In fact, it’s only when you take away that experience that you realise just how much you have relied upon it and what a difference it has made in terms of what your firm has achieved.
I often joke that the Fleet Mortgages’ management team is probably the most experienced in the lending community, to which you often get the reply, ‘That’s because you’re the oldest'.
However, in my view, without that age or experience – whatever you wish to focus on – and crucially the fact that we have worked together over many years, I’m not so sure, a) we would ever have set up Fleet in the first place and certainly b) we would not be in the position we are today.
Unfortunately, our ‘experience meter will see a slight drop next month when we say goodbye to our Chief Financial Officer, Sunny Lo, who is retiring.
To say Sunny has been a constant in my lending life would be something of an understatement – we have spent the best part of two decades working together and it will be somewhat odd not to have him around for the next part of the journey.
How do you replace someone like that? Well, the answer is it’s difficult but you tend to have to look within your organisation, and that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do. You effectively replace experience with experience, those who already know your organisation inside out, or those who have experience within a similar type of operation.
Our new Chief Financial Officer is our Head of Finance, Nicola Robinson, someone who has been with Fleet since we launched the business back in 2014 and was also with us at our previous business. Having someone with that level of experience, who has been immersed within your company since it was established, who fully understand everything about the role and also happens to be excellent at their job is a luxury you can’t always rely on.
Nurturing the people within your business is, in my view, vital especially when you are looking at succession planning and bringing new people into roles vacated by executive team members. It’s also a case of recognising the value of those people within your business, the job they have done, and what they can bring with them.
Alongside Nicola’s promotion, we have promoted two other long-term employees of the business to Director level. Again, both Kim Beaven – our new HR & Facilities
Director – and Diane Mitchell – our new Credit Director – have not only been with us since the launch of Fleet but were also with us in our previous business.
Again, that continuity is vital and knowing we have ‘new’ quality to bring to our executive team gives us the confidence we need to be able to move forward at some pace.
I am not, for one moment, disparaging the vim and vigour of youth or the importance of bringing new blood into your business who may well have a new perspective and can add massively to the operation, but you tend to need a balance.
Having people who have been there, done it and bought the t-shirt ensures that you’re already working from an incredibly strong base level and that you’re not going to repeat the mistakes of the past.
I’m still waiting for someone relatively new to our industry to suggest self-certified mortgages for the employed are a good idea – it will happen at some point I guarantee it, and it will be those organisations who’ve lost their corporate memory who will forge ahead with an idea which seems like a good one but has wrought considerable damage in the past.
So, essentially what I’m saying is nurture the experienced people within your business – they might seem like part of the furniture but after all, who can do without furniture?