Guest Interview with Nigel Sherry, an experienced interim within Financial Services
Nigel Sherry, experienced Financial Services interim practitioner & owner of Sherry Associates...
Nigel, can you give us a quick overview of your career to date?
It frightens me to say I have been working in the Financial Services sector for over 35 years. During that time, I have worked primarily for manufacturers of all sizes with a focus on sales, marketing and business development; in short, anything related to new business generation. I joined my first FS company as a school leaver and I worked my way through most aspects of what is now known as ‘customer service’ before identifying sales as the best route to progress my career. After such a long time, most people get fed up with their career, but I can genuinely say that I have really enjoyed mine thanks to the variety, opportunity and continual challenges I face every day.
You’ve worked in the Financial Services industry for many years and over that time it has evolved hugely. What have been the standout changes for you that have helped to shape the sector as we know it today?
Regulation has clearly been a massive influence on the sector. Much of it has been good, particularly for the customer, and most of it was only what the better organisations were doing anyway. It personally disappoints me that we have (largely) failed to persuade the general public that we are a sector to be valued and trusted – especially if you believe all the opinion surveys. That said, we should never stop trying because what we do actually matters.
Thanks to issues around PPI, interest rate swaps, bankers’ bonuses and pension funds, the Financial Services sector has been battered and criticised publicly over recent years. Do you think that’s been fair?
As with all things, it’s “some and some”; take PPI - if we, as an industry, had been clear when we started about the target market and the genuine need (or potential) for the product then we would have realised quickly that it was being sold to the wrong people – we should have been policing ourselves. The problem we now have is building credibility and trust with the public. At an individual level, I have seen some fantastic examples of trusted relationships between advisers and customers. That proves it can work but we need to achieve it at an industry-wide level.
The media and the public can sometimes be sceptical towards the Financial Service sector so what do you think would drive better goodwill, engagement and understanding?
We have to genuinely understand our customers’ needs and develop solutions to those needs in a way that they value via the products we offer to them. This will sound naïve but we must create a situation where people rely on our skills to sell them the products they actually need. We also have to build solutions around their lives and not around our “models” of what we think they need.
Over the past five years, Ipsos MORI has undertaken quarterly market research for the Interim Management Association and its stats have shown that typically, Finance has accounted for 40% to 45% of private sector usage. Why do you think that is?
In my view over recent years – thanks to the challenges facing the market and difficult trading conditions – more and more clients have been seeing the value in using interims. The reasons cited most often to me are flexibility, being able to secure an experienced resource without a long term commitment and the fact it is a low risk option. I also know of many businesses which have been looking to recruit permanent staff but they have struggled to find the quality they want or demand. One major factor has been the uncertainty in the market as those in secure roles have tended to stay where they are. When that happens bringing in an interim can be a solid and sensible option.
With that in mind, which of your skills are in most demand right now?
My last role was on the operational side. It wasn’t an obvious fit if you look at my CV but I think what the client was looking for was someone with the ability to manage and lead people, to think through issues and to identify solutions effectively. They were also looking for a willingness to challenge the status-quo and build effective, productive relationships quickly - both internally and externally. In my view, you have to able to be seen as one of (or the leader of) the existing team but with the objectivity to challenge the current thinking.
You also hold a non-executive director position for an established life assurance and pensions provider as well as undertaking interim assignments, so do you think that diversity and breadth of experience enhances your own skills, adaptability and appeal to potential clients?
I think the diversity helps both roles. Boardroom experience certainly helps with my senior interim assignments and on the flip side the interim work ensures that I keep close handle on the business world. That was certainly my thinking when I chose to do this in 2008 and so far it has worked very well.
Finally, confidence and economic forecasts are looking stronger so what are your predictions for the Financial Services sector over the coming year?
I feel very positive, but then I have for over 35 years! I started this interview by saying what we do matters, and I believe that if we can – and do - build the right kind of relationships with our customers then the future will be bright and profitable.
Connect with Nigel at http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/nigel-sherry/8/5a7/996