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David Stewart

At 34, David Stewart seems too young to be a chief executive but he says

he has been in the right place at the right time.

The former accountant has traded in his calculator for a computer and

these days he is chief executive of AssureWeb, the online quotation and

trading service of network DBS.

He came across from the parent network in1998 but has seen the busiest

period in the last three months. As well as raising £10m from investors,

selling mortgages online and offering a free window for IFAs, the platform

is believed to be gearing up to float.

AssureWeb recently announced its user incentive campaign. It will roll out

a share option scheme which will see DBS distribute cash to its members

should the software arm float. Analysts have predicted AssureWeb will float

for up to £250m.

Stewart says a flotation is speculative but concedes it is a “substantial

possibility”. He says: “We want to have a separate identity to DBS and a

source to capital markets.”

Naturally this begs the question of why. Stewart explains: “A technology

business is different to a network of IFAs. The management style is

different and shareholders may want one and not the other.”

Stewart&#39s first management job with DBS was as group financial controller,

a position he took up in 1993, making this year his eighth at the network.

At first, he thought it was a “funny little business” but he was attrac-ted

by its ambitions to grow and become a plc. He was also swayed after meeting

Ken Davy, he says.

Since that auspicious meeting, which saw him move over from building

materials company Hayward Williams, Stewart has been group finance

director, company secretary, head of mortgage business, deputy chief

executive of DBS and group managing director.

Stewart has witnessed some major changes as he has moved through the

ranks. In 1993, DBS employed around 50 staff. Now it has 400. He says he

has seen DBS achieve great success and withstand many challenges, including

new qualifications and, of course, the pension review.

He says: “The review was an enormous issue, by far the biggest issue at

the time. We had a big profile but we managed to complete phase one

successfully.”

He feels able to comment on the sector although he has not been an IFA

himself because he has been immersed in the IFA world for a number of

years. As for what lies in store for IFAs in future, he believes the need

for advice can only grow and grow. “Technology can create different ways of

designing, developing and presenting products. With the surfeit of

information, consumers are going to need more guidance.”

He thinks that technol-ogy will enable IFAs to dem-onstrate their value

and inc-rease efficiency.

Given the growing number of portals in the IFA market, how does AssureWeb

plan to stand out from the competition?

Stewart responds by saying it is a platform that IFAs can actually have a

stake in. The Exchange and Misys are targeting the consumer market rather

than just IFAs, he says.

He thinks the role of the chief executive is to decide on priorities,

recruitment and timing. He says he carries out these roles by being

straight with people and he expects the same in return. Any of his 70

employees can come into his office and swear – provided they shut the door.

Colleague Sue Lewis, press officer at DBS, says: “David has done very

well. He has an astute business brain and gets things done. He is also

friendly and good fun. He can laugh at himself.”

He certainly displays a well developed sense of humour when talking about

football. On the performance of his team, second division Oldham Athletic,

he says: “I don&#39t struggle to get a seat, put it that way.” He is such a

big fan of the club that when the manager&#39s job came up he applied for it.

However, his hopes were dashed when he did not even get a reply.

He also has a “passing interest” in other sports. “I participate but to no

great standard. At a push, I could probably get a game for Oldham.”

Aside from football, Stewart expresses a long-standing interest in

politics, sparked he says by animal rights issues. His interest ran deep

enough for him to embark on a university course in the subjectat Warwick.

But he insists it is confined to an academic interest and he has never

belonged to a political party.

He also enjoys going out for a drink and a talk with friends and says

friends and family are of great importance to him. He has been with his

partner Angela, who works for the Halifax, for eight years now and they

live together in Huddersfield. But Stewart can only get there at the

weekends as his work is based in Cheltenham. “I have an itinerant

existence,” he says.

He claims not to have any major career goals, saying: “When I get up on

Monday and I feel like I don&#39t want to do it any more, then I will do

something different.

“You spend 40 hours a week at work. I would sacrifice money and status for

happiness at work.”

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