S13E35: How to harness purpose to restructure and grow businesses, with Andy Morris (CEO, Cirencester Friendly Society)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S13E35: How to harness purpose to restructure and grow businesses, with Andy Morris (CEO, Cirencester Friendly Society)

What do you do when you find your growth-oriented role has become one of selling off the business, just three days into your role? And what happens when you reach the pinnacle of the functional ladder - CFO for example? And... how do you steer a 130+ year old business into new growth areas whilst taking the team with you?

We're continuing our season on "business as a force for good", Richard speaks with Andy Morris, CEO of Cirencester Friendly Society.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • The do's and don'ts of selling and closing businesses, based on Andy's experience with RBS in the MEA region.
  • How Andy got independent and headstrong CEOs to coalesce and deliver on a vision none of them originally wanted.
  • How Andy navigated the transition from large investment bank to small mutual business, and what clenched the CEO role for him.
  • The challenges of taking a 130+ year old business into new growth areas – and how to make sure that winning people over to the vision isn't one of them.

"I think demonstrating expertise in the areas that aren't finance means that people see you can apply yourself to other areas, and this increases the profile of a potential CEO because you're not only the person that speaks when the numbers come up."

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Transcript

Andy Morris
From a personal perspective, it was the transition, I think, from wanting to be the technical expert in the room to actually caring more about what difference you could make in collaboration with the people that you’re with The caused my mindset to say actually The is a job I wanna do. And a little bit more than a year in, so I’m, I guess, one of your newbies in the context of this Podcast, absolutely loving it and feeling as though I wanna get out of bed in morning, I wanna go to work, I wanna make So I I really enjoy that, and I’m really enthused as driving the business forward and helping the people around me is is my main motivation.

Richard Medcalf
How do you harness purpose to restructure and to grow businesses And reinvent yourself along the way. This is the conversation I’m having today with Andy Morris, CEO of Cyrencester Friendly Society, which is a UK based mutual financial services provider. So Andy started off in investment banking, Where he took a CFO role that he thought was there to grow the Middle East and Africa, he ended up having to restructure sell off that business in a very difficult economic context. He shares how he managed to get CEOs to coalesce around a vision that they would deliver on even though they didn’t want that vision in the 1st place. It wasn’t their vision. He also then looks at that transition where he left The corporate banking world. And went into the mutual, field not knowing exactly what he was letting himself in for, Finding it really resonated with his values and ended up realizing that he didn’t just wanna play the CFO level, which has been his career goal for all those years, And he ended up becoming CEO. And we get into the story of the shifts he had to make to do that leap.

And then we look at the future. Andy’s got a business which is over a 130 years old with very set ways, successful business, and yet he wants to transform it, dynamize it. And we look at, well, how does that work? What obstacles has he encountered? And what are the lessons you can learn for any leader that wants to take, an established business to the next level. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Andy Morris. Hi, Andy. Welcome to the show.

Andy Morris
Richard, great to be here.

Richard Medcalf
So thank you for joining me today. I’m interested in this conversation because I know you’ve spent many, many years In financial services, in all sorts of parts, you’re now a chief executive of, Cyren Sister Friendly, a UK based, a mutual provider, mutual company. And for that, you’ve you’ve done a whole load of interesting things, including being involved with RBS in the mid in Middle East and Africa, which we’ll get into 2nd, and then you trans transitioned into the mutual sector, thought you were gonna be CFO and ended up in the chief exec role. And so it’d be interesting to talk about that as well. As well as your ambitions to dynamize the sleepy, possibly old fashioned world of the mutual And it’d be fascinating to get your perspectives on what that means. Right? Coming in, wanting to create growth. I think you’ve got a plan to double the size of the business over the next few years. So let’s dive straight in if we can, and go back into your past because I know that one thing that most Any leader really is never on their top list of priorities, is selling and closing businesses, laying people off, having to go through all that complexity.

And I know you did it at quite some scale in your career with a project in Middle East and Africa where you had around 2,000 staff that were gonna be affected by this project. So let’s just kinda perhaps if you can just set the context for that. I guess my question with that is, you know, when you told you had you you told that this was what you had to get be getting on with, You know, what were your thoughts, and where did you start?

Andy Morris
Absolutely. Well, thanks very much for setting the scene, Richard, and putting myself into that situation, the time I got the job accepted, there was something called decoupling, where the emerging markets were allegedly going to be separate to the western markets since 2007, 8. And so when I took the role on, it was actually sold to me as a growth role. And although there were all these problems in Europe and the US, the emerging markets would would still motor ahead, and they had this big growth engine. So I took the job as the CFO from Middle East and Africa for for RBS on that understanding. And it crashed within a matter of about 3 days of getting The, it all came tumbling down.

Richard Medcalf
I was I was gonna make a joke and say it all changed on day 2, but I got it wrong. It was Indeed.

