Debbie Jukes has had a pivotal role at Equilibrium since she joined in 2001. Here she tells us about her new client relationship responsibilities and why the Managing Partner calls her EQpedia.
How has Equilibrium changed in the 14 years since you joined?
Staff numbers have gone from six to almost 50. As we have grown, the structure, the company name and the office premises have all changed. But the culture - such as the relationships with clients and our friendly expert approach - has not changed.
How has your role evolved and what do you like about it?
Colin Lawson, our Managing Partner, recruited me as Practice Manager because the team was getting too big for him to manage. I wore many hats in those days - for example, managing the administration team, the IT, the finances and compliance. As we have grown, others with much better skills than myself have taken over some of those areas. However, I retain overall responsibility for compliance and am also responsible for the marketing team and events - we now have three full-time marketing staff. In 2001, we did six events a year at most. Now we do 15 seminars, four investment briefings, six investment dinners and ad hoc functions each year.
I still wear many hats and another part of my role is to look after the legal side, such as property purchases, leases and the partnership documentation. And I am a trustee of the Equilibrium Foundation charity.
Perhaps it goes without saying that the best bit of the role is the variety!
What is the biggest challenge in your role?
Managing all its different aspects and delegating. I keep giving bits away but then taking more on.
You are set to take on more new responsibilities. What do they involve?
Clients are already familiar with their client manager and adviser. But as we grow, we need to strengthen client relations by letting them know that, if they have any queries, they can come straight to me at management level. This shows how seriously we take client relationships.
I will also contact all new clients to find out what their experience has been, so that we can keep improving.
You bought an extra share in the Equilibrium partnership in 2008 - why?
I already had a stake in the firm, but raising finance to buy an extra share of the business at the beginning of the credit crunch was a big personal challenge. I raised a hefty loan, sold virtually every asset I owned and persuaded my partner to max out the mortgage! But it wasn't a difficult decision because I believed in the future of the company.
Why does Colin call you the EQpedia?
If anyone asks a question about the company or our clients, going back as long as I have worked there, I generally know the answer. I am notorious for keeping bits of paper and referring to them for a long time afterwards.
You had some positive feedback from the Financial Conduct Authority recently. What did it say?
We took part in the regulator's thematic review into the retail distribution review (RDR). No issues were identified and no further action was required, however, the FCA did identify a number of areas of good practice, highlighting the format of our Client Agreement which makes it easier for a client to understand our services and costs; the systems we have in place to monitor ongoing reviews; and our promise to refund fees if clients aren't satisfied.
I was very pleased - you can't get better feedback than that.