Alexander House’s chief operating officer on her mission to move advisers and providers to a digital world
What was your first job in financial services?
I started in the back office of a global fund management company called GT Management 30 years ago. What is hard to believe is that there were no computers as we know them. I have a great photo of me sitting at my desk with a huge board where I tracked every single trade while smoking a cigarette.
Describe your current role
I am co-founder, director and shareholder of Alexander House Financial Services. My role is chief operating officer and I spend my days designing, delivering and managing day-to-day operations, compliance, paraplanning, training and HR among other things. I am also responsible for ethics. We are a relatively new chartered national IFA, which has grown to 30 advisers over the last 18 months. That is a lot of onboarding in addition to ongoing support.
What is your biggest challenge currently?
We run a remote business utilising cloud technology. We have no office so all interactions and training are via videoconferencing. Our biggest challenge is that we are at the leading edge of this style of operation and it takes some persuasion to get everyone to embrace it.
Another issue is the ability of providers to move quickly enough away from old-fashioned processes, reams of paper, ancient systems and the need for wet signatures. They move so slowly and cost us (and therefore our clients) money, so my challenge is to try and get them to move effectively into a digital world.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Too many to count but being first associate of SOFA (now PFS) and becoming one of the first chartered financial planners is up there. I am also proud of Alexander House, defying all odds to set up a remote, cloud-based business and being able to work from the Far East for part of the year. This year we achieved chartered financial planning firm status and have been nominated for Best Use of Technology and Best Retirement Planner awards.
What is your career ambition?
To change the world. To get everyone embracing innovations and to convince all providers to move to a digital world. I also want to build an IFA business of such good quality, ethics and honesty it is renowned across the industry and to make it normal for people to work wherever they want in flexible work conditions. This will give everyone a better work/life balance.
How would you advise someone starting out in the industry?
Treat it as a career and do not wait for companies to help you. Help yourself. Also learn what treating customers fairly is about and use this in everything you do. If you have a bad day, laugh it off and start again tomorrow.