Andy Morris
So very much. It was a so from a personal perspective, a total mindset shift. I had relocated country. I’d taken the wife and kids and and sort of it was with that in mind. So, yeah, it was it was absolutely a complete mindset challenge for me to adjust to. How did that then manifest itself. Well, RBS at the time had bought ABN, Dutch Bank, and they both did similar businesses. ABN had big geographical reach.

RBS had depth of product. So the idea was bring those 2 together and combine them, and you’d have a very large global bank. But obviously, they were both in the credit markets. And when the credit markets collapsed, they both went down with it. So instead of doubling up and growing, it doubled up and crashed even bigger. In that context, I was taken on the 1st CFO role. So for me, it was a it was a sort of big step up, but, of course, you’re then faced with the government stepping in to bail out RBS, and then you have a mandate coming down from sort of the head office, yes, but Multiplier from the UK government to say we need to divest on these businesses, and we need to get money back for the taxpayer. So instead of growth and delivering profit and dividend, you’re then into a sell off, reduce down, and try and maximize returns, but in the sense of not creating back publicity.

So I was part of the team. So I wasn’t CFO CEO. I was the CFO. But to be honest, they had individual CEOs of each of the businesses. So it ended up coming down to the COO and the CEO being the glue that actually made each of those leaders talk to each The. Because the other problem was none of them really wanted to talk to each other.

Richard Medcalf
So you had a pretty dysfunctional team at the same time and trying to get them to coalesce behind what we now needed to do, which is a total shift of strategy, and sell that message through..Mhmm.

Andy Morris
To The sort of 2, 2 a half 1000 people that we had at the time who were all faced with the same uncertainty that that everybody faced in financial services at that time. It was a massive impact.

Richard Medcalf
So let’s just zoom back a second so that you said you had a massive mindset shift that you had to achieve there on day 3. How did you do that? Because, yeah, you said you’ve you’ve moved home. You’ve moved your family. You’re ready to kinda make big things happen, go for The growth. And then suddenly, you So I don’t know. It must have felt like you’d run off the edge of the cliff like Roadrunner. Right? And suddenly, it was all it was all downwards from here on. How did you kind of how did you manage to Yeah.

Andy Morris
So it it sounds a bit Strange, but actually, the fact that I hadn’t got into a mode of working, yes, I had expectations. Yes, I thought I would be doing something, but in reality, I hadn’t actually got used to being on the ground and doing the job. So What the job was was fundamentally different to what I thought it was gonna be. But in a sense, I therefore just got used to the new one as opposed to having something that then changed around me. So I think, in fact, the upheaval and the relocation and the totally different environments I found myself in meant that it was actually easier to then say, hold, by the way, your objectives are completely different. So for me, the transition was already happening anyway. The change was already there. So it was more a case of saying, well, instead of my objectives being these, then how these and they are very different, but a lot of things were very different as well.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Got it. Okay. So you you kind of got used to this new role, and then you said that you had a whole bunch of different in country CEOs, I guess, who didn’t wanna speak to each other.

Andy Morris
Absolutely.

Richard Medcalf
And, yeah, how did you how did you kind of help along with the other group level individuals that you mentioned? How did you kind of Navigate that situation, bring them together or get them speaking or The it bashing their heads together?

Andy Morris
Yeah. Absolutely. If you if you imagine you have The the ABN CEO who is running the office, you had the RBS investment banking CEO who was coming out there with that growth agenda, you had trade finance, which is sort of more meets sort of SME type or certainly midsized businesses they were lending to, so a very different proposition. And each of these people, I think, had operated in their own businesses and didn’t really talk to each other particularly. But then you had to kinda coalesce people around that. So certainly speaking speaking personally, that was a lot of 1 to 1 relationship building to get to understand the challenges they now faced from a finance perspective, yes. But all of them, obviously, the finance person in a crisis becomes one of the most important people you need to talk speak to is the reality of life. So that meant building those relationships.

But more importantly than that, once we had decided what the right strategic direction would be was to get people to coalesce around that. And I think the initial uncertainty of what on earth were we gonna do and look at all the options, that was really difficult. Very different opinions in the room, big egos in the room, and those people were going through the mindset shift and saying, well, The has worked fine. Why? I’ve built this business from nothing in 10 years. Therefore, why should I have to adjust what I do? And the reality is, the world’s changed. So that was a key part of the challenge. Going through those strategic discussions created a lot of uncertainty, a lot of bad angst, but once we had concluded that the viable option was selling most of the business, and actually The only real outcome that was gonna work was we all go together and sell the business together. And at the end of it, yes, we’re out of a job.

