What was your first break in business?
I started in financial services in 1982 working for an insurance company’s direct salesforce in Edinburgh. Knocking on doors among the housing estates of Monktonhall and Livingstone was quite an uphill start but I was offered a job in the city with a small IFA the following year.
What did you want to be growing up?
An officer in the Royal Navy, like my father and my grandfathers. One grandfather died early in 1925 as a Lieutenant Commander, the other was an Admiral of the Fleet and my father retired with the rank of Commodore.
What attracted you to the finance industry?
For someone who did not attend university, the options were not great. Most job adverts seemed to involve selling something or other, be it a product or service. Financial services, which in those days were sold not bought, seemed the best option for the returns available. Once in the industry it has never occurred to me do anything else.
What is your company mission?
Lycetts began in 1961 with an aim to provide first-class local insurance advice as well as careers for promising young people who would contribute to the running of their local communities. The principle still holds true today.
How do you get the best out of your team?
Despite the ever-increasing burden of regulation and training for any business involved in financial services, I like to think that at Lycetts we have a unique culture of working hard, playing hard and in a number of respects being able to combine the two. Sitting alongside this is the importance of giving staff plenty of management time, training and encouragement.
What has been your career highlight?
There is no doubt that receiving the unanimous backing of the board ten years ago to be appointed chief executive of Lycetts has been a career highlight. Allied to this has been the hugely rewarding experience of working with everyone across such a varied subject matter. We are all about people – staff, clients and all those suppliers with whom we deal.
What has been your biggest challenge?
What has and continues to be the biggest challenge is combining a number of back office IT systems onto one platform. Inevitably, all acquisition targets have had different systems to ours which tend to get left in place on day one so newly acquired staff can hit the ground running. Familiarity with a system then creates huge resistance to change, but we are now getting somewhere!
Who or what inspires you?
My greatest inspiration comes from my children, who are both considerably more intelligent than me. Even having the slightest chance of keeping up with their knowledge, conversation, and quick-fire change of tack keeps me on my toes and drives me on to keep at it. In addition, as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) who are in turn wholly owned by the charity, The Allchurches Trust, all Lycetts’ profits effectively go to charity. I recently attended a service of Thanksgiving on behalf of Lycetts in Gloucester Cathedral to mark EIG hitting their target of giving £50 million to charity over the past five years. Some of the testimonials from grateful recipients are truly inspirational. As a group our next target is to give £100m by 2020.
What are your company’s short and long-term goals?
To be the UK’s leading independently operated insurance broking group specialising in private clients and their commercial and personal interests and other associated niche or specialist markets, namely: Farms & Estates, Household, Equine, Tree Surgeons and Forestry, Commercial Property and Renewable Energy.
In addition, to provide expert advice to these clients on financial services and wealth management matters. We also strive to encourage as many employees as possible to become chartered – a key benchmark in the industry.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
Sometimes I don’t think I do and then after short reflection consider myself extremely lucky. A lot of my work colleagues are good friends so when times are tough, hauling on the tug o’ war rope is made a lot easier. Much of our marketing effort involves activities which are good fun and sit across both leisure and work so that is a balance in itself. There is no doubt that some of my days breach the EU Working Time Directive by a country mile but somehow this evens out. A bit like nature really, which has a way of recovering.