What was your first job within financial services?
I started out manning the stationery room at the Plymouth branch of Standard Life, which I shared with a labrador called Odin. He was unfortunately quite flatulent, which earned him the nickname Explodin’ Odin. Within a few weeks, I had the urge to do things better and over a weekend I reorganised everything in the room. But while it was all very efficient in my mind, I hadn’t communicated it to anyone else, so no one knew where things were – one of my early ‘career life lessons’ learned.
Describe your current role
As director of marketing and business development, my role is about building the brand so we can engage with current and future clients. I also have an internal role, which is about developing our proposition and service.
What is the biggest challenge in your current role?
Deciding what not to go after. The opportunities in our market are considerable and resisting the lure of the next new idea is a constant challenge. One temptation is to open more offices around the UK, like many other DFMs. However, I wonder if they are starting to look a bit like the old life companies, with lots of costs driving the need for ever more sales, possibly at the expense of service and ultimately a distribution threat to IFAs. We have focused on delivering propositions that IFAs need and supporting them as the trusted client adviser. On the investment front, we have shied away from some of the big names such as Woodford, whose funds we felt had gone off the boil at a time, some months ago, when this was not fashionable. So remaining objective and focused on delivering quality despite what the crowd might be saying is at times difficult. Looking back, it seems we got this right.
What is the highlight of your career to date?
Becoming the (then) youngest area manager for Standard Life in 1996, aged 30. I went on to lead the Bristol office to the highest recorded sales numbers for that year. I have enjoyed many moments of learning from others and helped others develop in their careers, my biggest highlight, I hope, is yet to come.
What is your career ambition?
I have worked with some great financial planners – in particular Pat Meehan, ex-CEO of Holden Meehan and now senior client partner at Towry. What I learned from him and others is that financial planning at its best is transformational for people’s lives. Harnessed with the right investment solution, our industry can do great things. I want to look back and see that Thesis has been able to deliver that service nationwide and make a real difference. The temptation is to try to control distribution to achieve it but I think working in partnership is the answer.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Develop a sense of self-awareness and constantly think about whether you are delivering value. Professional qualifications will be important but they just allow you to play the game, not to win it. If you want to win, you need to develop your personal skills and that requires an open and positive attitude.
Lawrence Cook is director of marketing and business development at Thesis Asset Management