But, Hopefully, you can sell it for a decent amount of money, realize that, and actually preserve some of the business that’s been built up even if you as an as a leader aren’t gonna have a job. And the reason I emphasize that job piece is I think it’s very important. And also when you are selling the message through to larger numbers of people who are feeling similarly uncertain. The commitment to say that you will do your best to sell the business and in so doing, preserve people’s jobs. But by the way, I’m in it just as much as you are, and I will face losing my job at the end of this. And whereas we’re gonna try and preserve yours, there’s kinda no nowhere to go from a point of view each of the leaders there. That gives you an authenticity, I think

Richard Medcalf
Yeah.

Andy Morris
That people believe what you’re then saying because you’ve got as much skinning the game as it as they have, as opposed to some of the situations you see where perhaps a consultant would come in and So we have reviewed the business, and what we think needs to happen is you need to halve it. Oh, thanks very much. Bye bye. They don’t have that same skin in the game, yes, you’re an adviser. So being someone who was gonna lose the job at the end of it meant that you got a lot more buy in from the people you were talking to as a consequence.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Got it. You’re right in there with them on that. Yeah. You said you had the skin in the The, and and I guess you were casting a vision, which is also kind of slightly heroic in a sense, right, which is we’re gonna do our best even though we’re gonna probably, in in terms of being in this business, we’re not gonna be there at the end. And so when you had those CEO, either you were trying you know, you’re building the The to 1 relationships and then trying to get them to coalesce. Yeah. I guess, what what advice would you give if somebody else in The situation? Right? And then because CEOs, yeah, they’re probably you said The They’ve built their business up.

They’re quite happy. They don’t necessarily want to work in a team possibly. Right? They they’ve been the the head honcho, And suddenly, they’re in a situation where they are gonna have to get around the table. What advice would you give, you know, your perhaps your younger self or somebody else who’s about to go through that process?

Andy Morris
You’re absolutely right. And, yeah, I found it personally massively challenging and and in no way did I make the right calls all the time or and have the right conversations. And and there was a lot of friction. If I think of the retail business that was there, which involved most of the people as well, that had been built from scratch over 10 years by the individual who was very used to leading it. So I built up resilience, much used word. What did that mean? I got a a lot of shouting and swearing and all of that sort of thing to my face, which it was quite hard not to take that personally. And sometimes I did take it personally. But on reflection, if I’m looking back then, it’s it’s this is the frustration of somebody who’s being forced to do something they really don’t wanna do and against all of their judgment and all of their their effort.

So how did I then get to a place alongside my colleagues? It was a case of saying you’ve built this business up, you can preserve this business, and the best way to do that is make it attractive to an external buyer and package something together that is gonna preserve what you’ve done and find someone who is willing to do that. So, yes, keep people’s jobs as far as possible, preserve the business that you do, and the senior management are inevitably in that context gonna lose their jobs. However, you can maintain a legacy if you like. So for somebody like that, I think the legacy point was very Impact. From a personal perspective, it’s having a thick skin so that when someone’s ranting and raving, make sure they do it with just you in the room, and allow them the space to do that in the context of the individual concern. And I think Once you’ve gone through several iterations of that, you know that you’re listening to somebody, and you emphasize try and empathize as best you can with The situation. But, ultimately, we worked quite closely together over a period 18 months, and we ended up going into pitches to prospective buyers of the retail business. And by the end, we actually got on quite well, which on looking back was quite a surprise because the start was so bad.

And he said, how how can you end up getting on with this individual? And the answer is once you coalesced around the goal, once you had a clear view of where you wanted to get to and the steps required to get there, then actually you’re working with a common purpose.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. So in fact, yeah, as you said, it was a messy journey. Right? And thank you for saying it. It wasn’t just an easy tick the box process. It was messy and all the rest of it. But by being able to finally get to that point where you would’ve had a common vision, it then became easier to deliver on it.

Andy Morris
Absolutely. And I think the the key thing there from my point of view was, yes, you have that that shared vision. You’re working together towards it, but it’s respect for the other person, understanding of where they’re coming from from that point of view. And there’s no substitute for time, a lot of conversations over a protracted period where you are investing your own personal energy and and mental effort, if you like, in building that relationship, building that rapport in whatever shape or form that takes so that you can then work together to achieve that goal. Otherwise, you you just won’t get there. And In the context of that retail business, it was the only one in RBS at the time. It was sold in 2010 for 1.8 times book, which was pretty much the only one that turned a profit. And of the people that we met, I think we only had to make to 5% most senior management redundant in that context.

Richard Medcalf
So that was a very good outcome in the end.

Andy Morris
Yeah. Thank you.

Richard Medcalf
Thank you for sharing the story. Yeah. Really fascinating. Sandy, let’s let’s shift gears. It’s really fascinating talking about about that part of of your life and and that Kind of really tough situation you’re in. Let’s kind of move forward a few years, and you joined, you joined the mutual sector As CEO, and then a few years later, you were promoted to to CEO.

