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Peter Sprung

Park Row’s chief executive is a keen proponent of personal development and he is aiming to use that enthusiasm to achieve ambitious goals for the newly merged company. Interview by Samantha Shaw.

New Park Row chief executive Peter Sprung has a big regret in his life. “It was back in the days at Liverpool Institute School when we took out library books by signing our names in the front. Imagine my surprise when in 1964, I took out the same textbook that had an 11-year old Paul McCartney’s signature in the front. And I returned it! I could have had that on eBay now,” he sighs. The school also had the distinction of having another Beatle, George Harrison as an old boy.

These days the extrovert Scouser is using what he learnt from his days as a management consultant to steer the team at Park Row down “a true career path” looking at personal and professional development and holistic life planning.

The philosophy is one that Sprung picked up as a consultant and he continues to apply this as his business model and even further to clients. If he was not in financial services, he says he would still be in the business of helping people, encouraging develop- ment and personal growth.

“I just love helping people. If I was not doing this I might be working with underprivileged kids or with people that have gone a bit off the rails.”

Sprung entered financial services after spotting an opportunity working as an appointed representative of Sun Alliance through a franchise set up back in 1989. He had seen the positive effects of the insurance business after working as a consultant “on the outside looking in” and thought it was a chance to make some real money.

“But I was not very good. I was a lousy salesman and I had given up a really well-paid role and went to selling nothing so I decided to use the skills I had developed as a consultant and became an IFA.”

Personal development must be a hot topic in the Sprung household, as his wife Karen, who has a background in financial services, is a human resources consultant and life coach, whose services Sprung called on to help with his coaching scheme at Park Row. However, the couple might share a passion for personal development but any Merseyside football derbies might be less agreeable occasions, with Karen supporting Everton while Sprung is a staunch Liverpool fan.

He laughs: “It does make it interesting when we sit down to watch the footie.”

Sprung got his first real sense of motivation at a Life Insurance Association conference in 1989. “Financial services was very different back then. I was thrilled by the excitement of it all.”

He seems to be a man driven by setting and achieving goals and says three goals set and attained at that time, were to speak at an international convention, to be top of the table at America’s Million Dollar Round Table, which he achieved five times in the early 1990s, and to become LIA president, which he did in 2000.

Sprung says he is not at all daunted by facing the new challenge of running the new advice arm recently formed out of Royal Liver and Park Row joining forces. The merger which brought about Park Row, a Royal Liver Company, is aiming to increase the present total of 600 advisers to around 1,400 by 2008.

Is Sprung concerned about leading a team of that size? “It is no different at all. The skills required are identical, and level of growth we expect does not faze me. If anything, we are fearful that we might be inundated with advisers before then. Finding the advisers is the easy part of the job. If anything, finding enough decent back-office staff to support the structure is the greater challenge.”

He expects a large proportion of the new advisers will be coming from the bancassurance model, with people who are looking to become IFAs. “There will also be many cottage industry-type advisers who have concerns about the traditional networks but cannot afford to sustain their businesses who will start looking to nationals as offering the solution.”

The ever jovial Sprung, who has a penchant for singing Madness songs on karaoke, insists he always lives life enthusiastically, even when it proves a more physical challenge.

In 2002, he took part in the LIA’s Ride For Life, cycling 50 miles and raising over £50,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, “despite not having ridden a bike for over 30 years”. He now cycles regularly and enjoys spending time with his three children from his first marriage.

His 19 year-old son, Paul, followed in his dad’s footsteps of dropping out of education early and he now works as a croupier in Liverpool, with aspirations of becoming a professional poker player. “Rather than a 21st birthday party, he wants me to take him to Las Vegas but I am not so sure that it’s a good idea.”

His two daughters, 15 year-old Nicola and 13-year-old Katie also have interesting career aims, with Nicola planning to work with disadvantaged kids and Katie’s idea taking an unexpected turn with Sprung saying “rather than the lawyer we expected her to be, she now wants to become a dancer”.

When it is all done and dusted, and he has achieved his goal of being remembered as “someone who made a positive impact on the financial services industry”, Sprung wants just one word on his headstone: “Knackered.”

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