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Profile – Pam Aurbach

The Pru’s head of business development services has crossed the Atlantic to set up a Top Gun academy for high-flying advisers to boost the firm’s intermediary business.

Born: Washington, DC, 1966

Lives: Kensington, London

Education: School in Maryland, Virginia. Graduated from the University of Virginia in 1988 in chemistry and social anthropology.

Career: At graduation, started at Fortis Investors, moved to Affiliated Financial Services and then Canada Life. In 1995 she joined GE, Virginia before joining Trans America in Los Angeles in 1999. In 2000, joined Jackson National Life Distributors where her most recent role was vice-president of national sales. 2003, moved to Prudential UK as head of business development services.

Hero: “My father. He was well accomplished in his field (an endocrinologist at the National Institute of Health) but a humble individual.”

Life ambition: “If I could lead a life like my father, be an inspiration to others and lead a life of energy and be happy.”

Hobbies: Wine, reading and travel

Favourite film: Steel Magnolias

Favourite book: Profiles in Courage by John F Kennedy

Favourite band: U2

Drives: “I have a Porsche Boxster that is currently on blocks, in storage with the battery disconnected.I drive the Tube every day.”

Prudential UK head of business development services Pam Aurbach came to the UK in 2003 only to realise that she had to learn a new financial language. Having worked in the financial services industry for 15 years in the US, she found there were a few adjustments that had to be made.

“Everyone kept on going on about bonds. But in the US, bonds means debt. I thought, are we offering some kind of debt management tool?”

But she seems to have adjusted very well. She arrived in London in spring 2003 and has been living in Kensington. She came from Prudential’s wholly owned subsidiary Jackson National Life Distributors to head Prudential’s business development unit in the UK. As head of BDS, she is responsible for building stronger relationships with the UK’s key intermediary partners. This includes helping IFAs build businesses, promote support to hone IFAs’ business skills and heading the Pru’s adviser academies.

“Advisers will need to increase the range of skills they use to acquire and develop new business after depolarisation or risk business failure. The individuals with enhanced sales negotiation skills, honed leadership qualities and the ability to motivate will have the potential to achieve greater levels of success.”

The business development services will initially offer three academies called the management academy, the leadership academy and the Top Gun adviser sales academy. The latter relies on experiential learning and encourages self-challenging to help advisers become more effective.

Aurbach was initially worried that the name Top Gun was “perhaps too American” but she says: “The pilot instructor in the movie says we take the best and make them better and that it what we hope to achieve. We will isolate the best producers and make them incrementally better.”

The participants in the Top Gun academy will rate each other and share their best practices and presentation skills and assess the impact. The winner will get a Top Gun-related prize. “We are not going to be giving out pilot-style bomber jackets but we will be giving the highest-rated person something.”

The management academy is to help advisers with line-management responsibility or senior management who want to improve their skills. The leadership skills academy has been set up to help business managers cope with the challenges of leading a business during a period of intense changes. Aurbach has been overseeing the rollout of the menu of services for the Pru’s IFA distributors after a pilot scheme with its own intermediary salesforce staff and IFAs including Sesame and Towry Law.

Discussions on BDS started in 2003. Aurbach says: “I came to London and had to read CP121 on post-depolarisation. There is a lot of detail there and the average adviser trying to do his day job does not have the time to read and digest the information. It is a challenge for everyone.”

As well as having to learn about the UK system and the regulatory environment, Aurbach can bring lessons she has learnt in the US. “The market in the US is already that of a multi-distribution channels. To a certain extent, intermediary distribution has been at the forefront of financial services in the US for many years but lessons from the US are fully transferable into the UK.”

She is excited for the future and the development of Pru’s relationship with IFAs. “Our objective in 2005 is to hit from a number of different fronts. The Pru smooth investment fund and PruHealth are going to be big.” Pru is also launching an advisory service in 2005 as a diagnostic tool to help IFAs improve the bottom line of their business.

Aurbach is unsure whether she will be returning to JNLD in the US or will stay in the UK with Prudential. There are certainly lessons she has learnt over here that would be interesting to take back over the Atlantic. She has been interested by the key account management structure which is distinctively different from the US which works on a regional, field and national account management basis. She says the structure here is extremely focused and pragmatic.

She also likes the openness in company environments. “The Pru spends a lot of time developing its people and being very open. I could not believe it when I was sitting opposite Mark Wood (Prudential’s chief executive). You would hardly ever get even to see a CEO back home.”

For now, Aurbach is living in Kensington with her black Labrador. She is a great fan of world wines and says: “I love the fact that London is just a train ride away from France and two and half hours fight from most of Europe.” She is an active person and jogs regularly in Hyde Park. She was a national gymnastics champion in the US until, she says, she discovered boys.

But for now, she is fully focused on developing Prudential’s relationship with intermediaries. “In our business, the difference between good and great is very fine. The Prudential is here to help develop presentation and leadership skills and maintain our interest in the market share. We are fully committed to intermediary distribution and look forward to maintaining these relationships.”


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