So perhaps just take us back into the story of those transitions. Why did you decide to move in to a different part from traditional banking into the mutual sector? And then for somebody who thought that perhaps CFO was the top job for you for what, you know, your background as a financial specialist. What changed, and how did you move from CFO to CEO? What’s the Story behind that.

Andy Morris
Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you, Richard. The I went to the mutual sector more as a case of returning from the Middle East and finding myself living in a different part of the UK, commuting into the city. It didn’t really work for me. I’ve done 6 years worth of restructuring. And I think I’ve made myself redundant 5 times in those 6 years. And at the end of it, I said, right, on the last one of these, I am actually gonna take the The.

I’m not gonna do anymore. Because I’ve kind of, I’ve done enough of the restructuring type. I want something different. And at the time I didn’t take a CFO job. I worked for Nationwide for a while in Podcast control area, natural transition, I guess, from doing restructuring. But part of the reason for that move was was as much personal as it was anything else and trying to find an area that was growing. And at the time, that organization was growing a lot. And I transitioned from The, getting building society experience into League United as a building society when I took my CFO job.

And again, for personal reasons, I ended up back at Cyrens Leicester Rivendell, but closer to where the family were, again, as a CFO role. So in a sense, I kind of bounced around the mutual sector, influenced as much by personal decisions as opposed to some kind of values based decision of saying The is where I want to go. However Yeah. Once I’d made the shift and done that sort of initial period of, say, 4 years across the first 2 organizations, I really got a sense of what it was like to work in a mutual, and how people behaved differently. It was quite subtle. Financial services very much driven by via transactions. It’s very much driven by by people trying to drive a profitable outcome or even The mutual. However, People looked after each other a bit better.

They had a genuine sense of values. It wasn’t just, right, we’ve all done a workshop. We’re gonna write some values down on a piece of paper and stick it on the wall, and this year, our values are these, which, to be blunt, I’ve had a bit of in the banking sector in the past. Whereas for mutuals, it’s sort of in the DNA. And when when people articulate the values there, it was more a case of saying, well, this is what we’ve been doing for a very long period of time. This is what we genuinely care about, and what they’re trying to do is articulate what they care about. So that for me really resonated. And the more I lived in that environment from a working perspective, the more I felt as though that was in tune with what I valued.

So so what does that mean? Well, a mutual is owned by its members and everything you do are for the members. You don’t have shareholders for those who aren’t familiar with the business model. So in that sense, your customer, which a mutual would call a member, is at the core of everything that you do and what you think about The how you structure your business, how you structure your products, how you deliver those products, and how you treat people. And that led me ultimately to where I am now, science, and so friendly, which was the role I aspire to be, to be the CFO in in in organization and and to have that have that badge if you like. But it rapidly became apparent to me that I was enjoying a lot, and I was enjoying that executive role where you’re making those decisions. And the benefit of the organization being sort of a 100 people, leaked before was 200 people, is that you make a decision, you see it get carried out straight away, and you you see the impact of what you’re doing not quite immediately, but almost straight away. So for me, that was really good compared to the big organizations of the 100,000 plus that I had been working in before. So that’s not necessarily a mutual thing.

I think that’s a smaller organization versus a bigger one, but a sense of value in the work that you do and a sense of satisfaction in seeing something get delivered. Of course, if it doesn’t work, you’re equally accountable compared to if it does work. So that side of it, I I enjoyed that aspect of the job. And because of that, I actually found it was that process, that decision making, and that seeing the value that you can generate quite quickly that meant it was less to do with a technical specialist job as CFO, which I’d spent all my career working towards that, chartered accountant, done an MBA, sort of built up all of that profile to become the CEO. I actually found that the finance side of it became less important to me than the people you work with and the difference that you can make. And, of course, By taking on more, you can make more of that difference. So by the way that the organization was at the time in terms of the people, We had the risk director who retired, so I ended up taking on The. That demonstrated the breadth of ability in terms of the role, and then the CEO ultimately retired, The I built up a very good connection with, and absolutely, he supported me and helped me to get the ultimate the role, it was still done.

It’s a very external process. It was, you know, it was a robust process over 7 months to actually achieve the CEO piece. But, ultimately, I think demonstrating that I cared about mutuality and it’s something that I really was passionate about and wanted to make a difference with. That’s the bit that swung it compared to, for example, being up against people who would say, well, I’ve delivered this business or whatever, which as a finance person, you can’t say that you’ve done. Right. From a personal perspective, it was the transition, I think, from wanting to be the technical expert in the room to actually caring more about what difference you could make in collaboration with the people that you’re with The caused my mindset to say, actually, that is a job I wanna do, and a little bit more than a year in, so I’m, I guess, one of your newbies in the context of this Podcast, absolutely loving it and feeling as though I wanna get out of bed in morning. I wanna go to work. I wanna make a difference.

