Smarter Business Innovators: Almary Green’s Carl Lamb

What sets your business apart from its peers?

Quite simply, we have always put our clients first. I know everyone says that but in good times and bad we see it as vital to put their interests before ours.

We also try to be part of the local community. We have our own charitable trust fund, which, over the last five years, has given away £89,000.

Purchases have ranged from buying a disabled school rowing boat for the Norfolk Rowing Club through to buying a microwave for a bunch of ladies in their eighties who meet once a week.

To us, being an integral part of the community is important. And it does not do our profile as a business any harm either.

What is your biggest business achievement?

The thing I am most proud of is becoming a chartered financial planning firm in 2014. It was the accumulation of years of hard work and team effort. It was a statement both internally and externally that everything we stand for and everything we strive for has been recognised by a professional body.

Have you achieved what you set out to do with the business or is there still work to be done?

It will always be an ongoing process. Almary Green was set up on 25 April 2001 and just think about how the advice industry has changed since that time. In fact, you could say one of the proudest achievements is we are still here. There are many people that are not.

Now is a really pivotal time in terms of what the future of advice will look like. What do you see as the biggest risks ahead for advice firms?

The biggest threat is the general cost of running a firm today; in particular, the cost of regulation. I use the analogy of a three-legged stool.

On the one side you have the Government, which comes out with reams of rules and regulations, of which some are good and some indifferent.

Then you have the regulator backed up by the Financial Ombudsman Service, and the third leg is the financial services industry itself. The challenge at the moment is none of those are in harmony and until they are things are going to be very difficult indeed.

My response to the Financial Advice Market Review call for input is that we need to have a unified body and a unified voice. We need it to make financial advice affordable across the piece.

What will the advice market look like in five years’ time?

You could potentially see all trail commission gone, which is a worry as there are still an awful lot of practices that rely on it.

We will also see a lot more consolidation. As each week goes by it is getting harder and harder for those on their own. So we will see more consolidation, either with consolidators, which are actually under review from the regulator themselves, or more practices of our size coming together and creating regional hubs.

We have always moved towards that ourselves. We bought another practice in April and continue to look for acquisitions but unfortunately you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right people.

What are your top tips for a smarter business?

First and foremost it is about the culture within the organisation and getting people who work for you to buy into that culture whatever it may be.

For example, as a company we have a team meeting once a month where we brief everyone in the business on everything from the benign all the way through to business acquisitions. You have got to take people on the journey with you.

It is also important to believe in what you are doing because it will come through loud and clear if you do not.

At the same time, be robust enough to stand your ground. If you believe you are right and believe in what you are saying and doing, then stand by it, whether that be for the regulator or an external body.

What is the best lesson you have learned when it comes to running a business?

Follow your gut instinct and always have a high bar. If the crowd says it is good enough to have three notches, aim for four.

Where do you find your business inspiration?

I am my own worst enemy. I drive myself.