CLIENT OF THE WEEK: Pearl man with parent appeal - John Simmonds explains how upbringing affects his tactics

John Simmonds can remember the Pearl Insurance man coming to visit his Rochdale home as a child. He even recalls the day his railwayman dad was handed a cheque to buy their house.

John Simmonds can remember the Pearl Insurance man coming to visit

his Rochdale home as a child. He even recalls the day his railwayman dad

was handed a cheque to buy their house.



Today he is the company’s general manager of marketing and admits that

those memories shape the way he sees the company. ’I had absolutely no

idea I’d end up here,’ he says. ’But one of Pearl’s attractions is that

it can do a good job for middle Britain. I get a real kick out of

that.’



But Simmonds admits that Pearl’s potential is still unfulfilled, which

is why last week he appointed HHCL and Partners (Campaign, 14

March).



He made the decision after a year in the job, during which time he had

laid the groundwork for repositioning by simplifying all Pearl’s

products and brochures. Now he hopes the agency will help him

differentiate the company for its good value to ordinary people.



Simmonds’ down-to-earth approach reflects not only his own background

but his rise through the sales side in the financial services

sector.



He started life with a business studies degree sponsored by British

Aerospace but refused a job because the company was too ’dyed in the

wool’. Instead, he sold photocopiers for a year before applying for a

job in Japan with Mercantile House Holdings, which he did not get

because he could not speak Japanese.



Nevertheless, the company took him on to work in cash management. Five

years later, he joined Target as a branch manager and rose up the ranks

to sales director, a job he also did for a year when the company was

taken over by Axa Equity and Law. He moved to Sun Life Financial

Assurance in 1990 as its managing director.



Simmonds says his aim is to help Pearl become the kind of operation that

his retired parents would approve of. ’I judge a lot of things in terms

of whether they would appeal to my mum,’ he admits. And how does his mum

react to that? ’She’s very proud,’ he confesses. ’Now when the Pearl man

comes round, she tells him, ’My son works for you lot.’’