Enthusiasm for change is the key to success in today's financial services industry.
Change management has become possibly one of the most frequently used phrases in the financial services industry, and no wonder. Massive and fundamental changes have taken place in our working environment in recent years from the technological changes which have influenced the speed and manner in which we work to the legislative changes which have an impact on the way we do business.
All this has taken place with increasing amounts of merger and acquisition activity as a backdrop.
However, I would argue that, in this industry, not only do we need to manage change or even embrace it when it happens to come our way but we should also actively seek out opportunities to change the way we work, to improve the way we do things constantly for the benefit of our customers and for our businesses.
Change always presents a wealth of opportunities and we should look to maximise these. This applies across the board from the smallest IFA business to the biggest players in the market.
Traditionally, the financial services industry has been one of the most conservative in the country. In my view, one of the main failings of the industry in the past has been its reluctance to accept change and move with the times, let alone ahead of the game.
Financial services was one of the last areas to wake up to the concept of marketing in the early 1980s and, compared with other service industries, it still lags behind in many ways. Internet technology is one field where, initially, the IFA industry was wary of a potential threat but now IFAs are reaping the benefits of the resulting improvements in service and speed of response and providers are pushing ahead to use this to cement relations with their IFA base.
Happily, most of the successful players in the IFA market have now reached a sit- uation where we are working with our customers, helping them to grow their businesses and moving with them towards a situation where we provide solutions to people's fin- ancial planning needs rather than selling them products.
But as an industry we still have more than our fair share of Jeremiahs. One example of this was the move from Peps to Isas in the late 1990s. Although the initial proposals were greeted with dismay from many corners of the industry, the fact remains that the success of Isas has raised awareness among the public about the concept of investing and the need to save for the future.
This has had a positive effect on the IFA market. We should bear this in mind and look for the positive opportunities that will result from legislative changes such as stakeholder, which may prompt an increase in alternative methods of saving for retirement, and polarisation.
During my career, I have always tried to make the most of change. However, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my career so far has been the recent integration of the Guardian businesses within Scottish Equitable. The former Guardian team is an excellent example of how change can be positive.
Despite the team's company changing hands twice in just 18 months, morale is higher than ever and everyone is extremely positive about the relaunch of the businesses as central strands of Scottish Equitable.
Change will happen whether we like it or not. Those companies which succeed will be those which relish the prospect of change and take advantage of the opportunities it presents to grow, improve and stay ahead of the competition.
Peter Dornan is director of group businesses at Aegon UK