Karl Pemberton, MD of Active Chartered Financial Planners, talks to BQ about his career so far and the pros and cons of joining a family business.
What is it the company does?
Active Chartered Financial Planners (North East) provides a full suite of holistic financial planning services to private individuals, corporate businesses and professional practices. Being independent means that we can offer clients the best possible advice, with no bias towards any provider or product.
We have held the “Chartered Financial Planner” firm status since 2013, which means that we work to standards matched by only a tiny proportion of financial planning firms. Chartered status is central to the business and demonstrates Active’s commitment to remain at the forefront of the industry.
We specialise in investment planning, retirement planning, protection planning, later life planning, planning for your business, and mortgage planning.
My role within Active has developed over many years, to what you would now describe as a true Managing Director. Having upskilled myself personally over time to now being a Chartered Director with the Institute of Directors, I now believe that I truly add value as a Director, as a Board Member and as a Leader. My time is therefore entirely focused on managing and driving the business itself, building a growth plan with focus on strategy, development, and oversight of the management teams.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
The history of Active can be traced back to 1986, when my father began advising clients in the North East. I used to do a little bit of work behind the scenes for my dad while I was at college in the early 90’s. I’d dash from college to the office and put a shirt and tie on, aged just 16! This gave me a great amount of early experience, but joining the business at that time would have been an easy option. I wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve something without it being handed on a plate.
I took up a position at Yorkshire Bank in 1995 where I learned a lot of vital skills that I still live by today. The Bank in those days was very much a family. It had a family feel, and it genuinely cared about its people and its customers. It always told us to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right client, however banking in general moved very much away from those principles and it didn’t sit right with me. A short spell at RBS as a Private Banking Manager also followed my 10 years at Yorkshire Bank
In 2004, my dad was very unwell, and in 2007 it seemed right for me to step over to Active to assist. Although I have developed into the MD role over time, it is nice that my father is still the Chairman at Active, but takes a much more back seat role.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Personally, I think it has to be someone personable, believable and someone that you would wish to emulate. To be a great leader, you have to be able to make people follow your example, and you only get that if you can engage with someone and take them with you on that journey. For me, respect is a paramount trait that is often forgotten by many of those, both inside and outside of the business community. If we showed more of it, more great leaders would be found.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
In the financial sector, the biggest challenge is uncertainty. Our clients, who are investing their money don’t like uncertainty, so it poses a challenge for us. Recent political events, such as Brexit and the General Election have generated a lot of uncertainty, as they have all impacted upon financial markets. In these times, we have to spend a lot of time reassuring our clients and helping them to find answers that will make them feel more confident in their investments.
A pleasant challenge I have in my current role is dealing with the growth of the business. We saw significant growth in our customer base in the last financial year, seeing it increase by 10%. This has subsequently generated much more work for myself and the team. Recruitment has therefore posed a great challenge to be able to continue offering the level of services we’ve become accustomed to delivering. I have had to think about how to distribute work to meet these demands, and create some new job roles to support the business, which is a challenging addition to my day-to-day work, but not one I’ll ever complain about!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It is genuinely difficult to manage, and I would think many MD’s will agree. For me, it is a case of trying to manage workloads as best I can by being organised, then keep things in perspective and balance with family and health. Finding something to help switch off is the key. This could be spending time with the kids, going out for a long bike ride, going to the gym or simply washing the car do it for me.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pilot. I actually applied to join the RAF when I got the position at Yorkshire Bank, but when I weighed it up, and I decided that a career in finance was more secure. To be honest, I liked my home comforts too much, and being a pilot required a lot of time away from home. I do often wonder what it would be like to fly a plane though. Maybe I’ll get the chance to do it one day.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Procrastination! Many talk about what they’re going to do, but then do nothing about it, simply expecting things to change by magic. I believe that leaders in business need to lead by example and show how things can work, that ultimately benefits the individual/team. I’d rather be the leader of the march with people following, than being at the back with a stick forcing people along. The results are vastly different.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In five years’ time, I would like Active to be the Independent Chartered Financial Planning firm of choice in the North East and Yorkshire regions. We are determined to be the best, both internally and externally, and our reputation is key to us in everything we do.
Our Chartered status demonstrates that we deliver on a professional level, and the recent award of Investors in People Gold Status, for a second time, also shows that we have fantastic internal processes and care about our people too.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Have a clear vision of where you want to be, through Rose Tinted Glasses. This will be your driver that gets you up every morning and will keep you focused.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Think carefully about joining a family business! Whilst I can say on the whole our journey has been significantly positive, it hasn’t been without it’s problems. This is even harder when family is involved, especially when you need to call your family member on an evening to ask to babysit after a difficult day in the office.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement