The interview: Andy Finch

Written by: Jon Watkins Posted: 27/04/2020

BL67_AndyFinch1After 18 years working in a variety of roles across Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, Andy Finch recently took over as CEO, International, at the wealth management firm. He sets out his vision for ensuring the business remains a leader in the sector – and why the Channel Islands remain integral to that

What’s your background and how did you get to where you are now?

I was born into a farming family and was raised on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. The eldest of four boys, my competitive edge was honed from an early age. My father ultimately became a butcher and, while it was a pretty working-class upbringing, it was a fantastic time and place to grow up – I really enjoyed the freedom of the countryside throughout the 1970s. 

There was no such thing as pocket money in our house – you were very much expected to contribute to the family business in whatever way you could. As such, my dad had a market stall where I would work at the weekends and in the holidays – and that really equipped me with two things for my future career.  

The first thing it gave me was, from a very young age, the confidence to deal with people, to hold down a conversation with customers and to deliver really good customer service. 

The second was the ability to understand doing business – calculating profit and value as you went along.

What drew you into the finance and wealth management space?

I worked out very early on that being a butcher wasn’t for me – so I left school at 16, right in the teeth of the Thatcher revolution, and was fortunate enough to be offered a job at the local Lloyds Bank.

Initially, I worked in behind-the-scenes admin roles before gravitating to the banking hall – and again that helped me understand the value of service and building relationships with clients. 

I realised quite quickly, however, that career banking wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I moved to what was then the Standard Life Assurance Company on the insurance and pensions side and was responsible for a panel of local IFAs – persuading them to recommend our products to their clients.  

From there, I moved to a similar role at Zurich Financial Services. What I discovered when I got there was a business that really understood the importance of investing in its staff and giving them the opportunity to grow and develop. That’s something else I’ve taken with me from those early days and added to my own philosophy and approach.

After 12 years with the business, I moved to Guernsey in 1998 – relocating my young family and taking up a role on the islands. And then in 2002, I moved to Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management.

Tell us about your route through Canaccord to where you are today.

Again, I was lucky to join a firm that would offer me a succession of opportunities to develop my career – and in roles that were tightly aligned to the areas the business wanted to develop and grow. 

I joined as Business Development Director in Guernsey. A couple of years later I moved to the Isle of Man to run the business there – and that was a really important step in my career. 

Historically, I had always run sales teams and business development. But this role had its own P&L and full responsibility for the success of the operation – and I guess that was invaluable in equipping me with the experience I needed for the role I’m moving into today. 

We had a fair bit of success there, so I then took on the role of Sales Director for the wider business – across the UK and the Crown Dependencies. 

That was a great time to be in that role, because we were on an upward curve post-credit crunch and we were able to look at taking the business into new territories – the Middle East, South-East Asia and South Africa.

Of course, as the business grew and the regulatory situation matured, we knew we would need regulatory status in those jurisdictions, and that’s what we did.

BL67_AndyFinch2In your new role as CEO of Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management International Division, what are your early priorities?

There are two elements to my vision for Canaccord in the Crown Dependencies. The first is that I want us to be the employer of choice in the jurisdictions in which we operate; people should aspire to come and work for Canaccord. 

And I also want us to be the preferred supplier of investment solutions. Somebody sells a house and has some spare cash; they inherit some money that they want to invest; they sell a business… I want them to immediately think: “Oh, I need to speak to Canaccord”. 

If we can achieve those two things, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – because if we get the best people, we become the supplier of choice – and if we can do that, then the best people will continue to want to come to work here.

What else will you be focusing on?

I mentioned the two elements of my vision, but I also have three key themes. The first is culture. I think that if you get the culture right, it can be a source of competitive advantage. I’m fortunate to be inheriting a business that is in great shape, so we already have a good culture. 

But just because it’s good doesn’t mean it can’t be better. So, we will recruit and retain the best people, invest in them and make sure there is a Canaccord ‘way of doing things’.

My second theme is momentum. We need to run and administer our business with a sense of competitive urgency and there is always room to up the energy.

My final theme is our platform. We have made a significant investment in our technology in the past five years, and we need to maximise the potential of the platform, because that will be the foundation of the future success of the firm. 

