A week in the life of…
Les Pick head of sales (Home Finance) at Canada Life shares some of the details of his working life
My mornings start quite early. The alarm goes off at about 6am, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I like to try and get my exercise in before work. On this occasion I managed it and I went for an 11-mile cycle from my hometown of Poole, in Dorset, to Wimborne, and back. I might have been better off staying in bed, because I got a puncture. I still managed to get back for the first meeting of the week, which is always a catch-up with the sales team.
It’s usually quite informal on Mondays. We’ve got people as far as Glasgow so although they are not getting out as much as they used to, it’s interesting to hear about the local lockdown situations. I’ll also pick up any issues that might have arisen since our Friday meeting. There’s another relatively informal management meeting but the bulk of the day was given to a lead generation workshop.
The workshop involved about 15 advisers of various levels and three hours on Zoom, with only a short comfort break, which is tough. I find it easier to be on my feet all day compared with this, but it’s valuable work and content. We look at how advisers can build their equity release business and how they can become the go-to equity release experts in their areas.
I was out early with my partner cycling again this morning. We had a ride down to Sandbanks, around the harbour and back. The weather was nice so it was a good day to go out that way and enjoy the views from the Purbeck Hills.
When I got back it was time to prepare for the executive committee meeting. This is where each individual part of the business reports in, setting out what they are working on and what they are planning for the coming month.
The day was overtaken by a couple of bits of great news. First of all, I took a call about a big buy to let portfolio. Canada Life is the only home finance provider that has a buy-to-let product, called the Over 55 Buy-to-Let mortgage. An adviser called about a very large portfolio to see if we can help out with £3m of loans to a high net-worth individual.
It’s not equity release, because it’s not secured against the main residence, but in some respects it looks, acts and feels like an equity release product.
The second bit of good news was from Moneyfacts. Canada Life was named as best equity release provider in this year’s awards. Obviously, the celebrations will have to wait but we sent out some congratulatory emails thanking all our colleagues.
A 20-mile circuit on the bike but back in time for the Wednesday sales team meeting, to find out what’s happened over the last couple of days. Spirits are high and it was another chance to recognise and thank the team for the hard work that helped to secure the award. Obviously, there would usually be an awards ceremony, and that’s a shame, but the lockdown has had its benefits.
Pre-lockdown I would often leave on a Monday and not get back home until Thursday, driving for three hours or more a day, on top of the day job. Now you can take the traveling out, I’m getting so much more done. I’m busier and there is just less dead time.
Clearly that makes for a much better quality of life, but at the same time you’re missing getting out there and shaking hands and actually having proper face-to-face conversations.
The team miss an awards ceremony and I’m looking forward to when we can all be together again. I’ve got a hankering for a few drops at Gordan’s Bar near Embankment (London) which has a fantastic old cellar. It’s a great place to go if you like your wine and cheese.
Back to reality though and most of the day was taken up by the Canada Life management meeting, which is a fairly informal meeting where we discuss the day-to-day activities of the business rather than the big picture. I spent the rest of the day doing internal compliance exams. Always something we look forward to!
The snooze button got a run out, but there was no cycling today. I was still at my desk for my usual 8am though.
We’re doing a lot of 2021 planning at the moment and we started with a market research discussion about financial advisers. We need to know how they tick, what they need from us and how we can help them. The answer is, of course, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and we need to build relationships and get to know them as people.
We have to start somewhere though, so we did some work on segmenting advisers based on their experience. We work with a range of advisers, from the highly specialised to those who have just started in equity release. Obviously, we want more advisers to actively engage with the market, which is why we invest so much time in this kind of work.
It was down to Sandbanks for a quick bike ride this morning, with my partner. We did about 11 miles which takes us about 35 minutes. It’s always nice to see the posh houses and then it was back to the other side of Poole, where it’s not so posh.
Friday is an important day for the sales team. Whereas Monday is usually quite light-hearted, Friday is more serious and it’s when we try to understand what happened during the week, what went well and what didn’t go quite so well. During this meeting we’re joined by the product and proposition team. The sales team will flag up all of the events of the week, anything that we think the other team might find useful.
Having this meeting in the morning means we have Friday to put our ducks in a row for Monday. In fact, it’s almost like we start the working week on a Friday.
There was more 2021 planning today, this time with the sales managers and senior BDMs. In a normal year we would be thinking about what the market is going to do, but this year we have the added complexities of Brexit and Covid. Brexit could go well, or it could be terrible, but there are so many more variables with Covid.
Regional lockdowns could make it hard for our valuers to get out there but then a national lockdown would be worse still. If valuers are unable to work in the field, it will hit us hard, because then we can only take the vanilla properties and it’s the more unusual properties where we tend to do well, which certainly keeps things interesting.
Another one of my Friday jobs is about catching up on calls and emails. I usually only get to hear about the cases that have gone very well or not so well. If I need to smooth things over or escalate something to a different department, I try to make sure everything has been done by the end of the week, so I can relax for the weekend.
Partner cooks most days and its always good, but we’ll normally have something a bit naughty on a Friday. Tonight was a curry, a few beers and a couple of gins.
Nobody will be surprised to read that there will be more cycling at the weekend. We try to get out on a couple of longer rides, between about 30 and 60 miles, on a Saturday and a Sunday. I’ve always felt fortunate to enjoy cycling and the outdoors as much as I do, but during lockdown I’ve definitely appreciated things more.
The views and opinions of contributors are not necessarily those of the Council.