I I really enjoy that, and I’m really enthused as to driving the business forward and helping the people around me is is my main motivation, far more so than that technical expert that I aspire to become.

Richard Medcalf
Hope you’re enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to introduce you to 2 transformative programs that we run. The first is Rivendell, my exclusive group of top CEOs who are committed to transforming themselves, their businesses, And the world. It’s an incredible peer group and a deep coaching experience that will push you to new heights no matter how successful you’ve already been. The second is Impact Accelerator, a coaching program for executives who are ready to make a big leap forward in their own leadership. It’s regularly described as life changing, and no other program provides such personal strategic clarity, A measurable shift in stakeholder perceptions and a world class leadership development environment. Find out about both of these programs atxquadrant.com/services. Now back to the conversation.

Yeah. Let’s just go back to that because You might know, I run a program, as you know, where I work 1 to 1 with CEO, entrepreneurs in the main. But I do run a program for people who are a little bit lower down in the organization, that’s 1 or levels down, helping them build the skills that they need to modify their own Impact The beyond the organization. And within that, I have a couple of people actually who over the years have had several people who have been finance experts, perhaps CFO or perhaps The level down. One of the questions that always comes up for them as they’re looking at what’s next for them, where do they go? Perhaps if they’re already CFO, like, could they make it to CEO one day? These kind of questions. I think one of the challenges they always they often seem to come across is this question of Credibility in the exec suite, in the exec board, in executive committee. Obviously, very credible in finance, but then they kinda have this sense of, you know, I know I need to be contributing more widely to the business, you know, but I’ve got my finance hat, and that’s where people kind of see me. And so I feel I should be contributing elsewhere, but I don’t wanna be stepping on people’s feet by getting involved in commercial decisions or Making my point of view or so forth.

So I’m just wondering what your experience was in that transition period where you were broadening out your scope, Although you did have the finance hat. I know, obviously, you know, you were acting as a CEO before you were the CEO, but I’m just kinda wondering what advice again that you might give people who are very comfortable with their functional and technical expertise and are not sure about their voice to be a cross functional leader.

Andy Morris
Totally recognize what you’re saying, Richard, with the that sense that you are the expert on a particular area, therefore, you talk to that area and everyone perceives you as being the expert in that area, but not on anything else. I think I felt that myself in terms of I think it is a perception because accountants, by definition, look at all aspects of the The. So the finance person, tends to have a pretty rounded view, but the perception is absolutely there that this is the person you talk to on the numbers. So for me, I’m not afraid to speak out, and I think it helped in the organization knowing the people. It’s that bit smaller. So I would absolutely speak up on particular topics when you have a point to make. And in order to tread on people’s toes. I would also if I had a point that I thought of in advance, I would be discussing with my colleague prior to a board meeting, for example.

So if you wanna create that board impression on talking of subjects The is not your area of expertise, but you’ve got a view on it, then if you think about it in advance, you get your colleague and say, look, I’m gonna say this about that. Are you okay? And you can talk about it. I think that certainly helped. For me personally, it was made easier because the retiring risk person, I took on that role, so I ended up with double hatting so I could have license to talk to different areas, so that definitely made it easier. And The was deliberately done with a view of transitioning to a CEO role. So I think demonstrating expertise or at least demonstrating gravitas in the areas that aren’t finance meant that people saw you could apply yourself to other areas, and therefore The increases your profile of a potential CEO because you’re not only the person that speaks when the numbers come up. The other thing I think that made a difference with the finance piece was I inherited a function that needed a chunk of work. It was very numbers based.

It was lacking in the analysis piece. So I took the reporting from where it was to where it needed to be in terms of and here on again, I’m talking board table because who are the people that are gonna give you the job as the CEO when it’s gonna end up being the Nomination committee, and that’s gonna be mainly around the board table who are gonna make the actual decision as to whether you get that job. So building the rapport with those individuals, getting those relationships absolutely is part of The, but demonstrating that even within your own function, you can take it from one level to another level, and you can point to that progress and say, well, I can do that there. I can do that somewhere else. I can do this across the whole business. But certainly don’t be afraid to speak up as well.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. The The I like to describe that approach is, is, you know, you gotta have a in finance, as we’re talking about here, you I’d like to say, you know, you’ve got to have a financial plan, but you also need to have a plan for finance, which I think is what you’re talking about there, which is how do you up level your own organization?

Andy Morris
Absolutely. And and and it’s sort of you you stop almost talking about the numbers for the sake of it. You start saying, well, this is why it’s gonna make a difference, and this bit of the reporting matters because it’s going to affect the business in this way. Or it gives you an opportunity that if we wanna spend here, this is the one delivering value, so why don’t we talk about how we can grow the business investing here? And that’s a very different conversation to, Oh, by the way, we made x 1,000,000 in this bit this year, and that was good.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. So tell me about that transition to the CEO piece briefly because Such as finance director, you have to have the very conservative. And I know probably as CEO of a mutual, you also have to be pretty conservative. But there is a kind of a risk and, like, you know, the whole risk management, that control compliance in finance as CEO, you probably have a slightly more broader, slightly more aggressive view perhaps or ambitious view. Was that an easy transition to make to kind of focus less on well, basically, more on the pioneering side, should we say, and less on the Stabilizing side.

