Category Archives: Redington

The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since I took on the role of CEO. I was privileged to be appointed by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu and Robert J Gardner, to lead the firm they had created with such purpose, heart and soul since 2006.

I remember feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness and gratitude as I prepared for the first day in my new role as CEO. I had read a lot of books, studied some great articles, interviewed our clients and employees and sought out advice from other CEOs. I had a long to-do list and was dying to put it all into action.

Three years have flown by. It’s been a roller coaster with dizzying highs and brutal lows, nothing could have prepared me for it. At this important milestone, I have found myself reflecting on a few important questions: What mistakes did I make? What have I learnt? Was I true to what I set out to do? What advice do I wish I’d had three years ago? What am I most proud of? What am I most looking forward to now? I found this a really valuable process (it has taken me three weeks) I hope you find it helpful too.

As a practititioner of Swadhyay (study, knowledge and discovery of the self), I measure success in terms of self development and spiritual growth, so what’s most important to me is what I have learnt over the past three years.  I have made a lot of mistakes so far, which have made me who I am today. Let’s start there.

My biggest lessons of the past three years are:

  • Don’t be overconfident. Just because I’d read a few books, and spoken to some people, that didn’t qualify me for the role. I was naive. I had no real experience of what this role was like, what to expect and how to handle it. It’s funny how with time and experience I have come to realise how little I really know, and how much there is to learn.
  • Ask for help. I have a tendency to contain everything within myself, to hold everyone’s issues within, and to try and solve everything myself. I was often too proud to admit I needed help or too keen to prove I could deal with it. Over time I’ve had a lot of help and I couldn’t have done it alone.
  • Be kinder to myself. It’s taken me three years to learn to do this, to acknowledge my effort and recognise I can only try my best. I have become a lot better at ensuring I am home enough and have enough energy for my family. More broadly, I understand my weaknesses better and have people, committees and structures to help, support and compensate.
  • Zoom out/Zoom in. I short-sightedly worked through my to do list, pushing too much change too fast without looking up enough, without focusing enough on the boundaries and constraints. As CEO, you have to be able to go deep while also staying broad, you need to have an eye on everything.
  • Embrace constraints and limits. Whether personal, financial, regulatory, resources etc. I have learnt to make sure I monitor our choices and decisions against these constraints. Autonomy continues to be the biggest reason people choose to work at Redington, but we strive to find the right balance between freedom and structure. It takes ongoing effort, feedback, iteration and experience.
  • Above all, I have learnt grit, determination and resilience. There are qualities I thought I had but were never tested so much. The moment you most feel like giving up is when you must find the strength within you to press ahead.
  • I’m so proud of what our diverse executive team (Adam Jones, Kelly Clifford, Lee Georgs, Maria Calle-Barrado, Pete Drewienkiewicz, Phil Rose and Zoe Taylor) – who work alongside me in leading the business and serving our people – have achieved together over the past three years:
  • A purpose led, diversified business, across three offices spanning investment consulting, global asset solutions and technology. Ensuring the firm isn’t dependent on any one person; we have successfully transitioned from a founder led start-up to a sustainable employee owned business.
  • Growing our headcount one-by-one without diluting the culture, client service commitment, research integrity and purpose. We have an environment where people speak up, take risks, learn and share generously.
  • Improving gender equality, visible and invisible diversity and creating a culture of inclusion more broadly. This has been an important goal for us. We have made much progress but also realise how much there remains to do and that it’s something you always need to be working at.

