What was your first job within financial services?
I was an IFA in Glasgow for a brief period and then I became a broker consultant for L&G, which was when I first realised the benefit of developing strong business partnerships.
I was given a difficult patch with a history of failed attempts to generate sales but by working closely with the local lawyers, estate agents, banks and IFAs to build a referral network we helped each other generate business and create great business volumes.
I learnt the importance of great customer service before I entered the financial service sector. I worked for a period as a waiter and I quickly learned that if I delighted my customers with great service it not only made the work much more fun, but it also tripled my salary with the tips!
Describe your current role
As CEO of Axa Wealth, I’m responsible for all the business units including: Elevate, Architas, Axa Wealth International, Axa Corporate Investment Services and Axa Wealth Specialist Products.
I’ve recently taken the lead on corporate responsibility in Axa Group across the UK and Ireland. It will be a great opportunity for me to get involved with interesting projects that affect real people, and not waste the opportunity I have as a CEO to put my stamp on something so worthwhile.
What is the biggest challenge in your current role?
The biggest challenge is ensuring that as a business we provide our customers with great service and intuitive products that they understand and value. We are in a difficult sector with often complex products and heavy regulation; where customer surveys repeatedly indicate we are the least trusted industry in the UK, which is a huge challenge to overcome.
What is the highlight of your career to date?
The massive progress that has been made in Axa Wealth in the past two to three years. We started Axa Wealth from the remains of the Axa Life sale with £16bn of assets, a bit of a mixed bag of products and systems, a huge amount of separation work required behind the scenes with Friends Life and a massive challenge to reduce the cost base. In a short period of time we completed the separation, developed a cohesive strategy, added around £10bn of FUM and are tracking the 2011 plan exactly as we promised the shareholders we would despite the unforeseen adverse investment markets. This has required a huge effort by everyone at Axa Wealth and I am immensely proud of our achievements so far.
What is your career ambition?
I want to continue to innovate, so I want to provide an environment where people can think, speak and act freely to challenge conventions. We have a great culture of firsts and I aim to keep this going.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Never forget – despite all of the challenges, the regulation, the competition and endless accountants and actuaries talking about margins and value chains – that your customers always come first. Also, conventions are there to be challenged!