Andy Morris
Yeah. I think there’s 2 aspects to that, I think, that I’d The I’d like to just reference. The of which was I got very heavily involved in all of the strategic conversations that were going on. And I think any CFO worth their salt should get themselves into those debates, debates with the sales director or distribution director is is is in. Look. Speaking to those guys, speaking to the existing CEO in that context, and becoming part of the team that sets what the future direction is gonna be. So I did that for several years. And because of that, the transition to being more dynamic, to use your phrase, if you want, or or sort of growth orientated was very natural for me because it was I’ve been involved in those conversations already, and finance enabled those conversations to happen in that you say that we have this money to invest.

This is where we can helped to make a difference to the business. So for for us, that was for me rather, that was quite a smooth transition, so I didn’t find that that difficult. It was in a sense ambition affirming because I’d had the conversations, and now I was leading with it. So as an integral part of setting that strategy. It was it was nice to then be the person that was leading with it afterwards. So I found that relatively smooth. The other part of that was then giving up if you like The reason that you were at the table. That’s how it felt to me, which was a really strange feeling.

I didn’t expect it because I’ve done finance for so long. That was the tricky one. When I’ve taken on risk, it was a transitional piece. So I did that for 2 years, therefore getting a risk director in and and handing that over was fine. But actually hiring in the CFO who then took my core competence that made this was the reason I was at the table and I’d worked at it for 30 years and it was my ambition to do that job, to then hand that over to someone and not get involved in the detail of those discussions, I found that really quite hard to let go. And I guess it’s because it’s your reason to be there.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It’s not making successful in the past. Right? That’s what I’m always saying. What made it successful in the past is if you wanna play an exponential game, Multiplier your impact, It’s gonna be different in the future, and that’s the challenge for us all. It’s always what’s the stretch.

Andy Morris
Absolutely right. And and I think so so having a view of what the growth is gonna be and having a view where the strategy is gonna absolutely loved it, still love it, that’s what gets me excited. Giving up the finance piece as much because the person coming in, If I was to get involved with them, I’d be treading on their toes, and and they wouldn’t be able to perform in their role either, and I’d be doing them a disservice as well. So I think whilst I was pretty successful on that, primarily because I’ve hired a very good CFO, and so I’m very pleased about that. Letting go of it was was quite a wrench for me personally. But a year on, don’t regret it at all. So so from that side of things, giving up of that and finding a new purpose if you like, but I still there’s still a little bit of me that has the feeling of being the imposter because I’m sitting at the table and you’re almost minister without portfolio, I think, as a CEO. So you’ve got all these people who are experts in their individual areas just like I used to be.

And all of them know more about those areas, if they’re really good, than you do.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah.

Andy Morris
So I’m very much a subscriber from a leadership point of view that you are there to empower other people and get the best out of other people. Because if I was to sit there and say, as CEO, I know more about finance or I know more about risk or I know more about sales. Number 1, I’d be wrong if they were good at what they did because they have more capacity to focus on those areas. But number 2, you wouldn’t be getting the best out of those people anyway if you are sort of doing that kind of I’ll tell you how it’s done type approach. And that’s not to say that you Don’t have to put your foot down on occasion if if need be, but but I’m very much of the camp that empowering those people to deliver their best means it’s gonna reflect on you anyway.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Absolutely. So, Sandy, yeah, thank you for those thoughts, and especially on that whole part about Having to let go of the thing that got you there on, got you to the table, which I think is is a key thing for everyone in transition, especially in the CEO role. Let’s move just to the future now as we kinda wrap start to think about wrapping this up. But I wanna spend some time on the potential that you see in the mutual sector and, Yeah. How you wanna multiply the impact of of the business. You’ve you’ve said that, well, I think when we talked before, you’ve said, yeah, it’s a little bit it’s very traditional. It’s it’s Been established for, you know, a 100 years as a way of doing business.

So there’s great important values The, a certain way of doing things. And, yes. So what has got you excited about the potential of your mutual sector, and what’s that experience been like in trying to kind of ignite new areas of growth in the business?

Andy Morris
Yes. I think for me, mutuality, I almost feel as though I’ve always been in mutuals, which is strange to say when I came from investment banking, but that sort of sense of the values that the organizations have, I I think, reflect and align very closely with mine. And I’ve certainly heard talks from other people where They’ll say they’re at their best when they feel as though that alignment of your personal view of the world aligns to the organization. So I very much feel that. So that’s part of it. But for me, neutrality and that that idea that your customer is basically at the heart of everything you do and is the reason that you exist and you are there to help them, for me, that really resonates. And I think there’s a wider aspect to mutuality that resonates in society at the moment. I think with the struggles that people have, be it the cost of living coming out of COVID, each of these big challenges that the whole world is kind of facing, certainly, the western world.

