Even at 17, Mike Kellard showed signs of being a clever businessman. Working as a waiter in a hotel restaurant, he discovered that putting a little extra effort into making the customer's experience enjoyable earned him more in tips than wages.
“You could make a significant difference not only to your customers but for your own personal benefit. That is a lesson I have learnt and I have carried it on to virtually everything I have done.”
Kellard joined Winterthur in 1999 as sales director, became group sales and marketing director the following year and managing director in 2002. Two months ago, at 41, he became Winterthur's youngest chief executive.
Kellard plans to keep the company on the innovative edge, relaunching its investment fund strategy in October and possibly rebranding before the year is out. Winterthur may make further moves into the investment markets following the successful launch of its investment bond at the start of the year. International products could also be in the pipeline.
If that was not enough for him to cope with, Kellard and his wife have a 10-month old son, Jack. It is a tricky balance and one that is high on his agenda.
“It is an ambition of mine to try and get a better home/work balance, particularly taking over this role and having such a young child in the house. You do not want to miss out on either. You do not want to let the company down by not giving it 100 per cent of your attention but at the same time I have no intention of allowing my son to grow up without me having full involvement in his life.”
Kellard describes himself as a hard-working, delivery-focused individual who does not take himself too seriously. “I think I have got a fairly good sense of fun and I try to build that into work. We spend too long here to be miserable about it.”
He is proud of what has been achieved at Winterthur, which caters to the top end of the market. When he joined, it had a small division for IFAs, almost totally focused on selling self-invested personal pensions. He was given the mandate to expand that business and make it more substantial.
“At the end of 2002 we were a top five writer of Sipps, beating much bigger companies with much bigger distribution forces and much bigger brands. We were third in the trustee investment plan market and first in the single-premium group pension market. Right across the full range of insured pension tax wraps, we have got in to the top 10 or top five market positions now. It has been a really interesting and satisfying journey to achieve that position. It had to be done with a very differentiated approach.”
Kellard says Winterthur was one of the first companies to outsource its fund management, providing what he describes as an open architecture platform. It does not build commission into its products but allows the adviser and client to decide on a fee. “It follows some of the advice that Ron Sandler came up with in his report several years later,” he says.
Kellard says a recent series of dinners that Winterthur held for UK IFAs showed that almost 75 per cent could see a significant part of their business moving towards more fee-based advice. “We have found a way of remunerating that is a bridge between commission and fees that allows us to differentiate what we did in designing the products. You can make it very simple and consumers can understand it. There is no need for exit penalties, hidden charges and transfer penalties.”
He says Winterthur is still in the process of researching the prospect of branding with IFAs and top employee benefits consultants. It was initially thought that the favoured brand would be Credit Suisse Life and Pensions, as it was the best-known name, but Kellard says some of the feedback suggests that many IFAs like having Winterthur as a brand because of its elitist connotations.
“If IFAs are dealing with high-net-worth individuals and perhaps charging them a fee for the advice, it is nice to be able to offer them something that is not in the mainstream.”
Kellard says he would like to see a decision on rebranding by the end of the year.
When asked about Credit Suisse in the UK, Kellard is quick to refer to the group's statements that it is fully committed. He adds that Winterthur Life UK delivers £1bn of the £8bn life and pension business written by the Winterthur Group worldwide.
Kellard says he has no trouble turning off from business at the end of the day, as Jack is waiting for him the moment he walks in the door. “Having a young baby in the house makes it easy. When you are with him, believe me, you do not think about anything but him. He demands your total attention, otherwise he would be eating things in the wardrobe.”
Born: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Lives: Bramley, Hampshire
Education: Belfast Academic Institute and Glasgow College of Commerce, Royal Academic Institute
Career: June 2003 – chief executive officer, Winterthur; June 2002 – managing director, Winterthur; June 2000 – group sales and marketing director, Winterthur, February 1999 – sales director, Winterthur; October 1996 – national sales manager, Norwich Union; April 1994 – regional manager (North), Norwich Union; November 1993 – branch manager (Edinburgh), Norwich Union; June 1992 – area manager, Prolific (Scottish Provident);
1984 – broker sales consultant, Legal and General;
1982 – broker sales consultant, Davidson Partners (Financial Advisor); 1981 – Glasgow College of Commerce; 1980 – general trainee, Buchanan Arms Hotel; 1978 – general trainee, National Farmers Union Mutual & Avon Insurance Society Career ambition: To ensure that Winterthur becomes the default option for all IFAs dealing in the big corporates and high-net-worth markets.
Life ambition: Better home/work balance
Likes: People who deliver results proactively, people with a good sense of humour, travelling Dislikes: People who waffle and waste time, anything with dried fruit Drives: M3 BMW
Peers say: “He is very determined and inspirational, with a deep-down belief in what he does and what he is setting out to achieve. He also has a cracking sense of humour and enjoys a prank or two.”