How Admitting What You Don't Know Can Lead to Great Results

Pardon the Interruption

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If I’ve learned one thing over the past 10 weeks, it is the importance of always being transparent. That applies to the team I lead, the clients I work with, and the broader community I serve. One of my most-used phrases now is "I don’t know the answer to that" or “I'm not exactly sure how it will work on the day". Early in my career, I would have viewed these admissions with abject horror; as a signal of weakness, lack of understanding, or absence of ability. But experience lends perspective: now I know – there is so much I don’t know. And this makes for being a better leader.

My vision for mallowstreet is clear: a better retirement for everyone. What’s changed is how we are going to get there. Earlier this week, the Digital Defined Contribution Indaba proved what is possible. In record time, our technology and data team built a new digital platform, and the rest pulled together an outstanding agenda.

Leaders from across the pensions community gathered for a day to engage with experts from inside and outside our industry. A massive thank you to our rockstar presenters:

  • Dr Hannah Fry (Associate Professor at University College London) gave the most articulate talk I’ve seen to date about the stats behind COVID-19, and provided a simple explanation of the daily statistics we hear (and what we should ignore). 
  • Dr Rachel Melsom (Tobacco Free Portfolios) shared her insights on the links between tobacco and COVID-19, and how the finance industry has a key role to play in creating a tobacco-free world.
  • Vincent Franklin (Co-founder of Quietroom) shared his Top Ten Tips for Talking to Members in Tough Times – as choosing the words we use has never been more important.

All three provided nuggets of gold that even I, as event host, could implement immediately.

The discussions in the Investment Masterclass sessions were also fascinating, and showed how the latest solutions are addressing the key concerns on trustees’ minds: investment risk, member communications, and where next?

Six hours sounds like a lot to spend online, but as we closed the day I felt energised, more informed, and excited to continue the conversations we’d started on the day.

Before we did this, one of my clients asked me directly: "Stuart, is this going to work?" My answer: "I think so, but I don’t know. What I do know is I’ve got the best team to do it, and I believe it is going to be a pretty awesome day."

So thank you to the attendees, presenters, and investment masterclass gurus who gave 100% on Wednesday. And the team behind the scenes that delivered. You made it the awesome day I believed it could be – one thing I do know for sure is that I can’t wait for the next one.