That side of things, mutuality actually offers a different model. It’s not a model that’s particularly well known in the UK. So I’m coming in from a UK perspective. I realized you’re based primarily in France, and actually in France, it’s it’s much better known and that can sort of half of financial services. Certainly half of insurance is actually through mutuals. So it it’s kind of gone away in the UK where it’s more like 8, 9%. But actually, those values, that way of behaving as a financial services institution resonates particularly with the people who’ve gone through those challenges, but also the mindset and the social awareness that a number of young people seem to have now, be it in the climate crisis or other aspects. So I think it actually resonates very well there.

When we found it and I found it myself. When people know Nutrienx and they know how they operate and they deal with them, they love them. But the problem is a lot of people don’t know about them. So it’s how do you get that message across, I think, is a real challenge. So that’s something I’m working as a board member of the Association of Financial Mutuals, which is the trade body for mutual insurers. We’re working alongside that. We’ve created something called the mutual prospectus alongside the cooperative movement and the credit unions as well, sort of collectively together, to try and pitch what a difference mutuals can really make and how the sector is actually very well poised for growth, partly because they’ve been risk averse through the financial crisis, through some of the recent challenges. And therefore they have the resources, but they also have the right mindset and value set, I think, for today’s society.

And therefore, we’re pitching that. There’s a general election coming up, and, if the trade body does its bit alongside everybody else, then then hopefully you will hear a bit more about that, and what mutuals could could offer. So we will see if that works in 2024. But it’s absolutely

Richard Medcalf
Yeah.

Andy Morris
When I bring it down to Sirencester Rivendell, We’re looking to grow that business and become relevant for those people as best we can because you can’t rely on a product that’s served people very well for a 135 years if it ceases to be relevant even for the next 5 in this day and age. So we’ve absolutely invested in the technology and the infrastructure to be able to deliver something in the way that people want it.

Richard Medcalf
But I’m I’m curious. What’s been the biggest challenge that you faced as you’ve Kind of come in as CEO, established a growth plan for the business. Yeah. How have you experienced that kind of organizational alignment?

Andy Morris
Yeah. What what I thought would be the biggest challenge would be getting people on side and getting people who’ve worked, you know, in some cases, a number of decades doing things in a particular way to say to those people, actually, you need to, you know, embrace the technology. You need to have real time presencing. You need to be straight through. You need to be able to communicate in a particular way. I thought that would be quite a challenge to get people. And the the reality is totally different, which is really encouraging for me is that actually The most people have embraced that. Most people are up for the change, most people have invested The kind of heart and soul into making a difference, and it took me a while to work out, I think, The main reason is because they aren’t ready to how things are done, whether that’s traditional or not.

They’re more bothered about are you doing the right thing for our members? Are you doing the right thing for the customer? And that is in the core values of how the organization works. So, actually, if you say what we’re trying to do is improve the position for our members and make a more attractive proposition for people, they embrace it. It’s absolutely fine. Mhmm. So that side of it that I thought would be the biggest challenge actually wasn’t. So that was really encouraging.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It’s a values based and purpose led thing. Right? Because you’re saying we’re gonna do The. We’re gonna make people’s lives better. Whereas, technically, if you go to As a poor traditional financial institution that says we wanna do this because we can extract some shareholder value, blah blah blah. Yeah. People might get out of bed A bit slower for that.

Andy Morris
Yeah. Absolutely. And and then you you know, is this the most efficient way of doing things? Are we maximizing the The? And that side of things. Whereas if you’re going from the value space, it’s actually an easier set, and people buy into it better. So that side of it was great. The challenge I think has been just how with limited resources, how do you bring a relatively small financial institution up to speed where you’re competing with the big insurers. And that that’s, you know, naturally a challenge. And I think it’s not even 2nd mover advantage, perhaps it’s 3rd mover advantage The this technology has been built by other people and it’s become more standardized and systemized, and then you can go on the The of that development and say, well, actually, we can adopt that technology at a fraction of the price because it’s already been developed.

So innovation is certainly more of a challenge because of limited resource, but actually bringing it up to speed. The big challenge there, I think, is saying, this is actually a good use of the member’s money over multiple years. Whereas in the past, it’s perhaps been, well, for the next year, this makes sense, so we’ll we’ll do incremental change. So shifting that incremental mindset to say actually we need to do something more fundamental and we’re gonna not quite gonna have to bet the house on it, but not far off. So getting that shift, I think, has has been a real challenge, but, you know, Pai was part of the team that did that. So to be able to be still delivering on that as CEO is is really good. And that is to our core product. You mentioned growth.

