Digital Transformation of business

1. What is your morning ritual?

Most mornings I’m up around 5.30am and at gym by 6.00am. I typically swim or cycle for around an hour which is a great time to wake up and think about things. Some great ideas come first thing in the morning when you’re still fresh. I typically watch CNN, BBC or Sky news in the morning while having breakfast to stay in touch with any global issues. I’m lucky in that my wife is a teacher and takes our girls to school. This ensures that I have a quiet car on my drive to work where I can think about and plan my day.

2. You spent a great deal of your time with your family. How do your two daughters, Tayla and Katie, push your creative buttons?

We learn from children the instinctive skills that we have forgotten as adults. Try negotiating with a kid. They are the ultimate deal makers and can trade seemingly uncorrelated things to make a deal work. They are shameless in that they never give up and are incredibly creative in seeking a negotiable that may interest you to get the deal done. My kids are young and we play a game while driving called the odd one out. Recently I asked which was the odd one out between a motor bike, motor car and a bicycle. I thought the question was sufficiently loaded and framed to make the answer simple…obviously the bicycle as it doesn’t have an engine! My daughter said the odd one out was the car. I then realized the question was a bit ambiguous and that is also correct. As I said ‘I suppose that’s right because the car has 4 wheels” to which she replied “no dad it’s the only one with a roof!” Sometimes as adults our brains are lazy and we go with the obvious, however, if we stretch ourselves there are elegant answers in front of us that just aren’t obvious to our programmed adult minds. If we could just think more like kids sometimes I think people would be happier and more creative as it doesn’t take as much to make them happy. It’s their curiosity to fill the gaps in the things they don’t understand that unleashes the most wonderful creativity. Which is why in any industry the best ideas come from people without the curse of knowledge of that industry.

3. What would you accredit your success in financial services to?

The fact that I came into financial services with an unconventional background for banking helped me in that it let me ask more questions than most people, as everyone knew that I knew nothing! During the process I realized how intimidating financial services were but on understanding them how much simpler they are than they first appear. This has helped in that I feel compelled to simplify financial services to people and help educate them. Financial services have often been referred to as smoke in mirrors and to be honest it has served financial services companies in getting clients to participate in things they often don’t fully understand. The ability to simplify financial concepts to clients has really helped me in our business by providing more transparent solutions that result in more informed and comfortable clients.

I try to never forget what it’s like not to know! If as an industry if we don’t address this and educate clients we can never expect them to engage in financial services in a meaningful way and the distrust will continue to grow.

4. How does Harbour Wealth and Wealthport redefine wealth?

I assisted in setting up Harbour Wealth as project, to see if it was possible to provide a great financial expertise at a lower margin and for it to be sustainable. The idea was to run a business more like a practice (law/accounting) rather than a commission driven sales machine. It proved possible and the technology, education of clients and transparency of being totally independent has resulted in Harbour Wealth being the fastest growing Independent Wealth Manager in SA over the last 2 years.

The technology we used to reduce costs and provide tools as well as the digital back office sits in the Wealthport business which I currently work for. Wealthport has been building and testing the technology with a few independent advisors over the last few years and are the first to build an incredible solution that assists independent advisors to digitize their back offices, provide a client interface and give them tools to collaborate better with clients. Linked to this is a transactional engine where they can buy any retail financial investment product available in SA which is unique to SA.

The efficiency for the advisor allows him more time to spend on the human elements of the advice process that no machine will ever be able to do. It also allows the client to have 24/7 access to their entire financial world across all financial products they own. We are living in an on-demand economy and clients deserve and expect this convenience. Would anyone bank with a bank that does not have an online offering? It won’t be long before you won’t deal with an advisor that doesn’t provide the same!

5. What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

My dad had always said work hard do the right thing and you will do well and have a career. That’s only true if everyone around you is doing the right thing! It was this that led me to leave a well paying high level corporate job. It was scary and you second guess your ability. It is that fear that rewires you and if you combine all you have learned with a necessity to deliver then things start to happen.

One of the biggest challenges is to get people to follow you on your dream. To get them to give up their well-paying jobs to throw their lot in with you. They say until you have your first follower you are just a lone nut! I had those feelings in the early days! When you get though these tough times that startups go through and the challenges associated with new businesses (so much could be written on this) you emerge a different person. You also see the people that came through it with you with different eyes. You galvanise a team in a way that no other process can.

6. How does creativity play a role in the founding of WEALTHPORT?

Creativity is core to all we do at Wealthport. We have a unique working environment where we collaborate amongst sales, operations and IT development continuously. We are open to all ideas and believe there is always a better way. We just need to find it! I work with some of the most creative administrators, sales people and operational people…sounds crazy…but they are! Our biggest challenge has been learning to understand each other rather than assuming we understand each other. When we communicate ideas to our developers in a way we all understand we continuously get amazed by the creative ways in which they deliver the outcomes. For creativity to thrive you need to open to possibility as some of the best ideas come from unlikely places. If companies worried less about who got credit for good ideas more great ideas would flourish!

7. Have you ever felt creatively spent in the financial services industry?

No, never. In fact, I just feel like we’re starting. We have some great ideas we just don’t have enough time to get to as we need to continuously maintain our focus on where we’re going. The financial services industry is poised for some really exciting change and those who don’t think it’s going to change might get caught wrong footed. They say things take longer to happen than first anticipated but when they happen they happen quicker than most expected.

8. What fascinates you the most in the digitalized world today?

It’s the ability to reach so many people and to share information and skills across any demographic or geography. Technology is not a threat to people, in fact, if used correctly it helps takes care of time consuming tasks which will allow people time to engage better with their clients.

The downside is that people get too engaged in technology and are losing the people skills we need to function as a society. Kids are losing creativity with on demand entertainment. Knowledge has become a commodity as it exists in data bases. Which is why I believe that creative and interpersonal skills will be sought after skills in the future.

9. What have you done as a business leader to inspire creativity in your staff?

We have a culture of being open to possibility. It sounds contrived but we really try things and are not afraid of mistakes. This however only works if you have a team you know can solve problems and avoid a blaming culture. When we try something and it doesn’t work there are no sacred cows and we kick in to fix it mode. When all know it’s safe to make mistakes then decisions get made with the comfort that if this is the wrong road everyone will jump in to get us back on track. If your team focus on solving rather than blaming then they all feel safe to do.

10. What does the future hold for Harbour Wealth?

Harbour Wealth wants to stick to its path of organic growth by attracting the right people who have the skills and share its values. Shared values coupled with purpose and an open mind will allow it to adapt to industry changes and client’s requirements. Client education is at the heart of what Harbour Wealth does as we can’t afford the continuation of the scams that have left so many retired people destitute. Technology provides Harbour Wealth and those that use the Wealthport technology the ability to reach more clients wherever they are and provide them with on demand access to their financial lives. This excites me as anyone anywhere now can have access to good quality advice and can chose and advisor in a different town so they are no longer bound by the geography they live in. Harbour Wealth’s goal is to be the most nationally recognised and trusted independent advice brand. Things that are worth doing take time and Harbor Wealth is in it for the long haul.