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
But Simmonds admits that Pearl’s potential is still unfulfilled, which
is why last week he appointed HHCL and Partners (Campaign, 14
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
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.’’