Leading a quarter of Britain's IFA population to flotation within 18 months under the newly merged Misys network is surely a task that few would relish, yet Misys IFA chief executive Patrick Gale is convinced he has the answers.
Unsurprisingly, for a man with a software background, Gale believes the future of the industry lies in technology. He aims to have 75 per cent of members using the Misys technology by the end of 2003, reaching 100 per cent by 2004.
“I am passionate about technology. It is becoming increasingly important and our members are realising that paper is not the way of the future. Technology is important for good service.”
Although some may object to the idea of being led by someone who has never been an IFA, Gale does not agree. As far as he is concerned, his background is a distinct advantage.
“I think being a fresh face allows me to stand back and look at the industry. For instance, I can understand the technology we need. Providers seem to find it refreshing. I do not think of things in the traditional way and I can ask the dumb questions innocently.”
But technology is only one of the challenges that Gale faces. As the industry evolves, he is finding that members expect a lot more of their network than ever before.
Rather than just serving as a compliance resource, the army of Misys IFAs demands a fuller service and expects Gale to provide it.
“The biggest challenge is presenting Misys with a clear face that recognises members are at the heart of the strategy.”
But another of the biggest challenges in such a huge organisation is communication. Gale insists that it is possible to keep a caring face even with 7,000 people to keep in touch with and puts great emphasis on maintaining and reacting to feedback.
As well as appointing an external agency to conduct telephone research and focus groups, the company uses keypad voting at its roadshows.
Gale takes particular pride in attending practitioner groups, which bring ideas like the Misys mortgage club.
“We have to work hard at communication and build face-to-face touch points. Even with a big organisation like an airline that you only deal with occasionally, you can still tell which ones care. We do a lot more listening than people give us credit for.”
But if communication becomes problematic for a big company, brand building becomes easier and Gale is very clear on how he wants to make the most of the Misys name.
Gale sees Misys as an “Intel Inside” brand, giving the company strength with the authorities and enough clout with the product providers to benefit its members.
“I think we have the potential to create a great brand but I do not want it to get in the way. I want it to stand for something to product providers and the FSA but the lead brand is the local IFA.”
Although he is enthusiastic about the current state of Misys, Gale sees a lot of work ahead of him before flotation in 2004. As well as maintaining scale and continuing the strong earnings record, Gale sees the main points on his to do list as addressing brand and ultimately seeing how much value he and the members can build by 2004.
“The float crystallises thing in people's minds. We have to make new service offerings happen. Our job is to translate the menu concept into something which works for our members.”
Gale considers his role in this process as being a team-builder in an industry with a shortage of good people. He swears by interviewing good people whenever he comes across them, even if he does not have a job going, just so he can keep tabs on people with the potential that Misys is looking for.
“I can't be a faceless Misys person. I need to show the members that we have leadership driving the company. I need to get the right people and get them to deliver. It is not going to be Patrick Gale who delivers, it will be the best person for the job.”
With all these ingredients in place, he sees a bright future for the company after flotation. He is confident there is still a margin to be made and sees it as his job to allow Misys members to make the most of that by providing a compliant, productive and efficient service offering.
“There are 7,000 people out there who go out each day with the ability to follow the money wherever the market goes. That is what I love about this job. Other industries cannot be that flexible. This is a very dynamic and exciting industry.”
He sees the future of Misys as being an important partner to the FSA and product providers, using its size and technological know-how to forge ahead as the most cutting-edge company in the industry.
“I believe the FSA thinks Misys is the network they want for the future. We are ahead of the curve and that fact that we are large means we can sustain this. We are in this together.”
So is Gale as ambitious for himself as he is for the company after flotation?
“I know CEOs do not last long in the City but I hope to prove them wrong. I am staying with the business.”
Lives: Milton Village, near Oxford with wife and two children.
Born: March 8, 1960, Altrincham, then grew up in Oxfordshire.
Career: 1978-81 management sciences degree at Umist; 1981-86, graduate trainee, Bank of America; 1986-2000 BIS Software in Asia which became ACT then Misys; 2000, chief executive of Mifas
Career ambition: To drive the business to successful flotation and to ensure that IFAs benefit.
Life ambition: To stay happily married.
Likes: Manchester United, Asian food. Being strongly Christian, I suppose you could say I like my church.
Dislikes: People who do not put customers first and those who make criticism without being constructive.
Peers say: “Patrick is very result-focused. He has a clear view of goals he wants to achieve for Mifas and I have no doubt that he will achieve them.”
Car: BMW 320