Meet the MD: Robert Simpson of Bartlett Wealth Management

Meet the MD: Robert Simpson of Bartlett Wealth Management

With goals in place to double the company's number of staff and increase its assets under management to £500m, Robert Simpson of Bartlett Wealth Management has ambitious plans for the firm. He tells BQ what his job includes and what he believes makes a great business leader.

What is it you do

I head up three parts of the Bartlett business – wealth management (pension and investment advice), actuarial and private client (insurance for high net worth individuals).

You may be surprised to know that I also head our IT department, possibly connected to my degree in computer science!

I am the only executive person on the group board who is not a member of the Bartlett family, which founded the business 75 years ago.

They are very easy to get on with and give me the freedom to make my own decisions.


What is it the company does?

Bartlett Group is an independent financial services company based in Horsforth, north Leeds.

We offer a range of services for businesses and individuals including business insurance, risk management, personal insurance and independent financial advice.

Bartlett Wealth Management is a division of Bartlett Group that employs 22 people and we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year.

We provide services for individual investors including pension and investment advice, tax planning and personal insurance.

Our investment portfolio, called Performance Matters, has consistently delivered returns above industry benchmarks and recently surpassed £90m of assets under management.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I’ve always worked in financial services. After graduating from the University of Liverpoo,l I joined the Bradford & Bingley in an audit role. I spent five years there before moving to Tenet, the adviser support network based in Leeds.

Nine years ago I joined Bartlett Group as a compliance manager. I was promoted to sales director before being asked to head the Wealth Management business five years ago. I joined the group board in 2012.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

It’s a combination of skills but the key word for me is ‘simplicity’. The simpler things are, the better the results. I don’t like over-engineered processes.

You also need high energy levels. I want to see plenty of energy and enthusiasm around the business. That has to start with me. I aim to be a loud and positive presence in the workplace, giving people plenty of opportunities to interact with me.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

For our business (and I suspect for the wider financial services industry) the challenge is ‘how do you keep innovating?’ It is all too easy to sit back and just accept that something works. You have to keep moving forward to stay ahead of your competitors.

That’s why I’m so proud of our Performance Matters proposition, which we launched in 2010. The funds selected for the portfolio are chosen by the Bartlett Investment Committee, which meets monthly to discuss economic events and scrutinise market statistics.

We place great emphasis on the ‘risk-adjusted’ return of an investment, ensuring that no unnecessary risk is taken. By constantly monitoring funds and replacing underperformers, the Bartlett Investment Committee ensures that our clients’ investments generate the best returns.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I am quite a laid-back person. I try to stay on top of things. I don’t have shareholders that are beating down my door for returns.

That means I can make decisions for the long-term and not worry too much about short-term results.

Outside of work, I enjoy being with my three children and playing in a local badminton league.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

There was no master plan but my dad was a bank manager – read into that what you will!


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

People who don’t want to progress their career. At Bartlett Wealth Management, we have a structure that enables people to progress.

I find it easier to motivate people who have career progression in mind. It can be difficult to lead someone who says they want to stay doing the same job.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I want to double the number of staff in Bartlett Wealth Management and increase our assets under management to £500m.

The success that we had over the last five years gives me confidence that we can achieve this.

We benefit from having a few specialisms and very efficient processes. We haven’t fallen into the trap of over-complicating our financial offering and customers seem to like that approach.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Focus. Have a plan and stick to it. I am wary of diversifying and having too many products. Stick to what you do well.