When Steve Pearson moved to IFA network DBS in 2002, it was a homecoming of sorts to new offices in West Yorkshire's Huddersfield, the town of his birth. Not ever having lived or worked there since the family had moved to Leeds when he was a child, Pearson found it a pleasant coincidence that his office lay two miles down the road from where he was born. He is now managing director at Misys Networks and firmly ensconced back home.
Pearson is a perennial follower of county cricket and one of his idols is Yorkshire legend and former England captain Geoff Boycott. He is also an avid supporter of Leeds United and his footballing favourite is Peter Lorimer, who holds the club league goalscoring record.
“I have always been loyal to my heroes and in return they have always seemed loyal to me. As a kid, I found heroes who went on to deliver at peak performance for a very long time.”
Pearson plans to continue his own high-performance career by uniting all the Misys networks into one, merging IFA Network, Countrywide, DBS, Financial Options and Kestrel into one mega network.
“The change came about because we asked a lot of our members if the name of the network mattered. Most said no. What they really were worried about was value for money.”
It seems Misys' members were not especially concerned with the branding that Misys was offering. Pearson says most IFAs work towards building their own local and regional brands based on their own names. However, what many members wanted out of their network was sensible compliance and good service. They wanted to be heard and know they were getting value for money.
He says: “To me, this means that the present structure is not using its potential efficiencies as well as it could. I am committed to turning that around. I want to bring more people to the network and at the same time make sensible business decisions that prove to our present members that we are an effective network should they ever feel they need to evaluate their membership.”
He believes that one of the great benefits of network membership is good compliance levels and documentation. He says that during the PI crisis, Misys is providing excellent resources for members when they need to approach their PI insurers.
“When other firms try to get underwritten, they have a lot more difficulty because they are hard pressed to provide the level of compliance that we provide our members.”
It is services such as this that Pearson wants to extend and make more efficient across the new mega network. Ironing out creases seems to be something he has become quite adept at.
“There were problems with DBS that needed to be ironed out when Misys purchased it in 2001,” says Pearson, alluding to last year's misleading ad episode which led to a £100,000 FSA fine. “It is very surprising that former management failed to improve procedures adequately after an earlier regulatory inspection in 2000,” he says.
Pearson had originally moved across from Royal & Sun Alliance after negotiating the sale of its direct salesforce to Misys. Impressed with his negotiating skills and understanding of customer service, Misys offered him the operations director role of its Financial Options network, which he accepted in 2000. When Pearson took the DBS MD role in 2002, he says much of his initial work involved negotiating with members and trying to sort through the issues of the newly acquired network.
“I wrote to members who were unsatisfied with service levels after a 20-25 per cent price hike. So much of my work involved – and still involves – making sure that we work to more appropriate service levels for our price. I have talked to over 2,000 DBS people who feel our price is too high.”
Pearson believes the new network structure within Misys will help him create better efficiencies and service levels.
As part of the integration process, he is presently involved in making Misys Networks a single entity in the eyes of the FSA and hopes to have the process concluded in the summer.
“Between now and then, there is lots to do to make our networks look and feel like one unit. This involves strategy and branding, process efficiency and scale but in the end it is about better service for our members. Essentially, my work right now is about making five networks become one. When it is all over, we will look and feel like an improved place to be.”
Once the network consolidation is complete, there is always the question of whether Misys will attempt to create a consumer brand out of the new mega network. But Pearson is adamant that present plans for the network only involve building a better relationship with its members and are not about preparing a cohesive brand to present to the consumer.
“A connection to the consumer is not out of the question but right now we want to concentrate on servicing our members. However, ultimately, if our members felt that providing them with a good consumer brand – along the lines of Intel Inside – then it is something we would seriously consider.”
Working as both managing director of DBS and Misys Networks, Pearson says he does not have much time to spare. Weekends are kept close to home where he relaxes with simple pleasures such as watching his son play football and his daughter dance and a night on the town with his mates.
Pearson's perfect getaway in recent years has been to Barbados and the Bahamas, where he can hide away from the world of insurance and personal finance. “It is a beautiful part of the world but what is really attractive about it is that mobile phones don't work there.”
Born: 1958 in Huddersfield
Lives: Leeds with wife and three children
Education: A levels from the Lawnswood School in Leeds. Holds ACII qualifications.
Career: 1977 – general branch clerk Crusader Insurance in Leeds, promoted in 1981 to fire and accident sales; 1983 – Crusader's top F&A salesperson, switching to life at its Sheffield office;1987 – joined World Heritage covering investment sales; 1991 – area manager for Royal Life Manchester Branch; 1992 – regional manager for Royal Life Scotland; 1996 – national planning and development manager for Royal & Sun Alliance; 2000 – operations director Financial Options network; 2001 – MD Financial Options and IFA Network; 2002 – MD DBS; 2003 – MD Misys Networks.
Career ambition: “I wanted to be the person responsible for a business providing services to IFAs.”
Life ambition: Live long enough to enjoy a long and happy retirement.”
Likes: Leeds United, Rod Stewart, Italian food.
Peers say: Peers say: “His pragmatic style reflects a considered approach which delivers results.”