I believe that digital transformation is about using better tools to serve our clients. It’s not about the tech, it’s about the customer experience. Technology is the facilitator for that.

How do you make all of that happen?

It’s about culture, to be honest. Some businesses see achieving that as an HR project – but I don’t believe it is. There’s no secret sauce.

The responsibility starts at the top – the senior leadership team must set the example and filter it down through the business. What is culture? For me, it’s the way we do things around here. 

What will be the areas of focus for growth and development of the business under your leadership? 

I think the really interesting thing here is that a lot of businesses that operate in mature jurisdictions talk themselves out of growth opportunities.

Typically, that comes from their own inertia and lack of ambition to grow that business. We are certainly finding no shortage of opportunities within our existing jurisdictions. 

If you look at the activity in terms of mergers and acquisitions just in the fiduciary marketplace, for example, we’re seeing the demise of the smaller owner-director trust companies and the rise of much larger firms. 

Well, if you’re a larger firm, you are likely to also want an investment solutions partner that’s also of a decent size, with the right level of capacity, the right level of service and the ability to invest in technology-led solutions. So, there is still a significant level of opportunity for us in the mature jurisdictions.

That means we need to really ramp up activities – to remind people we are here, show them the breadth of our services and ultimately make us famous for all the things we do – not just the ones we’re already known for. We also need to get closer to the source of the wealth creation. We have a representative office in Singapore, for example, that’s taking us closer to that marketplace. 

How does the Channel Islands operation sit in the wider business and how important is it to your success?

While we work closely with other regions, the Channel Islands continue to be at the heart of our operation. If you look at the figures, we have close to 200 people across the Crown Dependencies, 130 of whom are in Guernsey – which is without a doubt the beating heart of the business.

BL67_AndyFinch3The world is fast-moving, but what might we see more of in the longer term?

There are going to be some challenges to the business, which we know we will need to overcome. The first is from a regulatory and a competitor perspective. Nothing stands still and the pace of regulatory change means we are constantly reviewing the way we run our business – and we want to stay ahead of the pack in this area.

How are we going to do that? It will be about technology-led solutions. We want to grow our assets and grow our clients, and technology-led solutions will be at the heart. 

The other challenge is fee compression. No-one ever feels sorry for the asset manager, but there’s no doubt that fee compression is a challenge and something we need to be on top of.

All of that said, we are a business that is on the front foot. We have a Canadian parent that is focused on being a consolidator in the industry, and we have seen evidence of that in some deals already.

We took a number of clients from Duncan Lawrie in the Isle of Man when that business closed. We purchased Thomas Miller in the UK and the Isle of Man. 

That said, we have to be careful not to just chase assets. It is strategic fit that matters. Grow but grow intelligently. 

Our priority now is to continue to bring clients the best experience from their wealth. We still believe we have business to go for and growth to achieve from an organic perspective.

How do you see the wealth sector as a whole evolving from here?

The wealth sector is seeing enormous change – the demographic that we wish to target is becoming younger. Millennials bring a desire for experience as well as pure wealth, and the green agenda is huge. 

There is no doubt that the sector, and the world, is changing rapidly. But the simple fact is that we need to change with it. 

I meet lots of people who seem to think the world somehow owes them a living and that change is a bad thing. Actually, if you don’t constantly look at your business, make improvements, adapt to your market needs and retain that compelling reason to exist from your clients’ point of view, you will go out of business. Because nobody owes you anything.

And how do you see the Channel Islands evolving in the coming years?

We’re heavily focused on the Channel Islands. The islands are in a really good place, in my view. I love the fact that they have constantly reinvented themselves. 

Island life can be tough, so people need to generate opportunities and chances – and the Channel Islands have a great history of reinventing themselves to offer those opportunities. 

That said, we cannot be complacent – the pace of change is relentless. But we are in a good place.

FACT FILE

Name: Andy Finch
Position: CEO, International, Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management
Age: 54
Home town: Bodmin, Cornwall; and now Guernsey
First job: Front counter staff at Lloyds Bank
Family: Married for 33 years, with a daughter and a son
Hobbies: Wine collecting – my wine cellar is my pride and joy


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