Values matter for family man Chris Daems, managing director of Essex-based Cervello Financial Planning. I caught up with him over pancakes and a fruit salad (his choice, not mine).
Daems has spent some time recently thinking about what Cervello stands for. He has managed to boil it down to four things: fun, fairness, a focus on improvement and finally to ‘do well and do good’. The final point moved Daems to embark on a project with his daughter Charlotte.
They co-present The Kindness Project podcast, interviewing people who have made philanthropic contributions to the world. ‘The project made us look at where we are as a business and do more,’ he tells me.
Attitude and aptitude
New Model Adviser® recently reported on an initiative through which the firm sponsored a financial education course for around 30 secondary school students. The aim of the project was to empower young people with skills and knowledge to understand the concepts of finance and allow them to make more informed decisions. The course, administered through the London Institute of Banking and Finance, was delivered through a combination of online learning and classroom sessions.
The importance of values permeates other areas of running the business too. ‘The way we recruit is based on attitude first,’ says Daems. ‘Attitude and values are more important than anything else to us.
‘If you’re the most qualified person in the world but we don’t think you’re going to fit, it’s not going to work,’ he adds. He says he has learnt this from past recruitment mistakes. Being clear on the firm’s values first really helped the recruitment process.
How can he tell if a candidate will be a good fit? ‘What we’ve learnt is that you should recruit slowly,’ says Daems. ‘A lot of the individuals we may have conversations with now, we don’t expect to join the business for about a year.’
He tells me about a particular employee, where the conversation around joining Cervello lasted for nine months. Daems and the candidate took their children pumpkin picking around Halloween.
‘I got to meet his wife and children,’ says Daems. ‘So I got to see him outside work, see what he is like with the kids and chat about anything but work.’
A more recent example of recruiting is the addition of Mansi Doshi, who has joined as a trainee adviser. Doshi, who hails from India, joined Cervello as part of a university MBA internship program. Daems explains: ‘The MBA program gave us three months to assess whether she would be a good fit and if it would work.’
Daems wants Cervello to be a people business. ‘If that [recruitment] process takes six months to one year, I’m relaxed,’ he says. ‘I’d rather get it right.’
I ask Daems what he has planned for the next 12 months. ‘From a revenue perspective, if we hit our target, we’ll be around 35%-40% bigger than at the same point last year and that’s part of a five-year plan.’
Daems started the business with the ambition to grow significantly, but that has changed. The five-year plan now involves a team of 10-15 staff members with great income per individual instead. This is part of Daems’ desire to keep values at the core of the business.
‘Finding the right people to represent those values is actually more difficult,’ he says. ‘My own personal ambition is to work with people I am proud of, not someone who’s going to make me millions of pounds a year.’