To celebrate going into our 20th year of business, our CEO Ian Hughes answers some questions about the future of Consumer Intelligence. 

How does it feel to enter Consumer Intelligence’s 20th year of business?

I have always felt like an imposter both in business and in this sector. I got into the Financial Services industry as a frustrated customer and I have spent 20 years learning about it. I have been really lucky because I have had some great mentors and supporters, both as clients and partners. I guess after 20 years, when you see those people retiring you suddenly feel more like an insider than an imposter. In business it never ceases to amaze me that we have come as far as we have. This business started by doing something unique, we didn’t even know if anyone would buy it, we just thought it was a good idea! 20 years later, I guess the market agrees. Regulators refer to us, governments refer to us, investors refer to us, price comparison sites refer to us, banks refer to us, insurers refer to us. This is massively more than I ever thought we would achieve but I think that running a business is really about the quality of the people you surround yourself with, and your ability to instil passion in them. I haven’t perfected it but 20 years later this amazing team still allows me to try. And I guess I must succeed slightly more than I lose and that’s a win in my books!

What are you most excited about in our 20th year?

We started this business with a single simple vision, we wanted to help companies see the world through the eyes of their customer, because we believed that if they did that, they would have happier customers, team members, regulators, board members and shareholders. The sequence is crucial because most companies start with shareholder wealth and work backwards. The FCA has announced a legal mandate for companies to put customers at the heart of the business. There has never been a more exciting time to do what we do, a more important time or a time where we can help customers, companies and shareholders more than there is now. After 20 years we are finally getting into our stride!

What would you say is the most exciting thing about working for Consumer Intelligence at the moment?

We own the trademark to the phrase “Exciting Insight” because we want our work to always inform and excite our customers. When data takes on an emotional resonance it elevates in the mind of the recipient. The most exciting thing about being here now is that the team are constantly delivering exciting insight. I watch with pride at our webinars, the content we put out and the amazing work the team (every part of the business) puts in to delivering the insight for our customers. Never has it been more important to achieve cut through and achieve our purpose of building confidence in Financial Services and never, ever has there been such an extra-ordinary group of people within the business that delivers for us on that. That’s why the most exciting things that happened this year was being voted by the team one of the top 100 Best companies to work for!

They say businesses are led by their mission, vision, values and purpose, are these things you would say are true about Consumer Intelligence?

I don’t know, I went to business school (twice) so I have actually met the “they” who said this. I’m not sure that “they” know much about really running a business, especially one as small as this!

Here’s what I know. You must have a purpose, something that is a reason for the business existing and something that is infinite. Ours is “building confidence in financial services”. Purpose is your north star. When the pandemic hit lots of companies didn’t know what to do, we instantly did. I sat in my room and said “if the world is going down in flames, if this all comes to an end, then let’s at least serve our customers and give them a morsel more confidence”. If we/I lose it all and we do that we can hold our heads high and we will have a story to tell. If I/we lose it all and we just chased the money then no one is going to buy us a beer so they can hear the story. Purpose is the driving force. No purpose, no passion, no reason to drive forward.

Then you need to have a way that you are going to do it. We have a 4-year planning cycle (we are in year 3 of this cycle), and we set priorities and objectives for those cycles which we breakdown into quarterly key results that allow us to focus on getting things done but never resting on our laurels, always growing, always changing. Never perfect only ever done. Always ready to go again. Within that we allow for change. Voltaire said; perfect is the enemy of the good. So, we set an objective, we go for it, if we get there, great, if we don’t well at least we learned something and we can go again, taking that learning with us.

Then you need to have the things that you are prepared to die for, your values, the way you do things. Lots of companies have these above reception and that’s it. You need to formally inculcate those into everything. And you have to be prepared to praise and develop for them. If someone gets something done but they do it the wrong way then that is as bad (if not worse) than trying, failing but doing it in line with behaviours. Culture is defined by the worst behaviour you will permit without challenging it. We are really clear about our behaviours, we talk about them always, we praise good behaviours and we coach bad behaviours. And if the behaviour is bad, we will terminate even a good performer for it. I try to use them as a secret power to help us make decisions. I think it makes us great people, and great people working together make a great team. Our customers talk about our team all the time and it is all down to having living breathing behaviours.

What is the plan for the future.....?

Some things don’t change. The purpose, the way we do it and the behaviours and values. Those are our bedrock on which we build tomorrow.

Outside of that our future is to serve our customers and help them make confident decisions. Given that there will always be unknowns, we will always have a role. However, I look at adjacent sectors like Banking and also adjacent countries like North America and I see opportunity. I see customers being underserved and companies still not understanding that the way to grow is by serving customers not ripping them off.

There is also one other thing I need to plan for. Our purpose is infinite, it lives on forever. Sadly, I physically cannot, and it won’t be fair to our purpose or our team to become a blocker if I lose my marbles! (Although quite a few people feel I lost them 20 years ago when I started doing this).

So the greatest challenge ahead of me is to do the one thing that I have never successfully done in 20 years of business, it is the mission that drives me personally at this point.

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About Consumer Intelligence

Consumer intelligence has been developing powerful insights to support clients make informed decisions, for almost 20 years. We help brands operating in the general insurance market and wider financial services sector to understand their own performance, benchmarked against the market they operate in and the brands they compete against. Find out more about what we do, here.

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