When asked to prepare this piece and look back at my career in the financial services industry, I was concerned because looking back is generally something that you do when you are at the end of something.
With an ever changing industry and legislative background, we seldom seem to reach the end of anything these days, which generally keeps us in the habit of looking forward.
Still, we all like to look back at the good old days and even if, as the saying goes, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, I feel that I can take some personal satisfaction from my achievements. The industry has enabled me to bring up and educate two fine sons, meet a tremendous range of different personalities and forge friendships that have lasted decades.
It was almost 36 years ago that I entered the industry following an interview with the old Sun Life in its offices in Cheapside. I can remember it well because, like all job applicants, I faced the prospect with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
I shared the waiting room with a young lady in a bright red blouse and all I could say when the interviewer asked where I would like to work was, wherever she’s going.
You would have thought that they would have taken that warning but, no, they offered me a job in their Guildhall branch anyway.
I spent over 27 years working within Sun Life, latterly Axa Sun Life, and saw many changes occur over that time. Pension legislation expanded with the growth of money purchase schemes, SSASs and Sipps, life insurance protection went out of fashion, tax systems grew more complicated and regulation changed the face of the industry for ever.
I often hear people complain about regulation and the way in which it can stifle developments and sales. However, all of us working in the industry today should be very proud of the professionalism that we have brought to it. I look around me today at people who are seriously well qualified, potentially much better equipped to meet customers’ needs now than at any time in the past. However difficult the road has been and will continue to be, the outcome must be better for all.
Anyway, this is about looking back and perhaps the most important thing that I take from my time in the industry is the lasting friendships I have made.
I will never forget the first day as an “inspector” at Sun Life’s Croydon office. I was put with a very experienced team of people and another young upstart called Nick Flack. The older members of the team, which included a very youthful Brian Lawless, were instructed to “show us the ropes”.
It never ceased to amaze me how much time those blokes gave us to help and encourage us. Brian does it still in his articles and whenever I speak to him. That was an attitude that seemed to permeate through the business and I was very fortunate to come across people like Paul Joslyn, Tony Wickenden and John Woolley, who all contributed to my enthusiasm and knowledge. And I have always tried to emulate them by helping others where I can.
Leaving Axa Sun Life was a wrench because it cut me off from a network of friends and associates that I knew for many years. However, I meet old colleagues regularly, some by accident and some by design. I have to say that none of them seem to have lost their desire to give good professional advice despite any reservations about regulation.
I have been very lucky in having two careers and moving to Origen (originally Aon Consulting) has brought me into contact with another group of friends and colleagues. Like Sun Life, they encourage personal development and value employees in a way that reminds me of my early career.
I see a continuing need for IFAs to develop and evolve their services. To be much more customer-oriented and advice rather than product centric.
So, where are we heading now? Probably, in the immortal words of a famous space traveller, to infinity and beyond.
Bob Perkins is technical manager at Origen.