Courtiers will continue to take a cautious approach to the way it does business, but this will not stifle innovation and new ideas focused on meeting the needs of clients, says Courtiers CEO Jamie Shepperd.
The way the company is structured and independent scrutiny of the board will also ensure that the company continues to evolve and not get stuck in its ways just because a certain way of doing business has proved successful in the past.
Jamie recently outlined the company’s succession plan. Now in follow-up comments, he explains why Courtiers will never take the gung-ho and cavalier approach to business that saw huge companies such as RBS and Northern Rock fail.
Jamie says the fact that the Courtiers directors have ‘skin in the game’, by having their own personal and family wealth tied to the fortunes of the company means it tends to take “a more conservative approach.”
“We’re very mindful of the risk and make sure that we check and double-check everything to minimise the risk. This allows the upside to look after itself.”
He said it was recently remarked to him how Courtiers was “Germanic” in its approach. In Germany Mittelstand companies, (SME) small and medium-sized enterprises that are usually family owned are the backbone of the German economy.
Jamie also reiterated how not having to answer to shareholders every quarter as is the case with public companies allows Courtiers to take the long view.
Jamie contended that a conservative approach doesn’t stifle innovation or new ideas. “It’s just you’re very aware of the consequences.”
Returning to the theme of family ownership, Jamie commented on a recent email he had received from a client. The client had suggested that based on his own experiences in business, family members who took over Courtiers might be reluctant to make changes out of respect for the company’s founders and because their approach had been successful in the past. The client said the risk was that Courtiers would fail to respond to the changing needs of clients.
Jamie said the proof of the pudding was how Courtiers had evolved as a company and was continuing to do so. “It’s a continuous cycle of evolution and adjusting to the market and what clients are demanding and telling you. Just because we did business in one way five years ago doesn’t mean we do it the same way today.”
Jamie explained that because of how Courtiers is structured as a company and the way it operates on a daily basis, this will continue to be the case.
The first reason was the quality of the senior management team. Members of the team are not backward in coming forward with their thoughts and ideas, and are prepared and encouraged to argue a case, indeed, “that’s what we’re looking for from a senior manager.”
Courtiers’ two independent Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) also played an important role in holding the rest of the board’s feet to the fire. “They’re very good at asking awkward questions” and have provided “valuable insights”. Each with over 40 years’ experience “at the highest level in financial services”, they’ve also been responsible in helping to push through important change. Asked for an example, Jamie said that the NEDs’ experience of IT projects had sped up decisions by two years.
Jamie said he had no doubts that those who succeeded himself and the other founding director CIO Gary Reynolds will be more than ready and able to step out of their shadows. “It’s not something that is going to happen overnight, but as time goes on we start to step back and they start to take over.”
The message is clear; Courtiers will continue to be conservative, but also progressive, willing to listen to clients and to embrace change.