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Lee Travis

New Model Business Academy head of business Lee Travis is an ex-Royal Marine and is training to run in the London Marathon next year which will stand him in good stead as he says the academy is in it for the long haul too Interview by Gregor Watt


After a career in the armed forces, head of business at the New Model Business Academy Lee Travis has switched his sights to financial services and is determined to make his impact felt.

After a stint with the Royal Marines, Travis ended up in a telesales job which he hated. Determined to do something about it, he responded to a job advert looking for trainee financial advisers which led to his first financial services role as a direct salesman and home service agent for Royal London.

He describes this as a real learning experience and is clearly a quick study as he moved on to join Skipton Building Society just over a year later to become, at only 22, their youngest branch manager at the time.

Although he was promoted to area manager, a restructuring of the business led to a change in the job and Travis decided that his future was best served elsewhere.

A stint with Countrywide Assured Financial Services followed before Travis joined Bankhall as head of business development.

He describes this as another real learning experience and says he had no intention of leaving Bankhall when he heard about the job at the NMBA.

“But when I learnt more about the role, I really bought into the academy, what it is about, what it stood for, what it was looking to achieve for the benefit of the financial services community.”

Travis has only been with the academy since April this year but as he has since been promoted to head of business, he says responsibility for the entire venture now rests with him. He says: “Really, the success or demise of the new model academy is on my shoulders now.”

The academy has a target of 8,000 members by the end of the year and he says it has already passed the 7,000 member mark.

Although the academy falls within the SimplyBiz group, it is separately incorporated as a not for profit organisation and is independently funded by sponsorship by corporate sponsors. As a result, it is free to IFAs and Travis is pleased by the take up of its services by non-SimplyBiz members, with academy membership currently split almost 50/50 between SimplyBiz members and non-members.

“We are looking to help everyone in financial services, whoever the support service provider or network they are attached to is irrelevant.”

A lot of the attention on RDR require-ments has centred on qualifications and Travis says there is still quite bit of work to do for some advisers, particularly in trying to help IFAs pick their way through the maze of different qualifications.

“There is still a lot of work to be done. It is great that there are different options through the CII, the ifs, the CISI route. But with different options comes confusion. A lot of IFAs are still unsure what is the best route for them.”

He says the current mix of qualifi-cations and attitudes is a bit of a mixed bag, from those who are chartered or certified and just need gap fill to those who have not yet taken any action. But he insists there is still time to address any and all shortfalls.

“It does concern me that some advisers haven’t done anything yet. We all know the clock is ticking but I do think there is enough time to help them all get through.”

But the academy is not just about getting to QCA level four. In addition to qualifications, the academy has three other areas it concentrates on – help and advice for changing business models, sharing best practice and finally retirement and succession planning for IFA businesses.

“I would like to think we have a fairly comprehensive offering. It is not just exams and qualifications but we understand it is first things first, and this is the most important element of what we do.”

Travis is keen to practice what he preaches and has committed to achieving QCA level four qualifications opting for the ifs School of Finance diploma.

He says: “I have just started studying and so can completely empathise with IFAs. But if we are talking about minimum standards, it really is something I should be going through.”

In common with many IFAs, he says the biggest struggle with the qualification is trying to find the time to fit his studies around his work commitments and his life outside the office.

As well as spending time with this daughters, Travis says when he finds time he likes to keep fit, with martial arts a particular interest as he has a black belt in ninjitsu. He is also a keen musician although his guitar playing is now a solo hobby.

He says: “I would love to play in a band again but I’m not too sure where I would find the time.”

Travis also likes to do things that are “a bit of a challenge”. In addition to a charity skydive, earlier this year, he completed the Three Peaks Challenge. Next year he is hoping to run the London Marathon to raise money for deaf and blind charity Sense.

His marathon training may come in handy at work, as Travis says the academy is also in it for the long run.

The RDR is only one of the drivers for the academy and he says the New Model Business Academy should be around for many years.

“We have absolutely no plans for the academy to wind down post-RDR. If anything, it will be encouraging people to continue to take qualifications and if anything it will be an opportunity to diversify into other areas of business they haven’t considered before and if people want to try for certified status or chartered status, that is something we will be encouraging.

“Business models will continue to evolve and we will be there to provide the support they need. People will be looking to acquire businesses, people will be looking to sell so there is a lot of room for supporting advisers in the long term.”

Born: Birkenhead, 1978
Lives: Altrincham
Education: Pensby High School and Calday Grange Grammar School
Career: 2010-present: head of business, New Model Business Academy; 2004-2010: development manager, Bankhall; 2002-2004: mentor mortgage consultant, Countrywide Financial Services; 2000-2002: building society manager, Skipton Building Society; 1999-2000: financial adviser, Royal London.
Likes: Positivity, ambition, results, challenges, the outdoors, exercise, my guitars, good conversation, laughing, great food, wine and real ale.
Dislikes: Narrowmindedness, traffic jams, rudeness and bad manners
Drives: BMW 3 Series
Book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey
Film: Blade Runner
Album: Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin
Career ambition: To evolve NMBA into the biggest and most comprehensive academy in the UK. To continue to learn from knowledgeable, inspirational people and to become a well respected figure in our financial services profession.
Life ambition: To reach a grand old age, reflect on my life knowing that I experienced as many things as I could, positively influenced people and had great grandchildren.
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…running a business consultancy practice and a part-time session musician


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