Whilst work has at times felt all consuming, my highlights have not just been about work. My relationship with my wife and children, my friends and family has grown significantly. They have been real pillars of support and strength. So many people have been patient with me, believed in me and helped me during the past three years (and continue to!) that I feel incredibly grateful for:

  • My family and friends – at the top of the list is my wife, who has been my pillar of strength, my guide and my refuge. Followed by my three kids, who never fail to make me laugh and keep me humble. My parents, in-laws and friends, who have given me so much unconditional love, guidance and support.
  • The board – Rob, Dawid and David, thank you for sticking with me through the ups and downs. I am so grateful that you saw and backed my values, instincts and passion beyond my inexperience and naivety three years ago. Much like we advise our clients, we have done the hard things upfront, we have set up the right context, governance and roles, now we can enjoy building on these strong foundations to create long term value for all our stakeholders (clients, employees, community and shareholders).
  • My colleagues – Zoe, who joins dots effortlessly and has allowed me to take time off by leading the business so capably in my absence. Lee, who brings such care to people management and always pushes us to live up to our values. Kelly, who has brought invaluable financial discipline to our team. The other members of the Redington executive team, who offer me both challenge and counsel, as well as the wider firm who have shown me so much patience and loyalty, given me honest feedback and offer so much of themselves to their work everyday.
  • My coach – Ivan Schofield. I’ve found it is invaluable to have a coach like Ivan, someone who you can be completely open with and who can expertly help you reflect, review and change course.
  • Thank you also to the wider community of people that have read my blogs, followed my journey and offered helpful support and encouragement from a distance.

It’s been quite a journey.

What keeps me engaged, passionate and motivated is knowing I still have lots to learn and lots more to give. I’m still excited. I’m having fun. The more I have seen, the more I realise how little I know – there is still so much for me to learn about myself, the role, the firm, our current and future clients, the rapidly changing savings and investment industry and our broader purpose. It’s taken us three years to get the governance right, to develop the right strategy and team. Now we can really build on it. I am looking forward to developing more experience, facing bigger challenges, building greater teamwork, expanding my capacity for love and service, and coaching a new generation of responsible and courageous leaders.

So, with all that in mind, what advice would I give myself three years ago? What advice would I offer a new CEO starting today?

  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Stay open, stay flexible, something will catch you off guard and you need to be able to pivot all your energy into it. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, you need to admit when you need help or advice.  Ego has a sneaky ability to creep up on you, be careful of getting overconfident or too proud.
  • Everything is nuanced, you’ll only know by trying. It doesn’t matter what you’ve read, learnt, what you’ve experienced, the CEO role is different. Balance is key, too much time here and something will slip over there, too much effort here and something will go elsewhere. You have to build a framework for your business, a simple model that you can hold in your head and use to ensure you’re on top of everything that matters most.
  • Find time for self-love, self-care, reflection, family and soul. Whatever recharges, reenergises and fills your heart. This is a marathon not a sprint. You cannot make everyone happy, you will kill yourself trying. As Steve Jobs said – “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice-cream!”.

I hope my lessons, experiences and advice can be valuable to others on their leadership journey (and maybe even to anyone starting a new job/role). I am on a mission to develop a new generation of courageous leaders not just for Redington but for our industry and beyond. I’d love to invite other leaders to share their lessons here too.

“Experience is the best teacher,
and the worst experiences teach the best lessons.”

Owen Walker at the Financial Times has written a profile on me and Redington, 3 years on in today’s FTfm. Check it out –

Time flies when you’re learning – 2 years as CEO

2 years ago I took on the role as Redington’s CEO (5th April 2016).

It has been the hardest job I’ve ever done and yet the most fulfilling one.

I’m so proud of what we have achieved together over that time – from the great feedback we get from clients on the outcomes our team continue to deliver for them, to getting into Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Companies, to licencing our software for the first time in order to solve a client need, to the important work we are doing with the Chinese insurance industry, to RedSTART becoming a charity, to running 2 successful returnship programs, etc.

As I told Liam Kennedy at IPE a couple of weeks ago,

“Whilst we are ambitious to make 100m people financially secure, by growing our core business as well as pivoting into new business lines and geographies, we remain crystal clear that we will not comprise on quality of service we offer our clients nor on our culture.

We’d rather be a small giant. We don’t want to become a big foot. Otherwise, there’s a real risk of getting bigger and bigger but delivering less and less quality advice to many more pension funds.
That isn’t acceptable to us.”

