A former soul DJ and now a budding thriller writer, Assureweb’s new managing director Nigel Hopwood might appear oddly placed in the world of financial services IT but a look at his CV suggests it might be difficult to find someone with a better understanding of the market.Hopwood has seen the industry develop from every angle, working on the product provider side at Norwich Union before becoming IT director at Bankhall, where he was heavily involved with its in-house portal, IFA Engine. He believes this knowledge will serve him well as he takes the reins of the third-biggest portal in the industry. Hopwood says if he could have written an ideal job spec after leaving Bankhall, it would have been for this role. He is excited about future developments as Assureweb comes to terms with changes in the industry. He believes that the firm is developing into an industry utility, supplying a core set of services and functions, and he is optimistic that it will overcome the problems faced by its competitors. “The difference between Assureweb and our competitors is the range. Our proposition is extremely narrow, where others seem to have overstretched themselves and overcomplicated matters.” He believes that rivals which appear to be moving into other areas, such as back-office software, could see their strategies misfiring, saying they “cannot be all things to all men”. Hopwood claims that Assureweb’s offering will be attractive to big distributors which want easy-to-use access to services as they already have complex systems of their own. It is mainly for this reason that Hopwood says his role in future months will be to concentrate on the portal’s relationship with distributors, with the hope of signing more deals, as this will please the product providers associated with Assureweb. Hopwood started his career at a small software form before joining Northern Foods in 1982, taking on various IT roles. In 1994, he joined Norwich Union in ecommerce before becoming head of eIFA development. It was at NU where he first came into contact with Assureweb. NU supported the fledgling portal and Hopwood was asked to look over the blueprints to assess its viability. In 2002, Hopwood moved to Bankhall, which he says was great experience as his dual role involved working on the portal side with IFAengine while his position as IT director meant that he had a place on the board. He emphasises the importance of this, as many companies still do not give board representation to IT staff. Looking ahead, Hopwood sees the potential for Assureweb to be involved in the future growth of wraps, not by creat- ing a wrap proposition itself but by looking at the opportu- nity to power the protection products which more wraps are going to offer. A s Hopwood has progressed in his career, it has meant changing locations from Norwich to Manchester and now Cheltenham but his wife and three children have always stayed in Norwich, which has been a huge burden for him. He returns to Norwich at weekends and is a season ticket holder at Norwich City, regularly attending Carrow Road with his son. Having grown up in Nottinghamshire, he also has all- egiances with Notts County and Nottingham Forest, with the latter’s most famous son, Brian Clough, being a hero and role model for Hopwood. He admired Clough’s straight-talking honesty, passion and ability to always get the best out of his players, usually pushing them to over-achieve. Such management skills are something he hopes to bring to Assureweb. Hopwood’s relationship with his staff is central to his car- eer and he says the best thing about his job is seeing collea- gues achieving their goals. Hopwood’s move from Norwich also took him away from the monthly soul night where he used to DJ. The Back Street Soul Club reverberated to his 1960s soul tunes one Saturday a month and NU colleagues would see posters with Hopwood’s picture plastered all over town. He became a fan of soul music as a teenager. “I got caught up in the underground sub-culture when I was about 14 and it stayed with me. I used this club night to play obscure Motown songs that people have rarely heard of.” His other passion is writing. He regularly pens short stor- ies and admires the likes of crime writer Ian Rankin. His main reason for looking forward to retirement is the chance to write a novel which has been running round in his head for some time. Hopwood says he has worked out a clear synopsis for the thriller but needs time to turn it into reality. He says the novel will be partly autobiographical but he assures potential readers that it will not be centred on the financial services industry.
Born: September 16, 1961, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
Education: Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Mansfield
Career: 1980: Rika Computer Systems computer programmer1982: Northern Foods, various IT roles1994: Norwich Union head of eIFA development2002: Bankhall IT director2005: Assureweb managing director
Likes: Positive- thinking people who do not give up easily
Dislikes: Living away from family and inconsiderate drivers
Life ambition: To feel he has made a difference across the industry and to write a novel.
Car: BMW 5 Series
Hero: Brian Clough and Martin Luther King
Favourite book: The Lord of the Rings
Favourite film: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Favourite album: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis