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Monday, 15th April 2024
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Funds @ the speed of thought Back  
John Cunningham on the daily challenges to decades of learned selling skills
7.15 a.m.

Getting up and out in the mornings has always been a very functional speedy event for me that does not include having breakfast (I know that it is the most important meal of the day...). But my 7.15 a.m. start is now totally focussed on my parental duties in getting Edith up, changed and fed for onward delivery. This part of my day can often include a blast of Teletubbies!

Living in Ranelagh means that I can leave the house at 7.50 a.m. and I am at my desk in Adelaide Road by 8.00 a.m.

8.00 a.m.

That half an hour in the office when the phones are quiet is an important part of my day. Scanning through the papers is an important and often essential part of the day. Keeping an eye on what is happening in the market and industry at large is a important daily function. A story in the papers has often led to that plan for the day being thrown out the window! One must always be prepared.

On of the many benefits of being a member of Eureko is that I receive an e-mail every morning detailing what has happened in the financial services industry at a European and International level. I always feel sorry for the unfortunate who has to put it together every day but it is an extremely useful tool. But this is the only time I get to read it. (5 minutes reading and responding to Emails).

8.45 a.m.

I have a meeting with three of my team regarding our strategic plans following the Finance Bill on pension options. The Bill has caused much debate in the media and the Industry, so we are now establishing the "real" implications and putting a plan in place to capitalise on what we regard as possible options. From my point of view I depend very much on the experts in our company to support many of the initiatives and plans that we are implementing and considering - so constant communication and involvement is essential. In the middle of the meeting I am interrupted and have to take a call from a major broker who needs an answer on a substantial scheme he is pitching for - 10.00 a.m. we wrap up to the meeting with an action plan in place and a deadline for delivery.

10.00 a.m.

After the meeting I spend some time reading the latest IIF report on disclosure - disclosure is currently a major part of all our lives in Friends First and the Industry. It is fundamentally changing how we sell and process our business and more importantly it is challenging decades of learned selling skills - this is where the most important challenge lies for us. During this time, I have taken a number of calls regarding issues from preparation for a strategy meeting with a major client to a media query on the Eureko financial results that have just been announced.

10.45 a.m.

The market is so active at the moment, one of the great challenges is ensuring that the weighting and focus of the produce sales is achieving the desired balance. This means that very regular updates of our sales activities must take place.

I have meeting with Mark Woods a colleague of mine who manages our strategic and operational plan measurement process. We discuss the issues that have not been delivered in April and have a look at what the reasons and implications will be. We spend time talking about our Consensus and Property funds. We launched the Consensus fund in January and reopened our property fund in March. We have set a target for both and we assess the activity to date and the operational plans currently being worked on.

11.30 a.m.

We are making a very important presentation to a prospective client that could potentially have a substantial affect on our Finance Business. I have arranged a meeting to discuss the presentation and to make sure that we have covered off all the options and are prepared for all possible questions. This meeting went on longer than anticipated due to a "good debate" on some of the pricing and commission issues - but a successful conclusion is reached by 12.30.


My lunchtime is one of the most variable times in my day. From having no lunch, to entertaining somewhere around town to the sandwich on the foot.

Today it's a sandwich at my desk and reading CV's for a key management position I am recruiting for at the moment (15 minutes reading and responding to Emails).

2.00 p.m.

I have taken some time out to prepare for a fortnightly project meeting, which I Chair. It is a project that involves all aspects of the company and has a tight timetable for delivery. Remarkably I have no disturbances until about 2.45 p.m. - one of my colleagues would like to have 10 minutes!....... so by 3.30 p.m. we wrap up.

The issue relates to our Group Distribution Strategy and how we are going to deal with a specific pricing issue for the different channels, this is always a challenging issue in an organisation with multi-channel customers access. We also look at a number of proposals for the next stage of our date base development and how soon we can deliver it. With disclosure, Y2K and the last phase of our IT conversion project, our IT resources will be well occupied until the end of the year, so we have discuss the implications of the plan. (5 minutes spent reading and responding to Emails).

3.30 p.m.

I have an hour-long Management team meeting with Anne, David, Mark and Antonia - we have this meeting once a week. No major issues arise and we discuss the recent launch of our new Income Protection plan and initial training on Disclosure for staff. The product change share gone down well and there are plenty of questions about disclosure! We spend time discussing the results of the Performance Management System for the department and study the goals for 1999 in the context of the Key result areas for the company and the department.

Anne presents proposed pricing reports for our Team Assurance products - we have had a number of re-insurers submit proposals and discuss the implications for the sales channels. We discuss what has been happening in the market amongst our competitors and try to understand some of the pricing strategies, not always an easy thing to do!

The IBA Service Excellence awards are to be announced soon and we discuss how we can deal with the results. Last year we did very well and improved in 26 of 34 areas, it was a very important result for use as we have invested substantially in our IT and Customer Service, but we have a long way to go to get to the standards that we want to deliver to our brokers and customers.

4.45 p.m.

The meeting ran on a little, but the dialogue was important and valuable. My last meeting of the day is at 5.00 p.m. with two of my colleagues from our Asset Management team. We want to discuss the Property fund - which has performed remarkably well for us and was re-opened earlier in the year. The purpose of the meeting is to review the current plant and see what steps we will take next.

I work very closely with my colleagues in all areas of the group, from Asset Management, the Finance Company, the General Company and the Life Company. This ensures plenty of variety and at least one daily "challenge".

We close the meeting at about 6.00 p.m.

6.00 p.m.

I spend the next half an hour reading and responding to Emails and complete my activity log for tomorrow. I have also received an McKinsies article on the future of distribution in financial services this afternoon - I read it, because if I don't it goes onto the 2 food high pile of things to read that I never seem to get around it - seems that our strategy fits just about well enough with their view - I don't know if that is a good or bad thing!

Leave the office at 6.40 p.m. - get a call to stop off and get some milk and liga - home by 7.00 p.m.

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