What was your first job in finan-cial services?
I joined Allied Dunbar back in February 1988. Prior to that, I was in the advertising industry working for a company called ITT. I had worked my way through the hierarchy to regional manager and then decided a move away from the industry would good and wanted to do something a little bit different.
What attracted you to the industry?
My father-in-law is an IFA and he suggested that I look at financial services. In my mid-twenties, my reaction was, why on earth would I want to work in life insurance? but eventually I got in touch with two or three of the big companies and thought this is fairly risky but a reas-onable career move.
It offered the chance to do something different, something fresh and exciting, and it was challenging and demanding as I had to stretch my knowledge base. I did not know how to spell pension, let alone sell one.
How would you describe your current role?
I am managing director of inter-mediary distribution, which means my responsibilities are to lead and manage the intermediary business for Santander UK, encompassing Alliance and Leicester and Abbey mortgages and Santander general insurance so I am the face of the intermediary market. My job is to grow that business in both a quantitative and qualitative sense.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
There have been a number but currently it is having the overall responsibility for running what is a great business in terms of Abbey for Interm-ediaries. This is a great business within an organisation that is global and going places. To be a part of that is tremendous.
What is the biggest challenge facing you in your current role?
The marketplace is in itself challenging, so maintaining goals and objectives within our own organisation brings its own challenges. But also, cont-inuing to try to be supportive of the intermediary market when the intermediary market is going through such a tough time itself. It is important to me that Abbey for Intermediaries is seen as having a strong connection with and valuing and supporting the intermediary market. We are not always perfect but we endeavour to be a lender of choice for intermediaries and it is really important that we be just that.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone star-ting out in a career in financial services?
Be entirely certain of what it is you are getting yourself involved in. Grasp the opportunity because financial services in the UK, despite its couple of years of challenges, has a tremendous future. Look beyond the current difficulties and challenges in the financial services market to a future that could be golden.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably on a beach in Barbados. But if that is not possible, hopefully running another business either within the Santander Group or running another business which allows me to be entrepreneurial. I describe myself as a corporate entrepreneur and I think it is very important to have a place in your work life where you can not only develop but fulfil that ambition.
Ricky Okey is managing director of Abbey for Intermediaries