An interesting and thought-provoking day, with speakers discussing developments in corporate governance, how to make outsourcing work, practical challenges in merging cultures and the role of the regulator as the gatekeeper for the industry
The conference held on 18th March was organised by FSTP to explore three major topics in the Financial Services industry today – Governance, Leadership and Culture. Held in the delightful surroundings of Haberdashers’ Hall, this proved to be the perfect venue to bring together a broad spectrum of Senior Managers and Board Executives from Lloyds Brokers, Managing Agents, Private Banks, Building Societies, Investment and Asset Managers, as well as representatives from the Insurance sector.
An interesting and thought-provoking day, with speakers discussing developments in corporate governance, how to make outsourcing work, practical challenges in merging cultures and the role of the regulator as the gatekeeper for the industry. Jayne Owen, Non Executive Director, Starr Companies, chaired the conference, leading the event discussions and highlighting the key areas through insightful questions.
Chris Hodge, Executive Director of Strategy for the Financial Reporting Council opened the conference presentations with an indication of the proposed changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code which is currently under consultation. These could include specific issues with directors’ remuneration and adherence to the current Code. Chris confirmed that the finalised revised code will be available from October 2014. He then moved onto other European measures that could impact firms such as the Share-holder Rights Directive and the Audit Directive. With scheduled changes in the European Parliament these are unlikely to “hit” the UK until 2016, at the earliest so emphasis shifted to something which the FRC are unlikely to produce a code on, succession planning. Chris felt the importance of this issue warranted additional work as research on recent board evaluations highlighted that succession planning is a significant issue for many firms. This touched on diversity issues and the development of senior managers in readiness for Board appointments.
Managing governance in an outsourced world was the journey taken with Anita Fernqvist Edmonds, Head of Central Operations from Zurich Insurance Group. She commented that ‘Outsourcing works if and only if: you know what you want, you know why you want it and you invest in making it a success’, which overall is sound advice for anyone considering, or who indeed currently outsources any aspect of their business. The critical question poised in the development of Zurich outsourcing policy and the subsequent governance surrounding this was “Does it drive value and add to the customer experience?”
Next was a thought provoking delivery from Paul Loach, Founder of Veridic Associates, who took a frequently used proverb to the next level imparting that “the only things in life that are certain – death, taxes and change”. Paul explored the issues of change within organisations and how some corporate structure is simply not equipped to understand the difference between change and the transition to change. Ending on change he said that leaders must challenge and suggested that ‘perhaps the best culture is the one that does change best’ and we should remember that if culture is likened to soil, it has a direct impact on our business harvest!
The CEO of Towry, Andrew Fisher has seen his firm develop from AUM of £200m in 2003 to £5.5bn in 2013 and talked about the merging of cultures through acquisition. Towry values are held in high regard and he suggested that there were two ways to develop your own values;
- An expensive but quick method by asking a brand company to develop them with you or,
- The cheap but slow way (which chose) where you ask the staff to develop the core values that they want to have, which they feel represents them
Having introduced a number of initiatives in his ongoing tenure, Andrew suggested that we were “moving from being an industry to a profession” and that this has provided a number of challenges at Towry whilst absorbing a number of other groups through acquisition (15 in the period to 2013). A number of individuals had required extended periods of time to adjust during which they completely absorbed the new culture or decided it was not for them. The Towry model has also moved staff to a salary basis and away from the reliance on bonuses. As a result the firm has found people are still working hard and remaining thoroughly engaged. This is tested through staff engagement exercises, where over 80% of staff are happy to participate.
Victoria Raffe, Director of Authorisations for the FCA led the afternoon programme with a speech on the FCA’s role as a gatekeeper. She began with ‘Within the FCA there is a recognition that it is not firms that damage consumers, it is not firms that make the wrong decisions, it is people” and how the team at the FCA were now focusing on ensuring firms were really ‘putting customers at the heart of the business’.
She then went on to highlight why ‘The Board, to us, is incredibly important’ and confirmed that through their increased scrutiny of the fitness of senior managers, 1 in 5 SIF applications are being withdrawn from the process. Where once random check were made on NEDs, all C1 and C2 firms can expect their NEDs to be called for interview and the Chairman may be interviewed and asked how their chosen candidates are fit for purpose, including how they fulfil the requirements of the role and that of the firm.
Victoria provided a useful update on the progress of the Public Consultation on Banking Standards reforms. This called for affected dual regulated firms understand and introduce the new concept of certified and relevant persons. She confirmed that no decision has yet been made on grandfathering for existing APER staff but did say this would be forthcoming in the summer of 2014.
When questioned over the possible impact of this “new” regime on the pool of possible board members and even NEDs, Victoria agreed this could be an issue but hinted at the possibility of an “academy” to develop the necessary skills of people, encouraging those from other industries.
The Panel discussion “Are professional codes and ethical standards making a difference in industry leadership?” was led by the Chair together with Simon Culhane, CEO CISI, Jo Causon, CEO Institute of Customer Service and Andy Homer, NED Towergate. The discussion, with questions and comments from the floor soon mushroomed, particularly after Andy asked the question about how many of us adhered to the Highway Code all the time? The issue of understanding the “real” customer experience was highlighted by Jo when she discussed the role of leaders. Her quote “A fish rots from the head” seemed to grab the attention of those attending along with the panel agreeing you need to “live in the customers shoes” and that senior managers have to “walk the floor” to really understand what is going on in their firms.
After some interesting workshops covering board evaluations, designing staff cultural surveys and embedding culture through leadership, the conference was completed by the truly inspirational Liz Jackson, MBE, CEO of Great Guns Marketing. Liz began by telling us that displayed in her office and around the staff areas of Great Guns is something her father used to say “If you think you can or if you think you can’t you probably will!” After leaving school at 17, her Drama GSCE came in useful for securing her first job and from there helped her grow her own business which has developed into a market leader. Liz didn’t allow going blind in her late 20’s to stop her from continuing to build her business and inspire those around her to grow and develop too. To end our day Liz highlighted Belbin’s conclusion that there is no such thing as a perfect individual only a perfect team, don’t be a nearly person, don’t rely on luck there is no replacement for hard work.
A great day for all the delegates who were able to attend with good quotes and useful materials to take away.