So then just because you’ve done something well for 130 5 years doesn’t mean you’re necessarily just gonna keep doing that same thing. What I’m The for is looking for and and what I’ve set out in The 2030 vision is then saying, well, how do we absolutely keep that core business and do that well, but diversify as well and add complementary business to that that is gonna help the organization The of a scale that is relevant. Because in financial services, there’s you know, you have to be of a certain scale.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I guess that comes perhaps being brings me to my last question, Andy, my favorite question, which is, as you look at scaling up the The business competing with the the bigger guys at a different level, make being more relevant, growing the awareness of the mutual sector, all these things. What are you gonna need to do yourself to multiply your own impact? So we’ve talked about this idea of we need to let go of things In order to embrace new things where we might not have learned all the skills yet at this point or to do things in a new way. So I call that the stretch, right, the The personal stretch. They have all the leadership challenges. We’ve just you’ve just outlined all the kind of things in the market that you want to address.

What what’s gonna need to come out of you over the next year or 2 to make that a reality?

Andy Morris
Yeah. So it’s a very good question. I know we’ve we’ve sort of touched on this in previous conversations 1 to 1. And For me, it’s the mindset shift from that point of view. So it’s to say, well, I can see I had that finance route. Then I can see the business has had that core product route. Therefore, you kind of almost have to envisage what something different looks like, and then put yourself into that situation and then bring everybody along towards that vision. So for me, the personal stretch is going to be thinking about something you don’t already do.

Other people will be more expert in that area. Therefore, taking a bit of a leap and saying, actually, that is the right place to go and having a bit of faith to take the leap. And you’ve alluded to already, I think, the training of chartered accountants and risk experts and other people is the opposite to that.

Richard Medcalf
That’s a really good point.

Andy Morris
Yeah. For me personally, therefore, saying, right, this is a leap we wanna go for. This is something we want to embrace and make it successful.

Richard Medcalf
So The I was just gonna jump in. It’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s this image. I I can’t quite picture the image. It’s something like a it’s like the other side of the coin. It’s like you’ve been walking on this one side of this coin, right, which is The safe pair of hands, mastering it all, knowing it all, you know, knowing your functional you know, knowing all the details or having all the numbers to hand, being the expert. And then suddenly, as you said, the The is gonna be on almost the other side of that coin, which is venturing into the unknown, having to provide others for those to those details, being able to take a leap of faith where the spreadsheets perhaps Absolutely. Moment, etcetera, etcetera. And it it’s amazing, isn’t it? Because it’s like, you have to at some point, you’d literally have to get on the other side of the of the coin to keep Progressing. It’s it’s it’s a brilliant example.

Andy Morris
No. I totally agree. And I think for for me so that’s from a personal point of view of of the mindset piece. And I think The interesting thing for me, having had that training as described in terms of the opposite side of the coin, is how excited I am about doing the other side and how much that is energizing me and and making me want to, you know, go to work, put the energy in, get everybody on side and and deliver on it. That for me is massively energizing. So I think, yeah, flip the coin. Have a go. Take the leap.

Richard Medcalf
Brilliant, Rob. Yeah. And it’s been a great conversation. We’ve we’ve covered a lot of ground, right, from from what it was like when you took on your CFO role in the Middle East to find that, it wasn’t a growth role. It was gonna be a restructuring role in the sales and and all the rest of it. Going through to your transition, what it was like to to move into the mutual sector, find it had more meaning and purpose than you you ever thought, get really into that, move up to to The, CEO role and looked at some of those success factors there. And and then looking at the the latent Rivendell, and there was surprising outcome, right, really, which was that People are more open to change perhaps that you might think if you actually tap into purpose and values and and explain what the big vision is. Right? And then The final part that we’ve been talking about now is is, yeah, just The personal reinvention that really any leader Probably needs to go through if their future is gonna be dramatically different from their Podcast.

And it’s really hard to think. I I work with these all the time. We think what I need, Richard, is a better Strategy or better plan or tighter plan. And normally, it’s not that that can be part of it, but there’s this other Impact, right, which is, am I gonna be the leader able of Able to do that plan or able to make those different decisions or feel comfortable with a new a new area of of operating, which is perhaps not what’s made me successful in the The. And I think we we addressed that really nicely there with that example that you shared. So I wanted to thank you again. If people are interested in getting in touch with you or or finding more about, the business, where should they

Andy Morris
Yes. They could they can Google Cirencester Friendly Society. That’ll come up, as a UK based friendly, or or they’re more than welcome to, message me. So andy.morris@syroncesterhyphenfriendly.co.uk. Get in touch.

Richard Medcalf
Thanks, Andy. Looking forward to continuing our conversations. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for your input.

Andy Morris
Thank you very much.

**Note: This transcript is automatically generated.
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