View more on these topics

Driving forces of the industry

The financial services industry may not be perceived by the outside world as being driven by strong personalities. The rows of dark suits visible at any industry conference are a testament to that.

Yet the shockwaves sent through the industry whenever a leading figure leaves an organisation shows that personality must be a driving factor in a business.

The Exchange is certainly crowing over having snapped up the influential former Misys IFA Services chairman Jim Gaskin. So important was his presence at Misys that his resignation in May was kept secret to avoid any damage to the company&#39s share price.

When the resignation was rev ealed in Money Marketing in July, members of the Misys-owned Countrywide network expressed concern for the organisation&#39s future.

The Exchange is planning to capitalise on Gaskin&#39s regulatory knowledge and experience of the IFA sector. But the pulling power of his reputation means his appointment is seen as a major coup by many in the industry.

Countrywide member Exc alibur managing director And rew Baggott says: “Gaskin would come to lots of meetings and conferences, telling his members what he was doing and how he was working. He really communicated with us and we all believed he was actually doing something for the organisation.

“If you have someone who is dynamic and obviously cares about what they do, it filters through to the staff. You really need someone like that, especially in financial services which is a fragmented and often political industry.”

The sudden resignation this week of DBS network chief executive Tony Kemp ster has also shocked members.

The network will now be headed by Assureweb chief executive David Stewart, while compliance director Alan Taylor becomes managing director. The imp lications of their leadership on the network are yet to be seen but, given Stewart&#39s background, a more technology-driven organisation is a possibility.

DBS member Alan Moran says: “Personalities make a tremendous difference. The whole ethos of DBS has chan ged in the time Kempster has been here. You got the feeling we were a great organisation, working in a team. That is a result of his approach.

“Our previous chief executives ran the organisation like accountants, putting costs first. Kempster worked first on what members needed and then worked back to the costs.”

Last week also brought the announcement that Zurich IFA chief executive Jerry Gray burn is taking early ret irement from the company. He is credited with establishing Zifa as a credible brand and his absence could pave the way for substantial chan ges in the organisation.

Meanwhile, at Aegon UK, chan ges to the executive board make it clear that group development director Otto Thoresen is a driving force behind the organisation. He is now finance director alongside his original role and has been a key figure in recent acquisitions, including Guar dian Financial Services and HS Admini str ative Services.

Aegon public relations manager Scott White says: “Most of the new members of our executive board are in their early 40s. It really shows the changing face of big insurance companies that these individuals have powered through to the top. You used to have to earn your stripes and have grey hair to progress.”

He says the insurance sector has suffered from a lack of individuals who have been prepared to take the industry forward. But he believes dyn amic personalities are now coming to the fore.

White says: “Insurance companies have not had individuals to take them out of their comfort zones. There are now people who are willing to embrace change and break down the traditional ways of doing things.

“The insurance industry has lagged behind the banking sector but we have caught up and it has taken individuals to push through change.”

Personalities do not come much bigger than former Jupi ter chief executive John Duf field, whose claim for unfair dis missal against Jupiter was settled out of court last week.

Duffield&#39s personality dominated the running of the company and many credit its success to him. His departure in May has seen a marked change in the company&#39s app roach. Duffield was notoriously media averse but the company is now keen to have a more transparent image.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of investment Mark Dampier says: “The John Duffield case shows personalities do have a bearing on organisations. Whether you liked his management style or not, Jupiter&#39s success has been down to him. But success has a rolling effect – other successful people are attracted to it. The effect of dynamic people who are hug ely enthusiastic about their business spills over to staff.”

It is probably in fund management that personality has the most visible influence. The industry appears to be dominated by the cult of the star fund manager, with inv estors moving their money to follow a manager rather than take a risk with their replacement.

Aberdeen Asset Manage ment head of unit trusts Gary Marshall says: “You need personalities who have impact to create an image for your company. But to build up a business, you have to build up a strong team. The bigger your team, the more diversified you are and, ultimately, the stron ger you are.”

Recommended

Save the trees

If a decision tree fell in a forest of criticism and there was no regulator there, would it still matter? Now that we have the final version of the decision trees in their new pastel colours, what are we to make of them? Reac tion so far seems to have ranged from grudging acceptance to […]

Survey shows IFAs value autonomy

The majority of IFAs value their independence but network members are more willing to consider multi-ties than non-members, according to research by KPMG for Skandia Life. The company condu cted in-depth interviews with a cross-section of 48 leading IFA firms in September to find out IFAs&#39 responses to the London Economics report to the FSA […]

National Mutual bonds with pension trustees

National Mutual – Trustee Investment Bond,Type: Unit linked bond.Aim: For trustees of pension funds investing for growth.Minimum investment: Monthly £200, single £10,000.Fund links: Balanced managed, stockmarket managed, global equity managed, UK equity, UK equity tracker, UK equity select, european equity, european equity tracker, european equity select, north American equity, North American equity tracker, north American […]

Trust forced to pay bank debt

The European Technology and Income Trust managed by Aberdeen Asset Managers has been forced to pay off £40m of bank debt after the trust breached its banking covenants. This is the second time the trust has been forced to repay its bank debt. The first time was earlier this year when it was forced to […]

Europe: Volatile share prices create opportunities for long-term investors

Mark Page and Laurent Millet, managers of the Artemis European Opportunities Fund, look at why, how and where fluctuations in European markets can generate opportunities for their fund. When asked what the stock market would do next, John Pierpont Morgan is reported to have replied that “it will fluctuate”. His (apocryphal) answer proved accurate. Over […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up

Comments

    Leave a comment