Reflections on a Career in Financial Services

Terence Clark, former Compliance Director at RWA, has recently announced his retirement. In this article he reflects on a long career in financial services, including over ten years with RWA. We would like to wish him well and thank him for his many years of service. From all at RWA – thank you, Terence, and best wishes for a long and happy retirement!

Here’s what he had to say:

“After almost forty three years at work, almost all of which has been in financial services, the time has come to close the laptop for the last occasion as I have made the decision to drop out of the rat race and retire and have some ‘me time’.

Somebody commented that I must have seen a few changes in that time, and yes, that’s certainly true, so I thought I would mull over some of those changes which stick in my mind both in the way the financial services profession has changed, but also how my job at RWA has changed over the eleven years in situ.

So, what most comes to mind in the profession?

Well, in no particular order…

The change in technology is the obvious starting point. When I first joined a major insurer in the early eighties, computers had just arrived (one between two!) but very early on, I was given a rate book and taught how to calculate premiums and sums assured. How many could do that now?

A year or two later, there was great excitement when the fax machine arrived – who uses these now?

Technology has opened up many opportunities and access to insurance for the majority is now at the touch of a button.

But there is a downside. What about those, perhaps vulnerable, customers who cannot access the web?

Also, technology is good, but we have, I think, lost a lot of ability to talk to each other and there may be too much reliance on whether the computer says ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We need to restore some more human intervention and not lose sight of the fact that we are a profession built on service.

Consumer education has never been more apparent, with websites, blogs, finance pages in papers and magazines, and all manner of bodies around to help. A huge leap forward has been made.

This can only be a benefit as the more information the consumer has, the better he or she can make an informed decision and get the product that is needed.

The general insurance broker has played a great part in this and continues to provide a valuable service and will do so long into the future. But can we say the same about our cousins in the investment sector, where the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) has seemingly closed down access to quality advice for the less well off by having to charge fees for virtually everything. This could result in driving the consumer back into the arms of the banks or less professional firms. I believe that if RDR was being proposed now, it would look a lot different.

On the matter of education, what about our colleagues who work in the broking and insurer communities? I fear that despite the willingness of many firms to support professional study, many individuals will stop at Cert. CII.

Where are the next ACII/FCII qualified individuals coming from?

Back in the eighties, it was an open secret that brokers would, when recruiting, look strongly at insurer staff as insurers then really did promote ACII as a career path and so many staff took this route that they became attractive to brokers seeking quality staff.

Are we all investing enough in staff and professional qualifications?

The CII, as we know, has a broad exam structure that should suit most needs, but there is little else to challenge them. The Chartered Institute of Bankers offered some high quality general insurance qualifications but they have now pulled out, concentrating on the investment side.

Of course, where would any piece be without mentioning regulation?

When I started in financial services, there was no such thing as statutory regulation. Yes, we had the Insurance Brokers Registration Act, but many firms did not seek such registration to call themselves brokers.

There was little direct government interaction or interference.

The government at the time did not have a specific focus on Financial Services, having at the end of the seventies and for a part of the early eighties, its hands full dealing with the significant bouts of industrial action, with the motor manufacturing industry being hit badly (hands up if you remember ‘Red Robbo’ at British Leyland, in fact, hands up if you remember British Leyland!)… not to mention the mineworkers, refuse collectors, fire brigades and the Poll Tax riots.

But, inevitably, eyes turned to financial services. 

In 1984, we saw the advent of NASDIM (National Association of Stockbrokers, Dealers and Investment Managers), but as the name suggests, it was a very narrow church.

In 1986, the landscape took on a look which we would now recognise with FIMBRA (Financial Intermediaries, Managers and Brokers Regulatory Association) for intermediaries and LAUTRO (Life Assurance and Unit Trust Regulatory Organisation) for insurers. Of course, none of this impacted the general insurance sector until 2005.

Although the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) did a good job in setting benchmarks, and at that time when I was at a major broker, we were subject to a GISC visit for two days and I can tell you in was not a piece of cake and they were certainly tough but fair (like Nobby Stiles or Norman Hunter - ask your dad as needed here!).

Along the way there have been several changes with the advent of the Personal Investment Authority, The Financial Services Authority and now the Financial Conduct Authority,

So, we are now in an era of much more accountability and oversight, which in the main is no bad thing, perhaps the way it is achieved is open to debate, but nobody can argue against the much higher levels of accountability, standards, education and protection which are now in place.

I could go on for hours (those that know me will testify to that…) but do not want to get too boring.

So, what about the job? How has that changed?

Well, it may surprise some to learn that, in fact, the underlying job has not changed that much.

Yes, we all have to keep pace with the fast-changing regulatory landscape and become proficient in each change so that we can advise our insurance broker partners, but, at the end of the day, we are here to help firms navigate a complex landscape and that is core.

What has changed, however, is the way we are seen. Having worked with our firms for many years in numerous cases, we have all built up strong relationships and that means we are often the first port of call for questions which are not FCA compliance based and whilst we can use our own experiences and learn from what others may have done in similar situations, we are mindful of directing them to their own relevant professional advisers where appropriate. 

However, there are many areas where we can help, HR, Business and Succession Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions and Training just to name some. 

It is these areas where I have seen the role change to encompass a wider range of topics whilst still being able to assist in core areas. 

This has seen the expansion of our product and skill offering and many clients now take advantage of these under our RWA Consultancy Solutions banner.

This has I believe increased our professionalism, our reputation in the wider marketplace and also adds a huge amount of interest to the job, dealing with so many varied elements and firms.

Certainly, I do not believe that we are now just seen as “The Compliance People”.

So, what will I miss?

Nothing – otherwise I would be staying!

But on a more serious note, it has been my pleasure and privilege to work with some fantastic firms and individuals who share so many of our visions and also have some good times in a more social environment with these and colleagues (perhaps unwinding after a hard day at BIBA… it’s harder than it looks manning a stand!).

I do believe that the future for insurance broking is bright and strong despite the many naysayers!

This is still a profession that prides itself on service and commitment to the customer and there will always be a place for good quality advice and assistance to the policyholder. That cannot be replicated by the internet – it’s no good asking your computer for help when you have just had a fire and need to make a claim!

So, as I finish my last Insight piece, I know that there is a super team left behind which will always be there for you and that the profession and RWA has a long life in front of it.

Finally, thank you to all those that have helped and guided me and made life fun, there are too many to mention, but I hope you know who you are.”

About the author

Terence has over 35 years' experience in the Financial Services environment, covering general insurance, investments and mortgages.

Before joining RWA, Terence worked for a large PLC insurance brokerage in Manchester, overseeing some 20 acquisitions. He served as Compliance Director at RWA from 2011 to 2018 and has worked with insurance broking firms of all sizes across the UK. He has a particular interest in Financial Crime and the protecting the insurance broker. Terence previously served as Executive Chairman of the Association of Professional Compliance Consultants (APCC), the professional body for the compliance consultancy sector.

Get RWA Insight In Your Inbox

Regular business news and commentary delivered direct to your inbox each week. Sign up here