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Street life

Many people say that their career in financial services came about by chance and I am no exception.

I left school 18. I was searching for a summer holiday job that paid well before going to university when I spotted an ad which said: “Do you want to earn £200 a week?”

After three days of intensive training, I found myself on the streets of Hounslow West selling life insurance door to door for a company called Investment Annuity Life Assurance.

Despite the prospect of going to a university, where the course had a ratio of seven women to one man, it proved less exciting than the world I had entered so I never actually got to university. I compensated by studying for a lot of professional qualifications.

After a few other short-term roles with insurance intermediaries, I joined Barclays Insurance Services in 1976 and rapidly found a niche as a successful broker/financial adviser.

I found the two-tier sales process – first of all winning over bank managers to give me referred leads and then going to see customers – one that I both thrived in and enjoyed.

Life in the East End was never dull, especially dealing with the rag trade.

Towards the end of my nine-year tenure, I chose to specialise in life and pensions. I ended up dealing extensively with professional firms but not before dealing with some now (infamous) characters like Asil Nadir in Polly Peck. I subsequently became very focused on the corporate life insurance market for a number of years.

After one year and very eventful time at Vanbrugh Life, I accepted a senior manager role at Robson Rhodes, the chartered accountants in 1987.

I subsequently became the partner responsible for financial planning and compensation and benefits. When I now reflect on the seemingly never ending debate between commission and fees, I realise how lucky I was in 1988 when every client was approached on the basis of being offered a fees or commission alternative.

After 10 years at Robson Rhodes, I sought a new challenge and found it with Mercury Asset Management as a director of their life insurance subsidiary Mercury Life. It taught me about the joys and tribulations of being a provider as opposed to an intermediary and I learnt some salutary lessons about what service and delivery means from an intermediary perspective.

In 2001, I was headhunted by Bradford & Bingley, who were looking for two individuals – one to manage their provider relationships and run the technical team and the other who understood product development. I landed a role doing both and spent three-and-a-half happy years there.

My final work centred around the move from Bradford & Bingley’s IFA status to initially what was to have been a multi-tie environment but latterly to a single-tie environment. It was ironic to be told by my last boss that I had done my most valuable work in my final six months, which made me wonder about my first three years there.

The latest stage in “my beautiful career” has been with Thinc and I have learnt more new skills in the last two-and-a-half years than probably in the previous 10 years.

During this period, I have had responsibility for helping with the merger between Thinc and Destini and the change of control that went with that in respect of the negotiations with the FSA, working with others in obtaining investment from providers and latterly in working with the senior management team to complete the sale to Axa which took place in November 2006.

I have also during the last year been “blessed” with being invited to chair part of the FSA’s retail distribution review leading the work on professionalism and reputation.

After 34 years in financial services, no two days are the same and the challenges are also different. Long may it remain that way.

Roderic Rennison is group corporate director at Thinc Group

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