We need to ‘step forwards into an unpredictable world’ – Spence at Cambridge BS
Spence began his new role at the mutual on 1 November last year and hasn’t met any of his colleagues yet in person, but brings a big CV to an increasingly demanding role.
“The Cambridge truly holds [its] members at the heart of what it does and has a wonderfully rich history of helping people have a home. I’m honoured to join the team and look forward to helping guide and shape the next chapter of its history,” Spence said.
After a 32-year career in banking at Lloyds, rising to director of retail distribution and director of policy co-ordination and risk, Spence also continues as chairman of Spicerhaart, finance chairman of the Church of England’s Archbishop’s Council and in his role as an Essex county councillor.
A rare accolade, John has received an MBE, OBE and CBE for his services to the community, charity and business respectively. He is also blind and has held chairmanships of Action for Blind People, Vitalise, Blind in Business and Essex Community Foundation.
I ask Spence about what he predicts will be the long-term impact of the pandemic.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt to predict about the Covid virus, is that it’s unpredictable. In terms of strategy as a building society, we need to step forwards into an unpredictable world. It is only months since the predictions were for a significant fall in house prices and in the early days of 2021 there’s no sign of that at this stage,” he added.
He said he suspected that as furlough is unwound and the economy unlocked we may see a much more divisive economic performance with some sectors flourishing and others not, which particularly in the light of Brexit, could lead to major inflation.
“How do you get the right balance of ambition and caution in an unpredictable world?,” he asked.
Following a question on the pandemic, Spence said we are unlikely to ever go back to normal, adding we are likely to go forwards into a ‘new normal’ instead.
“We have learnt that hybrid working works. I think the days when we drag people large distances into a room for a meeting will be mixed now with a Zoom or a Teams on a digital basis. Time can be reinvested for a better purpose as long as you’re getting the right mix of face to face and digital. I think office space will be used for individual working, particularly for those with less conducive home arrangements, but much more for team gatherings, you can reinvest that time for better purpose.”
He added: “All those brokers have learnt to do things in new ways – they won’t go back. They’ve learned how to build relationships without being in the same room and they’ve learned how to glean the info – we need to see that progress into the legal sector. We can all see that’s a sector that has struggled and needs to join us on this journey of discovery of doing traditional things in a myriad of new ways.”
Given the pandemic and the shifting nature of of the outlook and economy, is more being asked I asked of board members than ever before I ask?
“You need more than ever now to have your eyes open to the full spectrum of possibility. Too often our thinking is confined between three and seven – now is the time to be thinking from nought to ten.”
However, Spence was very clear that face to face meetings and networking still offered huge value.
“Networking will remain critical. We’re human animals and thrive from being with other people. How often have we learnt things from being at a table at an event? How often have people said things that would never have occurred to you? That’s how you expand your mind,” he said.
The Cambridge has always lent nationally on its buy-to-let range but extended its lending area across England and Wales for all products in March 2020.
Age Partnership appoints David Wing to board
Wing’s position as risk and compliance director, will see him take the lead in the continuing development of the company’s governance structures, policies and procedures.
Wing said: “I’m extremely passionate about making sure we do the right thing for our clients.”
“Having worked in Financial Services Authority and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated business for over 17 years, my appointment to the main board at Age Partnership will allow me to provide a consistent focus on conduct risk at the highest level of management.
“With the ultimate aim not only to make continuing improvements, but also to drive up standards across the sector by setting a positive example,” he added.
Wing, who was previously head of risk and governance at Age Partnership, is a well-known figure across the finance industry having held the positions of CF1, CF10 and CF11, which include compliance oversight and money laundering reporting officer roles, within other regulated businesses.
Age Partnership chairman Andrew Thirkill added: “David has been instrumental in developing Age Partnership’s governance and risk management framework. Over the past four years he has managed a combined compliance, training and competence team of forty professionals to influence culture and drive through change.
“His appointment to the board will enable him to drive forwards, working alongside the FCA to deliver the best client outcomes at Age Partnership and of the equity release market overall.”
Equity Release Council adds board appointments and creates standards advisory panel
Nick Austin, commercial director, life at LV=, joins the council’s main 12-strong board of directors, alongside five existing directors who have all been reappointed to serve an additional two years. Those are Deian Jones, managing director at Hodge Lifetime, Paul Carter, CEO at Pure Retirement, Dave Harris, CEO at More2Life, Paul Barber, CEO of Retirement Bridge and Roger Marsden, managing director of Retirement and CEO of Equity Release at Aviva.
The six appointed directors will serve alongside Steve Ellis, managing director at Legal & General Home Finance, and Richard Overson, group director at Key Retirement, who were both elected to the board in 2017 for two-year terms.
They will also be joined by Paul Turner, managing director, Retirement Lending, International and group development at Just Group, who will sit as a board member designate in place of his colleague Steve Kyle, risk and compliance director at Just Group, who has decided, following the latest AGM, to step down from board after 13 years of service.
The ERC Board
The council’s main board is completed by chairman David Burrowes, Donna Bathgate its chief operating officer and Chris Pond its chairman of the Standards Board.
The ERC has seen the market double in size in two years to £870m of lending in Q1 2018 and has a growing membership base of over 220 firms, up from 160 in spring 2017.
The council has also evolved the role of members on the Standards Board to ensure it captures the different perspectives of adviser firms and reflects the growing number of associate member firms.
David Wright, equity release specialist at Sixty Plus, will sit as the smaller adviser firm representative while Dean Mirfin, technical director at Key Retirement, serves as a representative of a larger specialist broker firm and Nikki Smith, head of compliance monitoring and development at Just Group, will represent providers on the Standards Board for 2018-19.
They join Claire Barker, managing director at Equilaw as solicitor representative; Mel Kettle, director of client services at Gateway Surveyors as associate member representative; and independent members Liz Barclay and Jim Dredge who will all serve for an additional year under the continued chairmanship of Chris Pond.
Standards Advisory Panel
The council has also created a Standards Advisory Panel – an group of industry practitioners that will specifically advise the Standards Board, acting as an important sounding board on consumer issues and experiences.
David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “The council is committed to leading and setting standards in the equity release market and these appointments mean we continue to have the highest calibre of industry expertise to represent our members and ensure the products and services we provide are designed to serve customers’ best interests.”
He added: “I would also like to thank Steve Kyle for his years of dedicated service to the board and Susan Jeffrey, David Forsdyke and Kate Davies for their valuable service to the Standards Board. Their collective passion and dedication to the industry has been invaluable and I wish them all the best with their new commitments.”