but rather replying to emails on his BlackBerry. Now there’s commitment.
He says the strategic review he conducted on his arrival at Widows concluded the company could achieve its ambition of becoming the leading life, pensions and investment player in the UK, while the banking arm as a mortgage lender could build its presence in the protection arena.
With his dream team now in place, comprising Rob Wyllie, former Pru man Gordon Greig, John Taylor formerly of Standard Life and NU/Lifetime’s Robert Fletcher, he can now continue driving the business ahead.
Briggs hopes the two-pronged attack on the savings and retirement planning market will do well to address the issue and he hopes to be the one leading from the front.
Born: 1966, Chelmsford, Essex
Lives: Edinburgh and London with wife
Education: BSc Honours in Mathematics, Southampton University
Career history: January 2007 – current: Scottish Widows managing director, marketing and distribution; 1986 – 2006: Prudential, customer service, actuarial, marketing and distribution, latterly UK distribution director and chief executive of retirement income business
Likes: Golf, rugby, travel, good food and fine wine
Dislikes: Negative peopleDrives: Audi A4 cabriolet
Favourite book: The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Favourite film: The Sting
Favourite album: All the Nina Simone on my iPod
Hero: Nelson Mandela
Life ambition: To make a difference and enjoy every minute of itCareer ambition: Help people retire on a much better income and realise their hopes and dreams
If I wasn’t doing my current job I would be… working in the voluntary sector. I am currently involved with the NSPCC, chairing its City Fine Wine Challenge committee. We run an annual event which raised £101,000 last year