Hello and Happy New Year from (another!) new face at The Verve Group. I’m Carmel and I have been given the massive responsibility of defining, developing, and evolving what strategic partnerships could look like here at The Verve Group – eek!

I have been connecting financial providers with the right clients and customers for nearly 15 years through the various media partners I have worked for. From the more traditional Money Marketing and News UK’s Times and Sunday Times finance sections to more unique offerings like Platforum, Boring Money and Finimize – the new kid on the block who have nailed how to engage new, younger investors with a plethora of events, podcasts, a daily newsletter and app. They were just acquired by Abrdn.

Looking back, I really went from one extreme to the other! The very traditional (and strict) world of finance back when RDR was all that anyone talked about to the new and unknown discussing robo’s and crypto – compliance anyone?!

But actually, not so extreme. Where these media platforms really succeeded was having a great connection with their audience. Their users/readers really trusted them and had a loyalty to them which made them interesting to partners who wanted to market to those audiences.

I also did a small project for The Sun newspaper when the pension freedoms came into effect. They had 6.2 million readers whose average pension pot was £52k. As someone whose family is from Liverpool and a liberal feminist, I had to overcome some huge negative bias before I even could pitch to the providers who had equal concerns for their brand being associated with that title. But I was told some powerful stats: Sun readers raised more money for the Tsunami emergency fund than the whole of France. The Sun Online in conjunction with the Co-op launched Stamp Out Slavery to highlight the plight of modern slaves working in car washes, nail bars and farms. The modern slavery video had more than 1 million views and the Home Office scrapped the time limit on support for slaves. And despite my hatred of Page 3 when it partnered with Coppafeel they more than doubled breast check-ups and saved thousands of women’s lives.

Now I am not telling you this so you go out and buy The Sun (I am still not a fan!) but to highlight the best example I know of when a company really connects with its audience and how powerful that connection can become. Great things can happen. Really great things. And so, when Cathi asked me to work with her team to share the connection they have built with the financial planning community with financial providers in meaningful and productive partnerships, I was all in. I believe the group truly understand their clients’ needs, and interestingly their future needs. They don’t just provide useful services but challenge them and educate them. It’s an engaged relationship which if you are an asset manager, or a protection provider, or a software provider you could really benefit from being introduced to.

For me after working in the D2C market for 8 years seeing the growth of robos, crypto, the use of social media to engage customers has excited me and scared me in equal measures. People need good financial advice more than ever and we need to work together as an industry to ensure that is available. So, being able to connect forward thinking providers with the planning community to achieve this is so compelling. What good things could happen? It doesn’t actually take the huge numbers as in my Sun newspaper example. It takes a small revolution that builds up to something big which is where I feel I am starting now by being invited into The Verve Group’s bold vision. Like We Are Change where a small number of providers are supporting a small number of people to train and start a career in financial services. Great, but even more exciting if a few becomes the many.

And so that’s why I am here. Cathi also wanted me to tell you a bit about myself, but I think I have covered it – a leftie bra burner, with a scouse family ripping up The Sun and investing in crypto… bet you can’t wait for my call! In reality I’m not that exciting. I actually live in North London, read books (lots of books), drink a bit too much red wine, dance at any opportunity, spend too much money on trainers (for fashion darling – I don’t run) and should probably not spend as much time as I do creating playlists on Spotify just for me or watching anything with Harry Styles in it.

But seriously, if you do want to know more about me and where my passion for helping people with their finances (with another type of relationship discussion) you can listen to a podcast I did last year called Money and Me. It’s quite juicy – involves an affair and a Northern Rock mortgage. I was pregnant at the time so don’t hold back. “If you are going to see me naked then I want to know how much you earn” is a particular good line I come out with!!

Carmel Dickinson, Head of Strategic Partnerships, The Verve Group