You can read the full article here –

I’m taking some time right now to pause, reflect, and reset. It’s interesting to look back on my reflections at the end of day 1 ( as well as the key risk indicators (a CEO red radar) that I outlined this time last year (

Some of my biggest lessons from this year include:

  • Being more realistic about how long things take and having patience.
  • Getting the right balance between internal and external, empowering and dictating, big picture and the details.
  • Creating more structure and role clarity.
  • Seeking out and really listening to challenging viewpoints without feeling defensive.
  • Looking after myself, my mental health and energy.

I’ll share further reflections in a couple of weeks time.

I want to thank Rob and Dawid for believing in me, supporting me and challenging me over the past 2 years. This was no easy thing to do for them and they have maintained the right balance of being involved, giving me space and checking in where needed.

Also, the Senior Leaders that stand by my side without whom I would not have been able to achieve a fraction of what we have over the past couple of years. I am grateful for their challenge, contribution and friendship.

I continue to believe that the essence of this role is to serve the incredible people who work at Redington. It is important that they continue to hold me and the other leaders accountable by giving us regular challenge and feedback.

Finally, my incredible wife, who has been my strength through ups and downs, giving me advice, helping me manage my emotions, keeping my ego in check and making sure I look after myself.  Thank you for your patience, guidance and unconditional love.

It’s a privilege to serve this firm and to work with such generous people. I’m delighted to still be learning and growing so much.

10 Tips, tricks & hacks to be more productive, effective & happy in 2017


As we look forward to the New Year, with new resolutions, new efforts and new goals, I thought it was a good time to share some tips, tricks and hacks to being more productive, effective and happy in 2017.

There is a huge body of excellent research available on goal setting, prioritisation, focus, habits and time management. I know I’m not the only one who is a big fan of these books, articles and research. Together with my colleague, Dan Mikulskis, a productivity ninja, we gathered together our top combined tips to share with others at Redington.

We hope you find these useful. Please share your tips below.

  1. Set SMART & stretch goals

Set daily priorities, weekly goals, quarterly objectives, as well as longer term stretch goals. Use these daily to help prioritise what you start your day doing. Review at the start of each day, at the end of each week, each quarter, etc. At work, each team and across the firm everyone should know what their biggest priorities are for the week, the quarter and the year, these should be aligned with the bigger team or firms objectives.

2.  Do the Important before the Urgent

Stephen Covey was one of the first to share this 2×2 productivity matrix ( of what is urgent/not urgent versus important/not important. Everything you need to do does not have the same importance or impact. It’s ok to delegate or say no to things that are neither urgent nor important. If it doesn’t help you achieve your goals it’s not that important. You can’t spend your day dealing with a long list of last minute urgent items. Plan your time between blocks of time to deal with the urgent stuff and dedicated time each day to do the things that are most important.

3.  Do the most important things first

This is the golden rule of time management. Having identified the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete, you need to do those first. Willpower is a finite resource, each distraction/temptation we resist depletes the amount of willpower we can rely on. That means after resisting opening your inbox, then resisting checking your phone when it beeps, etc, when a colleague interrupts you to ask about your weekend, you welcome the distraction because you have no self-control left with which to resist it. Start by doing your most important or hardest tasks first in the day when your willpower is at its best.

4.  Keep the main thing, the main thing

Always ask yourself – what are the most important thing I need to achieve today. Don’t let your focus drift from those for too long. Try committing to particular deadlines to yourself (“I must get this done by 2pm”) to force yourself to prioritise avoid getting sidetracked into other things. If you’re experiencing a dip in productivity, take a walk, go for a coffee, get out of the office to try to refresh and get the right “headspace” to come back and focus that one thing. Some people find just being aware of their breath and being still is a powerful way of recharging and taking control of your mind-state.

