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Nick Bamford: What does culture really mean for an advice firm?

In a recent column for Money Marketing, Sandringham chief executive Tim Sargisson argued that a business’s culture was more important than titles such as “chartered”. A lot is written about culture within firms but what does it actually mean in practice?

I guess there are two perspectives: how the business is perceived by its clients and how it is perceived by its employees.

Sargisson says his firm’s mission statement, core focus and values are included in the staff handbook and that employees are asked to judge the management in terms of how they treat clients.

I read another article recently that defined company culture as its personality, and this resonated strongly with me.

Some years ago, we spent a lot of time considering what the brand of our business represented and came up with a long list of attributes that we hoped would describe its personality.

Tim Sargisson: Why chartered status matters less than your culture

Unsurprisingly, integrity was high on the list, described as honesty and adherence to moral and ethical principles.

As a family-owned firm, it is also unsurprising we listed family values up there. To us, family is one of the most important things in the world. We would want to treat a client the same way we would want to treat a family member.

Which leads us on to being thoughtful. We want to be considerate of others and contemplative of their needs.

We want their experience of dealing with us to be something memorable for all the right reasons.

One of the words that has been used to describe us is “fun”, which I am very happy with.

We also want to be approachable, recognising that, for many, taking those first steps towards seeing an adviser is a difficult thing to do.

Many feel nervous as they worry they will be sold to or talked down to. So, to counter this, we wanted our brand to be calming; to put people at ease.

In terms of outcomes, the key value is satisfaction. We want the client experience to be one where people are confident that what we do will be satisfactory, dependable and true.

Nick Bamford: Problems with paraplanner recruitment

Culture also defines the environment in which our staff members work.

After all, if an employee is not comfortable in their working environment, what would that say about a business?

Are staff encouraged to develop themselves, not just in terms of professional qualifications but also in terms of their skills and abilities?

Any firm that wants the very best from its employees must be committed to helping them become the very best they can be.

Is Sargisson right in saying the culture of a business supersedes high levels of qualification? I think so, but that is not to say the latter is unimportant.

In fact, it could be argued that chartered status in a highly complex financial world is a hygiene factor well worth adding to the core focus and business values described by the brand.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice

City Hive’s Bev Shah and Legal & General Investment Management’s Helena Morrissey will be taking a deeper look into financial services culture at the Money Marketing Interactive conference in April. Sign up now for your free place at



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There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Good Article, always remember integrity is how you act when no one is looking.

  2. Personally I would have thought that if you have to ask, then you don’t have it.

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