Putting your trust in another person, or company is a conscious choice, created when relationships are underpinned with mutual respect. David Pugh, our CEO, shares his thoughts on the role of trust in our business.
When financial services firms talk about trust – which they tend to do quite often – they’re almost always coming from the same angle. They’re urging their customers, or clients, or employees, or others that they deal with, to have trust in their dealings with them. It’s also possible they’re concerned that the level of trust is lower than it used to be and are keen to find a way of rebuilding it.
The point about trust is it only works properly when it’s a two-way street. Ultimately, I’m unlikely to have much trust in you if it’s clear that you have next to no trust in me. Financial firms are eager at demanding trust, but perhaps not so good at showing trust in the people they deal with.
With this in mind, I’m determined that 2022 should be a year in which we at The Fry Group work harder, and do more, to show the trust that we feel in the people around us. In the first instance, I want to focus on a vitally important group of people, who are our greatest asset; our team. In a “people business” like ours, I believe when the relationships between us are built on a strong and lasting spirit of real trust, then that spirit will radiate out into all other key relationships – to our clients, our business partners, our suppliers and the communities in which we operate.
This concept sounds simple, but of course isn’t completely straightforward. In a regulated business and when dealing with our clients’ money, there are strict limits in just letting people do things in their own way. But even with these boundaries we have plenty of opportunities to show trust in our team. Some of these we’ve learnt from working through the pandemic: does it really matter whether people work in the office or at home? Or even when? A close colleague feels deeply about finishing his working day so he can collect his young children from school in the middle of the afternoon. Getting through his workload by 3pm involves a very early start – in fact he refers to working milkman’s hours! But if the work gets done – and done well – what’s the problem? In fact we’re happy to offer this autonomy and support the work/home balance he, and other members of our team, prefer.
Perhaps even more importantly, we’ve recently increased holiday allowance to 30 days for all of the team and added two Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Impact days per annum – days when our team can volunteer in their local communities, to support a charity or other good cause, on full pay and as they choose. We also give each team member their birthday off each year, and we close all of our offices for the festive break at Christmas.
So why have we chosen to make these changes? Whilst I appreciate they are not necessarily groundbreaking, they represent a real shift for us as a business. Ultimately we trust our team in managing their own working hours. We respect that our people need time and headspace with their friends and family. We understand that working practices have shifted significantly in recent years. We know we have a role to play to support wider society. Trusting our people has been fundamental to improving our company culture in the last few years, and we understand the strength that it can have in creating both individual and collective achievement. And, with a more corporate perspective, we understand there is an economic link between employee satisfaction and company performance; in its most simplistic form, happy employees create a better client experience.
On a different note, I’ve heard those managing similar sized businesses to ours concerned they can’t afford much of a training and development budget, because they can’t run the risk people will grab all they can get and head off to work elsewhere. This strikes me as an entirely self-defeating argument that reflects a highly distrustful attitude. We want the best people in our industry to work for us because they believe we offer them better opportunities and a better quality of life – and of course investing in their growth, with a proper personal development budget, is an absolutely essential part of that.
Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.
We’ve also banned the use of the word ‘staff’. We feel this term needs to disappear from the language we use in our workplaces. Simply put, why would we expect our people to feel trust when we refer to them using an outdated phrase? It implies a sense of hierarchy and indifference, which runs contrary to our core values of one team, passion and excellence. By referring to our team or people, rather than our staff, we aim to show that we appreciate and respect everyone’s role and what each person brings to our business.
In this article, I’ve concentrated more than I usually do on how we treat the people who come to work with us and be part of The Fry Group team. I don’t apologise for that. In a business like ours, if there is a secret to our success then it’s in making the most of the abilities and the energies of all the people who work here.
But of course we’re looking at the same time to build relationships based on trust with everyone we deal with, in keeping with our business purpose of helping people to achieve financial freedom. I see trust as an essential component of that freedom – and that’s why I want to make it such a central element in the way we run our business this year, and for the future.