5.  Multitasking doesn’t work.

Switching between tasks is a classic productivity killer. Humans can’t physically multitask. We’re not very efficient at it. If you try to do too many things at once, you probably won’t finish any of those tasks to a high standard. Plus, it could take you more time than if you simply focused on one task at a time. Eliminate distractions. Close all other browser windows. Put your phone away, out of sight and on silent. Find a quiet place to work, or put on your headphones if that helps you. Concentrate on this one task. Nothing else should exist. Immerse yourself in it. Try the Pomodoro Technique – promise yourself you’ll focus exclusively on something for 45 mins then take a break –

6.  Use memory and learning hacks

We are presented with infinitely more material than we can ever assimilate or retain in our minds.  Human beings are inherently forgetful. We need memory hacks to make sure we remember and can reproduce what is important. Instead of passively absorbing data, we need to overcome information blindness by engaging with it – hand write notes, draw charts, test hypotheses, etc.  If you read a good book, write notes on it, discuss it and present it

7.  Harness the power of background processing

Sometimes when working on a ‘high-cognitive load’ task (such as writing a new report from scratch) it is best to quickly sketch a rough template early in the day (no need to get it perfect, it’ll change anyway) then jot down a few thoughts. Then leave it and move onto other tasks. Often you’ll find yourself unconsciously thinking about it during the day/over lunch etc. and when you come back to it “it writes itself.

8.  Ship it

We can all be perfectionists, though we may not recognise this is driven by fear. We need to start by recognising that it is our fear that stops us pressing send on an email, that makes us avoid difficult tasks, that causes us to read, re-read, check, second check, procrastinate, kill trees by writing unnecessarily long papers. Note: we need to do be careful in how we apply this to client work we send out, for example detailed factual performance reports need to be treated with a “right first time” approach. However, by adopting a lean/agile, test, iterate, get feedback approach you can get more done and get real, honest and critical feedback on what needs more work.

9.  Create Habit loops 

Most of the time we operate on auto-pilot, that’s why it’s so hard to break old habits. We can all learn how to create habits. You start by identifying the cue that triggers a bad habit. For example, the first thing I do when I get in… Straight after lunch I … When I get a mid afternoon craving I… etc. once you know your cue, you can insert a good/new habit. It’s important you have a reward at the end of the habit loop (Cue > Habit > Reward – Do it everyday for 1-3 months and a new habit is formed. Once it’s committed to your unconscious mind you don’t need to expend any energy on it, it becomes automatic.

10.  If something should be very quick – force yourself to get it done right there

Just told someone you’ll “send them that”, or “you’ll get a slot in the dairy”? Just do it. Right then. That should take no more than a minute or two of your time.

What do you find most useful? What works for you?  Please share.

7 months in a leadership lab – highs, lows, lessons & reflections

“Seeing life as a leadership laboratory enables you to try things out, make mistakes, strengthen your skills and take pleasure in the journey, as well as the fruits of your labour.”
– Heifetz, Grashaw & Linsky

I’m looking out at the ocean, reflecting on the past 7 months since taking on this role. It’s been an incredible period of my life. I’m learning every day, I’m being stretched, I’m doing work that matters, with people I really like.


What are my highlights:

I’m grateful for how people across the firm have embraced change over these past few months. We are getting better at dealing with difficult issues, whether unspoken, unresolved or unaddressed. This skill will be critical to our success.

We launched the Redington MBA 1.1 with the first group focused on “Having Difficult Conversations”. This is our attempt to deliver targeted training that actually changes habits and behaviours, learning from the latest research in people development.

I’m really pleased with how Redington’s “game” (to make 100m people financially secure) has been received, not just internally, but also with clients and the wider market. The opportunity is really ours to create, innovate and scale our ideas. We want to be known for helping people tackle their most difficult problems, leaving them feeling smarter, capable and better equipped.

We held our first “Innovation Day” with a focus on tech. We heard a number of pitches for client and customer problems that our colleagues wanted to solve. They worked together in small groups to test the problem and develop solutions using a lean canvas approach. We need to move these ideas to the next stage now and will be repeating the whole process regularly.

