In the second in our series of special II Leadership Summit 2021 - 'Meet the Panel' interviews Sean Christian, managing director & executive director - Wealth Management Division, Canada Life UK, takes the hotseat.

Christian joins five of the industry's biggest names (see below) at our inaugural II Leadership Summit 2021, which is set to be broadcast on Monday 11 October, 2021 at 1pm (UK time), to discuss 'leadership in international financial services', 'how to lead through a pandemic' and the future of the international advice industry.

In this interview below, Christian speaks to II's Gary Robinson about his leadership style and ambitious strategy to become one of the UK's leading wealth providers over the next five years.

GR: Can you describe your leadership style? What works for you? And how would members of your team describe your style?

SC: I'd say it's a mix between democratic and strategic styles. Democratic because I realised many years ago that I can deliver very little without the input and support of colleagues. It's important everyone has a voice, puts forward their views in discussions and when this happens it can be incredibly powerful and rewarding for everyone. Ultimately though decisions need to be taken and I'd like to think most are reflective of the collective view of the team. Strategic because I am passionate about continually moving forward. We have to be forward looking, anticipating what the future needs of our customers will be and set an agenda to maximise growth opportunities. I would expect my team to say I am supportive, fairly competitive and expect high standards of performance and when channelled effectively I'd like to think they see these as important ingredients in maintaining our position as a market leader.

GR: How important is leadership to a successful International financial services firm and how does it manifest itself across all levels of your company?

SC: It's critical. And whilst leadership begins at the top, strong leadership across all levels of the organisation is vital. For me it is why having a bold strategy that can be clearly articulated through detailed plans and objectives is so important. Every member of the organisation should be able to clearly see how their own objectives contribute towards the delivery of the overall business objectives and strategy. Leaders have an important role to create that alignment and sense of purpose.

GR: How important has strong leadership been during the pandemic and how did your role change as a result of of covid?

SC: More important than ever and the pandemic has required leaders to adapt, and adapt quickly. I'd say visibility was one of the most important leadership qualities during the pandemic which initially wasn't quite as easy as when everyone was together in an office environment. You could no longer walk the floor or pop into team meetings. Coffee machine chats disappeared as did bumping into colleagues when coming in and out of the office. Of course we quickly got used to using the video technology and, like most others, I have probably spent more time in direct contact with colleagues, albeit by video, that I did prior to the pandemic. Home working has also presented new challenges to leaders on how to motivate teams and how to communicate effectively as we operate through a hybrid, flexible approach to working.

GR: Tell us about your day to day role as a leader within your organisation. What does your role entail?

SC: Day to day my role is to lead Canada Life UK's Wealth Management division which spans a number of our businesses in the UK, Ireland and Isle of Man. We've set an ambitious strategy to become one of the UK's leading wealth providers over the next 5 years. My role is to set a clear vision for the division, ensuring the whole team is clear on the plans and initiatives that underpin the delivery of that vision. Another key aspect to the role is engagement with the vast number of adviser firms that are critical to the distribution of our proposition. Now that restrictions are lifted it is very rewarding to once again start meeting firms face to face and meeting colleagues in person across our various locations. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my role although it did feel very strange in June to once again be back on a plane!

Leadership Panel

Christian is part of an exciting and exclusive specially-selected Q&A panel discussion which will recorded in our new Incisive Studios in Covent Garden, London with some participants in the studio and others appearing on the studio's high-tech video walls.

Panellists include industry big hitters: Sean Christian - MD of Wealth Management Division- Canada Life (above); David Kneeshaw - CEO, IFGL Group (inc RL360); Graham Sheward - CEO, Hansard; Ariel Amigo - Chief Marketing & Distribution Officer, Investors Trust.

And from the international advisory world: Nigel Green - founder and CEO of DeVere Group and Robert Parker - CEO Holborn Assets.

The II Leadership Summit 202 will be premiered on and will be followed by an ezine edition of the event, including an edited highlights of the panel session, a leadership feature and further individual interviews with each of our leaders.