18 May 2015
Taking pride in doing the right thing
Chris's blog explains that although he is a "hard-nosed" finance person, he’s proud to wear our umbrella lapel badge pretty much wherever he goes
Chris’s blog explains that although he is a “hard-nosed” finance person, he’s proud to wear our umbrella lapel badge pretty much wherever he goes. And also how the very things that make him proud about us, also contribute directly to our success as a business.
"If you’d asked me a few years ago to wear any kind of uniform to work, I might have been scornful.
Pride In Wearing The Badge
However, like many of my colleagues, I am now very proud to wear the lapel badge pretty much wherever I go. I wear the badge to and from the office, and you’d be surprised how many interesting conversations it provokes with people who are our customers, investors or business partners. It’s amazing how many people recognise the brand.
There's a lot to be proud about given the growth in scale and performance of the business in the last six years. As a long-term industry insider, I was taken by the absolute focus on cash generation when I joined us. It was a very different approach to other companies in the sector. And it’s clearly paid dividends in more ways than one!
But almost more than the success itself, I feel proud about the way we go about our business.
Pride In Our UK Growth
First, I'm proud of the way we care and get involved in the economy and society of the UK. Many other insurers and banks are much more interested in sexy / exciting ventures abroad. That means we’re able to take advantage of great opportunities to invest and grow in the UK (as well as internationally, of course). For example, our purchase of house-builders CALA Homes and our entry to the equity release market. When we look to recruit great finance and actuarial people, the fact that Nigel gets out and speaks on the radio and in the papers on subjects that are of wider interest plays really well, and attracts great candidates sharing our values.
Pride In Our Infrastructure Investments
I’m proud of the £6.3bn we've invested in direct investments. And our very public target to take it to £15bn. Any system of insurance/pensions/welfare is only going to be affordable in our country if the economy is thriving. We’re doing our bit by investing in our infrastructure and encouraging others, including overseas funds, to invest alongside – for example our deal with Dutch pension fund PGGM. It’d be ‘easier’ just to invest in foreign corporate bonds, but we can actually do our bit for the country and earn better risk-adjusted returns investing in direct investments in the UK.
I'm proud of our stance on the cost of work-place pensions. The government set a maximum of 75 basis points (bps) for auto-enrolment. But we’ve set our own maximum of 50bps, ahead of everyone else in the market. If we can prove that we can be trusted, even when government isn't forcing us to, then we have more chance of government and society trusting us to expand workplace pensions faster and to include a range of other in-work benefits. This will open up some exciting future markets for us.
Pride in Our Responsibility
Along with the pride comes a keen sense of responsibility. This responsibility is for maintaining the health of a business that’s nearly 180 years old, and for the stewardship of £700 billion of the hard-earned cash of around nine million customers. We're taking our business forward, but not at the expense of putting that responsibility in jeopardy.
None of this, of course, would be possible without employing great people. Two years ago we brought together previously siloed finance and actuarial teams to work as one. We've been focusing on being more effective finance business partners with our operating divisions, on increasing the timeliness and accuracy of our reporting, and getting the cost of finance to an optimal level.
There are every-increasing demands for faster reporting, more metrics, more analysis – and we're doing a lot more for a lot less than we were. It may not be the glamorous end of the business, but we can be proud of the contribution the finance team makes to the company’s success."