We held our first “Month of Learning” with daily talks, training and classes that all staff could participate in. Topics included – how decision science can help our clients, understanding path dependency risk, the redington approach to ESG, etc. This has been great. We’re going to repeat it each quarter.

We have made improvements to our pension scheme, maternity benefits, working hours, flexible working, etc. There’s still more we need to do, but this is a great start.

Last month we participated in the Sunday Times Best Places to Work survey, I was over the moon that we had 100% of employees take time to complete the 70-odd questions.

We’ve just launched the #RedingtonReturnshipProgramme, which will kick off in January. This is an internship to encourage mid level and senior women and men to return to work after a career break. I’m really excited about the potential of this programme to enhance the cognitive diversity of our senior team.

I’m delighted with how the Faculty of Fun Stuff (our social committee) have managed our social/charity budget – Halloween Party, Poker night, Arabian night, Drinks, etc. they’ve done far more that has been valued than a top down management of this could have delivered.

In terms of revenue, we had a record quarter and half year. This is testament to the tireless efforts of lots of talented people. No time to be complacent though. We are tightening up our sales and business development efforts, with a new governance structure. This is showing some early positive signs, the key to its success is holding each other to account. I’m really pleased with how the whole team has engaged with this.

What has been my biggest low:

I have allowed myself to get really busy, engrossed, sleep deprived and exhausted by the end of each quarter. I’m leaving home early, coming back late, sleeping late, and generally getting exhausted. Moreover, I can’t stop thinking about work. It’s manageable but I want to address this early, I don’t want it to become a deeply ingrained habit.

This quarter I am going to get stricter with myself. I’m going to have a fixed time to leave by – 6pm – no matter what, to make it home for dinner and storytime. I’m going to go to the gym 2 times a week before work and not compromise on it. I’m going to make time for my morning routine, reflection, journaling and meditation each morning. To make it all happen I’m going to identify my triggers and plan for them in advance. I’m going to be even better prepared.

We need to be alert as a business of the dark side of engagement. People across the firm willingly work long hours, especially at quarter ends. For our longer term sustainability, we want to help our colleagues find better balance. Moreover, we want to be an employer that can attract talent that wants to work more flexibly. I have a responsibility to set the right norms and expectations, not just in words and policies, but in action.

What have I learnt?

  • The importance of having difficult conversations, always, at all levels.
  • The need for daily, weekly, quarterly goals. It’s the only way I’ve found of not becoming a victim to my diary or just reacting to demands on my time.
  • The need to align the rhythm of reviews around capacity and busy periods.
  • I need to get better at writing and sharing minutes. I can’t rely on regular verbal communication.
  • Despite my best intentions I cannot meet/talk to every employee as frequently as I’d like. I need to meet people more regularly in groups to consult and debate ideas.
  • You can only get out of your brain what you put in – so reading and learning has to continue no matter how busy we get.
  • I’m really pleased that we booked regular holidays in advance for each quarter end. I’m definitely doing that again next year.
  • Over the past 7 months I have tried to be involved in every function of the business, for my own familiarity and experience. This is not sustainable. I have to step back and help others lead confidently. After all, I want to create a firm of leaders.

Further Experiments:

My priorities this year are to grow our culture, capability and infrastructure to enable us to move closer to our ultimate goal of making 100 million people financially secure. Though we have made a lot of progress on these, there are many more experiments to be done.

I have come across these two definitions of leadership that really appeal to me. They offer a model of leadership that I think Redington needs to achieve its game. It is also an approach to leadership that is essential for the future.

I think Redington can be an ambidextrous/adaptive organisation. This is my personal challenge for the rest of this year.

“Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. Adaptive organisations name the elephants in the room, share responsibility for the future, value independent thinking, build leadership capability and institutionalize reflection and continuous learning.” – Heifetz, Grashaw & Linsky

Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

Friday marked 100 days since I took on this role as CEO of Redington – “the best job in the industry” – as one of our clients put it.

