Lives: Buxted, East Sussex
Born: 1966, West Sussex
Education: Left comprehensive school to go to college in East Surrey to study for a diploma in business studies
Career: Started with admin role with subsidiary of Signa US, Crusader Insurance, In 1989 joined Inter-American International as a director of offshore operations. In 1990 set up his own brokerage in the south of England and in 1993 he joined GE Capital. 1995 joined GE Financial Assurance.
In 2000, he was made MD of Goldfish. In October 2001, he became managing direct of Bradford & Bingley's MarketPlace.
Career ambition: To enjoy his career.
Life ambition: Not to look back and have regrets and to achieve a balance between career and family.
Likes: Personal – family holidays and spending time with his two daughters. Work – loves the buzz of an organisation that knows where it is going.
Dislikes: Lack of direction.
Peers say: He combines a wide-ranging insight into the IFA sector with an impressive track record in building successful businesses.
Car: Jaguar XKR
At the relatively tender age of 35, Peter Barrett has just taken on the mantle of managing director at the UK's biggest IFA, The MarketPlace at Bradford & Bingley. And only a few weeks into the position, Barrett is savouring being at the helm of an organisation that “has the buzz of knowing where it is going and how to get there”.
An obvious family man with a self-confessed love of wine and golf, Barrett is savouring his new role, if not the daily commute from the tranquillity of Sussex to his office in London.
No stranger to the IFA sector, he has spent all his working life since the age of 18 in financial services. He has rapidly proceeded through the ranks and is now using the experience gained at Centrica, where his brainchild was the newly launched AA IFA, to lead the IFA's biggest household name, Bradford & Bingley, through a period of change.
Not surprisingly, his primary aim is to retain the firm's position as number one in terms of turnover and he believes he will do this and increase its lead on competitors although he is not resting on any laurels.
Barrett says his immediate priority is to get over the learning curve and understand Bradford & Bingley's 150 year history. He wants to get to grips with both the opportunities and threats in the market. “There is no doubt the organisation's growth is strong. The most immediate challenge is to manage this growth in a background of uncertain times.”
He is convinced there is much talent to be found in the MarketPlace's 6,000 workforce but he is also aiming to attract quality new people.
He says he would be surprised to recruit less than 100 people over the next six months and there may even be room for more. “The competition will be relieved to hear I'm not targeting any other IFA firms in particular looking for people.”
He is confident Bradford & Bingley's three million to four million customer base, the substantial resources it puts behind its training and development programme, its high-street presence and household brand name will be enough of a pull for recruits that it can avoid blatant poaching from rivals.
Barrett is a firm believer in training and only weeks into his new role has broached the issue of why an organisation the size of Bradford & Bingley does not have a graduate training scheme. “I have spoken at length with our chief executive Christopher Rodrigues and he would support looking at a graduate programme.”
He uses the analogy of football saying businesses must invest in young talent in the way teams have youth academies to plan for the longer term.
Barrett does not rule out acquisitions to achieve this expansion but he says the priority for the time being is organic growth.
One of the reasons he has risen to the challenge of his new role is the Bradford & Bingley brand and the trust it induces in clients. He says: “A gap exists in the market and we are the first nationally branded IFA to fill it. We are bringing IFAs to the forefront of the consumer's mind.”
H e hopes competitors will recognise the MarketPlace brand can benefit them as it increases public awareness of the IFA sector in general. In terms of marketing, his strategy is two pronged – to keep customers happy and an ongoing advertising campaign to attract new prospects into the branches.
He says: “We set out to break the mould in the financial services market and I think we're getting this message across.”
One of Barrett's aims now is to help Bradford & Bingley break into the wealth management sector as he concedes it is primarily a mass-market proposition.
He is flattered that Towry Law's chief exec Douglas Black has openly said he is looking towards Bradford & Bingley's model for guidance on how to avoid problems with the FSA's better than best rule following its acquisition by AMP. But he thinks Towry Law faces more of a challenge because AMP provides such a wide raft of products.
On Bradford & Bingley's model, Barrett says a transparent approach and clarity are key. He says this places it in a good position to respond to any changes the Sandler review or the FSA's review of polarisation might bring about.
Bradford & Bingley, he claims, has pre-empted many of Sandler's concerns. For example, its move earlier this year to equalise commission on all products and outsourcing its research to avoid accusations of bias.
Barrett ends on a note of confidence, reiterating that the MarketPlace will not be knocked off the number one spot and is set to pull even further ahead of the pack.
He says: “The MarketPlace's vision of success has been set and I've inherited it. The first building block is in place to raise awareness of the choice available at Bradford & Bingley now it is an IFA. I'll be looking to grow it to new heights and accelerate the space between us and the rest of the market.”