Perhaps appropriate for someone whose early ambition was to be
Jacques Cousteau, Britannic's marketing chief found himself in deep water
in his first job but now it's all going swimmingly
BYLN: Tracey Boles
For someone who fluf fed his first sales job, Britannic Assurance sales
and marketing director Bill Haynes has come a long way.
His first potential client did not buy anything from him. But these days,
at 38, Haynes sits on the board of Britannic Assurance.
He was a key player in the recent decision to acquire a 75 per cent stake
in Britannia Asset Management and Britannia Life, a deal which took funds
under management to £20bn.
Obviously, his sales technique improved with time.
He says: “I understand what the consumer wants in a financial services
environment – good quality, good value products and an easy means of
Over the years, he honed his craft with several financial services
companies. Apart from a stint working on Weston-super-Mare pier as a
youngster, he has always been employed in the sector.
Bristol-born Haynes started out as a financial adviser with Abbey Life in
the late 1970s. Then he set up his own IFA business, which he sold after
four years to a merchant bank.
He moved to Commercial Union where he was responsible for setting up its
direct salesforce in 1986. He was appointed a director in 1990 but two
years later moved to Sun Life as managing director of direct distribution.
While there, he is credited with dramatically increasing the performance
of the salesforce and instigating a programme of cost control which bought
the operation into profit. It got him noticed.
He was headhunted by Britannic in 1997. It saw someone financially
competent who was open to change and who could provide clear leadership in
a difficult transition period.
At Britannic, Haynes has already overseen many changes and describes the
period as one of his biggest challenges because it has involved turning the
tide on 130 years of history.
The life office no longer sees itself as just a home-service operator.
Although it will continue to be dominated by the direct salesforce, it aims
to become multi-distributional with its recently launched IFA channel and
an eye on developing the e-commerce side.
The multi-distribution strategy is one facet of the company highlighted in
Britan nic's ongoing marketing campaign, which features a pair of swans
representing a partnership for life. The ads also focus on Britannic's aim
to deliver “good quality needs-based advice”.
Underpinning this aim is a revamped salesforce. In the last three years,
individual productivity has improved by 170 per cent. Haynes attributes
this to training “enabling them to do the job properly rather than policing
them when they do not”. The training looks at needs analysis, completeness
of advice and good sales practice.
Each day, Haynes tries to get the best out of his teams. “I give people
the opportunity to develop their abilities and achieve what they set out to
do. I see myself in a supporting role, creating the environment to do this
and providing the right resources.
“I run a meritocracy where the best performing get the best rewards but
everyone starts off on an equal basis.
It winds me up when people do not try.”
No wonder colleagues describe him as focused and passionate. That said, he
likes to keep his working day fluid and relatively unstructured so as not
to be always rushing from one meeting to another.
He finishes around 6pm and heads for the gym in a bid to remain as fit as
possible. He also relaxes at home in Clifton, Bristol with his children,
Alexander, five, and Claudia, three.
During the course of a week, he moves between Birmingham, London and
Bristol to keep a high profile in the branches and give the salesforce the
chance to discuss any problems face to face. But confrontation is not his
Surprisingly, then, one of his biggest hobbies is martial arts. He also
collects paintings – “not like Charles Saatchi” but buying what he likes.
His is currently into abstract impressionism. Yet another love is classical
history and archaeology around the time of Alexander the Great.
He also enjoys travelling. Haiti made a particularly big impression on him.
“Despite the highest infant mortality rate in the world, it has a
vibrancy,” he says.
For the end of the millennium, he is going to Jamaica. His ideal holiday
would be scuba diving in the Seychelles, perhaps a hangover from his
childhood ambition to be Jacques Cousteau.
As for the future of financial services, he sees the biggest issues as the
dichotomy between new charging structures and the customer's requirement
“Our research shows that people want advice but the proposed margins make
it hard to deliver. Our solution is to build scale and grow the business
organically. We need to write a bigger volume of business,” he says.
As a former IFA, does he have any tips to help IFAs flourish in this
environment? He suggests “an entrepreneurial flair, understanding the
customer and a commitment to giving sound advice”