We have also included some ‘non-human’ influencers or themes in our Top 100, which of course do have high-profile people behind them, typically from other industries such as the world of politics or artificial intelligence. The two themes we selected after much deliberation are demographic change (p34) and robo-advice/artificial intelligence (p104).
Not all of our named individuals are as well-known as others and some have particularly lengthy track records.
Learn by experience
Notching up more than 25 years in their current roles is a select band that includes Ashok Sardana, managing director of Dubai-based Continental Financial Services, John Westwood, group managing director of Blacktower Financial Management Group, which has offices throughout Europe and the Cayman Islands, and Mark Gaywood, founder and group chairman of the
multi-jurisdictional Momentum Pensions Group.
Sardana says he has been advising on a range of financial solutions for more than 35 years. He is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) and has been a ‘Top of the Table’ qualifier for 19 years. He is also a “firm believer and avid supporter of the value of the MDRT, which provides for both personal and professional development”.
He says: “This huge market is growing and in spite of being in the business for more than 40 years, there is still lots of opportunity.”
Westwood, who worked for Schroders before founding Blacktower in 1986, says: “Having been involved in financial services for more than 35 years, we have seen considerable change and, through the activities of my company, I believe we have been at the forefront of product design and distribution.”
Gaywood, who established Momentum “with a clear vision to evolve the international pensions sector”, cites the way his team adapts and rises to the everyday challenges of this specialist world, including the most significant event in his long career to date “without doubt the collapse of the Qrops market in 2012”.
Others in this select band clocking up more than a quarter of a decade include Tim Childe, head of international and Jersey office, Quilter Cheviot,
Robin Bigland, chairman of IOMA, Geraint Davies, founding and managing director of Montfort, and
Sean Kelleher, CEO of Mondial (Dubai).
In contrast to those who have broadly stayed within a particular area of the international financial services industry, some have had significant career changes before arriving at their current roles.
Harris Keillar, managing director of international recruiter Keillar Resources, started off at Club 18-30 and did a stint on the Beatrice North Sea oil platform before setting up his firm in the late-’90s, now “recruiting into almost all jurisdictions bar the US”.
Sam Instone was commissioned into the Household Cavalry before founding AES International “to specialise in high-risk areas of the world and based its structure and values on the military”, while Tim Searle of Globaleye started out as an officer in the UK’s Royal Navy. The RAF is another background common to some and highlighted in our ‘Influencing the influencers’ piece on p10.
Cornelius Lillis, executive partner at Abacus Financial Consultants, had a brief career with the Metropolitan Police before embarking on a financial services career, prompting a permanent move to the Middle East in 1992.
William Mason of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission started work picking tomatoes, and after university he built oil company bases in the Algerian Sahara during the Islamic insurgency of the ’90s.
Many others in our list have moved from one part of the industry to another, whether that is from accountancy or law to heading up a life company, from banking or insurance sales to financial advising.
Isle of Man-based Sean Christian, for example, trained and worked in accountancy before later becoming managing director of Canada Life International, while Hong Kong financial adviser Nick Smith, who is chief executive of Taylor Brunswick, learned the basics of the industry working for Prudential in the UK.
Another international life office head, RL360’s David Kneeshaw, was a law graduate who began his working career in the advertising industry.
World Citizen Financial Planning’s Phil Billingham is a financial adviser who is also a business coach, helping other advisers through business model transformations such as a move to fees rather than commission. He clocks up more than 35 years in the business.
Women in power
Our Top 100 does not feature many women, and arguably the world of finance has not kept pace on the gender equality front to the same extent as other professions such as law and medicine.
But those who do make it onto these pages are heavy hitters in their areas, including Denise Voss, chair of the Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry (Alfi), Rachael Griffin, head of trusts and technical solutions at Old Mutual, Sarah Lord, partner at Mazars and Danielle Suchley, managing director of Finsbury Associates.
Voss was not only the first woman to take on the chair position at Alfi but also the first from an asset management firm to do so.
“I am heavily involved in debates surrounding diversity and am a regular speaker at conferences focusing on the impact of gender diversity,” says Voss. “I believe the best diversity programmes address the issues from the ground up, by encouraging talented individuals from the start.
“Such programmes also mean diversity gets more visibility at the board level. I also serve as an adviser to participants in a start-up leadership programme initiated in Luxembourg, which seeks to facilitate women to become tech and digital entrepreneurs.”
Griffin is well known as a technical expert and industry commentator, receiving the Ailo James Ball Memorial Award in 2016 in recognition of her support and contribution to the organisation, and the International Adviser Outstanding Contribution award in 2017 for her work to progress the international advice market.
One of her notable achievements was as technical lead in negotiations with HM Revenue & Customs as part of the first offshore chargeable event audit conducted. This led to a change in HMRC’s approach to tax loss settlements on chargeable event audits, extending this to the self-assessment period.
Sarah Lord is one of the most qualified female financial planners in both the UK and offshore advisory markets, with a strong message for the industry as a whole to drive up transparency in the offshore space, particularly in relation to the cost of financial advice.
She says: “I am passionate about seeing the transition of the financial advisory industry to a profession that is in part driven through encouraging advisers to achieve higher qualifications. I am a great believer that a high level of qualification is essential to delivering the best outcomes for clients.
“We need to move away from the sales culture that exists offshore and strive to deliver a professional advisory service.”