For some, ‘culture’ may be an overused word. However, in the case of Seven Investment Management, having the right culture in place has, it claims, helped make the difference during a challenging 2020.
“Ultimately we are a people business,” says 7IM chief executive Dean Proctor, who had only been in the role for a year before the pandemic hit. “My job as a leader is to get my teammates onboard with the direction outlined. It’s a team sport and we want as many of our teammates to be as engaged and motivated as we are.”
Mr Proctor replaced chief executive and co-founder Tom Sheridan who had held the role for 17 years, and though he respects this history, he is adamant change was needed.
Here, Mr Proctor cites feedback from some long-lasting clients who said they felt the business had “lost a little bit of purpose” in prior years.
He says: “7IM has a great history, but it was led by the same individuals for 18 years with a certain style that was right for that initial startup growth phase, but for me now, as a business with more than 400 people, we wanted to identify a culture.
“That started with asking each employee what they wanted that culture to be.”
During that time, Mr Proctor sat down and wrote what he wanted the business to be. Although this is not public, this vision has since been shared with all colleagues (and appears on their screensavers).
“Fundamentally, I want 7IM to be a firm that is innovative, enjoyable and a fun place to work that can challenge people,” he says. “We have a nice, family feel here. People help one another.”
It is this team morale that he says has paid dividends during lockdown.
Looking back to March, Mr Proctor reflects on this as a difficult time but is proud of the work done to ensure the organisation stayed operational.
With laptops and other equipment having to be arranged for nearly all of 7IM’s 400 staff, he recalls the effort made in the hectic weeks of March as “incredible”.
Mr Proctor says: “People transitioned remarkably well and it brought out the best in people’s commitment to the firm.”
Special efforts were made to keep morale high (including things such as online pub quizzes) but the chief executive points out that, on a day-to-day basis, team members would check in on one another and ensure no one felt isolated.
“It tests the culture and spirit of the firm,” he adds, revealing that given the government’s latest restrictions and rising infection rates, currently 95 per cent of 7IM’s team are working from home.
“This means being flexible and understanding, even for things like working around people’s childcare arrangements. Small firms are able to galvanise that culture better. However, we still have to keep revitalising this.”
An acquisition and a new chairman
That said, this year has not simply been about weathering the storm of Covid-19.