The hard-headed world of finance is changing. We asked Nick Bird of Octopus Investments to tell us about his role – and how he’s committed to helping financial advisers do more for their clients.
What does your role involve?
I’m a Business Development Manager at Octopus Investments. I spend a lot of time out of the office, meeting as many different financial advisers as I can, and showing them what Octopus can do.
That might sound like a traditional way for a salesperson to work. But I’ve always believed my job is about more than just talking about our products. Instead, I focus on listening.
I try to get to know them and to find out what are the biggest challenges they face. Often, the conversation then moves onto their clients, what they want to achieve, and how we can help.
Because whether it’s a multi-million-pound investor, or someone with a more modest pot of money, people tend to ask the same questions of their financial advisers. How can I build a good retirement? What can I leave behind? How can I make sure all my hard work gets passed on?
How do you answer those questions?
In some ways, financial advisers are the GPs of the financial world. Just as a GP is expected to know everything about medicine, financial advisers are expected to know about everything to do with money, from life insurance to mortgages.
A conventional salesperson would put forward their products as the answer to these questions. For me, it’s better to act as a consultant. I see my role as being there to offer practical advice that broadens a financial adviser’s horizons – and getting them thinking a little bit differently about what they do.
That’s the driving force behind Octopus Live. It’s a series of interactive workshops, designed to help advisers find innovate ways to solve the problems faced by their clients. We go beyond just talking about products, and instead provide real-life case studies and information.
How has the world of financial services changed in your career?
Back when I started, financial services was a much more hard-headed business. Your role was more about trying to improve the value of a client’s investments (and earn yourself a commission). Now, it’s much more empathetic.
Behind every investment, there’s a real person. You’re not just dealing with a cold mathematical decision. You’re dealing with someone’s hopes for retirement, or their children’s futures.
Just recently, I visited the home of an Octopus Investments investor. While I was there, I saw dozens of family photos on the walls. Holidays, weddings, and graduations. I found that a really powerful reminder: what we do isn’t purely logical, it goes far deeper, and it’s important we take the emotional side of what we do seriously.
How long have you worked at Octopus?
I’ve been with Octopus for six years. When I joined, we were 150 people strong. Now, we’re almost 1,000 – and yet we’ve kept the same energy I felt on my first day.
You can feel it across the business – from the way we’ve designed our offices to the new people we’ve brought on board. That’s not something you can say of many more traditional financial service firms.
At some financial companies, there’s never much of a purpose beyond ‘driving shareholder value’. Of course, financial results are important at Octopus too, but we’re fortunate to have such a clear purpose at the heart of our business. We’re here to do good and interesting things, and that’s exciting to be part of.
What do you love most about your job?
I’m excited to tell the world what Octopus, and our investments, can do. I know we’ve got a great team, and I know that the investments and services we offer can make a real difference to the lives of people.
There’s something else I really like about my role: giving presentations. That’s not something everyone looks forward to, but I find presenting really enjoyable.
After a long career in financial services, I know what it’s like to sit through yet another dry PowerPoint. So, I relish the challenge of finding creative ways to keep an audience engaged – from roundtable discussions to including expert academic speakers.
What do you do outside of Octopus?
I’m a huge Liverpool fan (even though I’m from Sussex). The first record I ever bought was the Anfield Rap, and since then, I’ve been hooked. I have two young daughters, who are both budding gymnasts. I’m also a keen runner, so you’ll find me at all of the Octopus Running Club’s 5k and 10k runs.
And I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to improve my Italian. If you see me in the office, you’ll often find me reading an Italian novel (very slowly) – or badgering an Italian colleague for a little practice.