We talk to Kevin Edwards about his inspirations in business and find out what he would have done differently given the chance.
What do you currently do?
I’m one of the owners, and the Operations Director, of Derbyshire-based Midland Financial Solutions. Since our launch in February 2009, we have provided Independent Financial Advice to individuals, businesses and trustees specialising in pensions, investments, tax planning and elderly care.
In 2011 we became the first firm in Derby to achieve Corporate Chartered Financial Planner status and I personally manage a portfolio of client investments totalling nearly £15 million.
Whilst we do undertake transactional work, we aim to build long-term relationships based on trust. Our regular client review meetings mean that we can develop a really productive relationship with each one of the them, get to know them, their families and what is important to them. Many of our new clients come via referrals from our existing clients, usually professionals like solicitors and accountants, so we must be doing something right!
What is your inspiration in business?
I want to give people a reason to have faith in financial advisers again. Financial advice has become a dirty phrase because of the unethical and incomprehensible behaviour of many in the industry.
I have a very strong set of ethics and a frame of reference to which I work and by acting in a morally responsible way with my clients and their investments, I really hope that people will see that, as an industry, we’re not all lost causes.
I know it sounds cheesy but being able to prove sceptics wrong, as well as deliver excellence in customer satisfaction, is a huge driving force for me. When you are responsible for, what effectively amounts to, people’s financial futures, knowing that I am driven by attention to detail and making the best decisions for my clients is a factor that comforts both my clients and I when we are taking those big financial decisions.
I also think it’s important to try hard and ensure that we deliver the type of service that our clients actually want and value, rather than what we think they want, and to not be afraid to ask for constructive criticism and implement change when it’s appropriate.
Who do you admire?
• Nick & Martin Bamford who have built Informed Choice (IFAs) into a nationally recognised brand, whilst also being strong advocates of raising professional standards for our industry.
• Tom Cresswell, who was my manager in my first role in Financial Services at the Prudential. Tom was brilliant at the ‘soft skills’ and taught me a lot about asking the right questions and how to get to know what’s really important to people.
• Roger Federer, for showing that it’s possible for a ‘nice guys’ to get to the pinnacle of their professions with practice and determination.
Looking back would you have done things differently?
I would have been far more proactive with my presence in the media. It didn’t really occur to me for a while that the broadsheets would be interested in my expert opinion. I assumed the media were really only interested in big corporations. After some really good PR advice and support, I realised this wasn’t always the case and my confidence grew as more and more publications used my expert comment.
I’ve been lucky that places like the FT, The Times on Saturday, The Guardian, the Sunday Express and others have considered that using my knowedge will add value to their articles. It’s fantastic PR for me and the company and helps to endorse our skills and expertise as well as raise our public profile and convert prospects into customers. I just wish I’d given PR a go earlier!
What defines your way of doing business?
We are a team of experienced and well qualified people who put our Clients’ financial wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do. I’m a big believer in “You reap what you sow” – if you treat people properly, positive things will happen. When I’m giving my clients advice, I always stop and think “Would I recommend this to my parents or my children?”
What advice would you give to someone just starting up?
1. Learn Your Trade: Get as well qualified as you can and make sure you understand how to do ALL aspects of the job through first-hand experience.
2. There’s a lot of truth in “It’s who you know”: Your contacts and the relationships you build with your clients and other professional connections will make or break your business.
3. Employ people you can trust: There are many skills that can be taught and developed – but honesty, reliability, a strong moral compass and good manners cannot!