They say that during his first 100 days in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “sent 15 messages to Congress, guided 15 major laws to enactment, delivered 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy, and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper.”
– Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Roosevelt

I didn’t have a specific 100 day plan and I’m not sure 100 days is quite as valuable a period for assessment as the hype suggests.

Fortunately, I’m not in Roosevelt’s shoes, though, I did feel these were big shoes to fill. The job description I proposed for the Redington CEO, 10 years after the company was founded by entrepreneurs like Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, was to grow the culture, capability and infrastructure to move us closer to our ultimate goal of making 100 million people financially secure.

We currently help just over 1 million people achieve greater financial security primarily through our Defined Benefit pensions business. Against the backdrop of pension fund disasters, our clients continue to perform well. They manage their funds with discipline. Rather than spending lots of time forecasting the future, our clients work hard to ensure they are more resilient, whatever happens.

We regularly ask ourselves: what client problems we can solve better; what unmet or un-articulated needs could we fulfil; what legacy methods or systems should be challenged? The next 10 years could see us enter new geographies, start new business lines and/or adopt new technologies. Above all, we will need to test new ideas, empathise, innovate and take risks. This is Redington’s ‘game’.

Rob and Dawid have been clear about their longer term ambitions ‘game’ too. So far though, I have not talked much about my dream or mission. It’s always a bit scary sharing your dream, it makes you vulnerable and open to criticism. Being more vulnerable was my New Years resolution, so here goes…

Continue reading Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

8 weeks in: This isn’t the finish line, it’s just the beginning


It’s been a busy few weeks. In the spirit of openness, vulnerability and learning, I’d like to share some of my recent mistakes and lessons:

We held a town hall last week to share our 3-5 year strategy with all staff, which overran. I don’t just mean by a few minutes, but by more than 30 minutes. I was grateful for my colleagues’ patience, but I was cross with myself that I allowed it to happen. I and everyone else, spoke for double the time allocated. I was kicking myself for not rehearsing and preparing all the speakers to make sure that we were joined up and on time. From now on, I have to get strict on myself and others – no practice no presentation. At least, we didn’t have it in the kitchen this time, with everyone standing for that long. Also I’m really really glad that we gave everyone a simple and powerful take away in the form of a one page strategy summary. It’s great to be transparent about what I am working on and to be able to ask others to do the same.

Continue reading 8 weeks in: This isn’t the finish line, it’s just the beginning

Taking responsibility (for myself)

It’s been a month already! The curve is still steep and the learning is relentless. I’m still loving it, with all its ups and downs. A great question to ask yourself is: What is a game worth playing –  win, lose or draw? (Source: Mike Harris).  For me the opportunity to scale Redington’s culture is a pretty awesome one. I continue to feel very grateful for this role and the incredible people I have around me.

Continue reading Taking responsibility (for myself)

Reflections on talent, culture, leadership and engagement (Strategic HR Magazine)

At a recent conference, I found myself sitting next to the founder of a rapidly growing media company. She was talking to me about the challenges of hiring and retaining graduates. “What is it with millennials?” She said. “They are so impatient, some haven’t even been working for a year and they want to be promoted. In my day, you just put your head down and did your time.”

Continue reading Reflections on talent, culture, leadership and engagement (Strategic HR Magazine)

10 best ideas from Mike Harris (Days 2-3 as CEO)

Over the past couple of days we have been locked away in a workshop with Mike Harris. [For those that don’t know of him, Mike was the founder / CEO / Chairman of Mercury Telecommunications, First Direct (the first telephone bank) and Egg (the first internet bank); he has been coach and adviser to various telecom and technology giants and startups; and a lecturer on “disruptive innovation” at MIT. Though he has now retired, he’s been persuaded to continue coaching 3 firms, one of which is Redington.]

Here are the 10 best ideas I took away from Mike over the past couple of days (interspersed with my own reflections and lessons):

Continue reading 10 best ideas from Mike Harris (Days 2-3 as CEO)