For episode 5 of A Sense of Identity, I caught up with CEO & founder Dave Newick to discuss his journey as a business leader and how Arken is transforming document production in the professional services.
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Dave Newick is CEO at Arken.legal, a company that helps estate planning professionals meet challenges with digital solutions. He's an experienced leader of SaaS and tech services businesses, with a track record of developing strategies and driving transformation and growth.
Paul: Welcome to this latest edition of Sense of Identity. I'm delighted to be able to interview today David Newick, the CEO of Arken Legal.
David and I have been introduced and met each other on a few occasions, and we thought it would be great to get some insight from David around his experiences. So welcome firstly David to this podcast.
Dave: Wow. Thank you. Great to be here. Looking forward to what I think is going to be a great discussion Paul and you're right. We've had a beer or two together and met at the odd function. So, wonderful to be here.
Paul: Okay great. Thank you for joining us. Now Emily added in a few little extra notes here as she always does for me bless our marketing director.
She sort of put a subheading around our sense of identity piece which was mindset to change - digitising an analogue world which is a good statement because just if I may in my crude way and I'm going to hopefully make sure you do most of the talking here.
Arken as far as I understand is one of those exceptions to the rules.
In as far as I understand, you have a presence not only in the UK, but in international waters. In my experience, financial services in the UK has been a bit poor in terms of Anglicizing in the opposite direction technology.
And I know you're very prevalent in the legal market particularly around the topic of bereavement, as far as I understand so.
And when I've watched a few of the podcasts that you've run, Dave, and there's a phrase you've used very eloquently around a topic which makes a lot of sense.
This great wealth transfer, which I think is very- resonates in the context of the topics that Arken deals with for, you know, a lot of legal practices.
Before we move into that, just to explain the background, so of course as a Kiwi, if I may say, you keep using that phrase I know you're a passionate New Zealander.
Maybe if I can start somewhere. So how did that David land on UK shores from New Zealand, you know, and when was that?
What's the story of that journey in the first place if I may?
Dave: Well, there's a lot of interconnectivity, isn't there, between New Zealand and the UK. And I guess my story is no different.
My grandmother was Welsh. I have ancestors from Cornwall and Somerset and some- a little bit of Scottish in me as well.
But I get to stay here courtesy of my mother who immigrated from Wales when she was nine and as a result I came over.
As all young Kiwis do, and usually I was one of those young Kiwis to come across after I was married and we did three years, went back to New Zealand and had our first born Bridget and then set about starting a business.
And inevitably, as you know, you know, you go through the cycle of starting and selling businesses and doing all sorts of things in your- in your professional career and after a period of time where I bought and sold a couple of different businesses and, and done two or three startups, I got to a stage where New Zealand, a wonderful, beautiful place, all my friends and family are there, but I needed to spread my wings I needed something different and needed to get out of New Zealand and professionally to go and look for bigger opportunities and bigger markets.
And I had a lunch with a good major man and he said "what are you doing?" and I said, "well, look, I'm thinking I might get a job overseas" and you could see the light bulb going off in his brain.
And he went, "well, we might be looking for somebody. And that was a wonderful friend called Lincoln Watson.
And he was the leader of a business which owned Arken.
And I just acquired it in 2016, and the directors were some sunsetting out of the business, having originally founded it back in 1992 and I was brought in to transform and lead that business from 2018.
So would you believe five years which has gone by in the blink of an eye. Thanks COVID for that.
But first of February and we're hoping to get- we're hoping to get indefinite leave to remain any day now.
So you might be stuck with me Paul. We might have to have one or two more beers I'm afraid.
Paul: I'm always up for that as everyone will know. But so and in terms of Arken's core competencies because I know things are branching out for you, you know, and for good reason.
I mean, I understand there's a swathe of legal practices that use the Arken technology to help around this sort of subject of bereavement, you know, particularly as there was some interesting stats that'd be- I think warrant repeat if you can recall any of them around the this wealth transfer and the just the sheer volume of that over the coming years of course in the UK and that professional services connection for software, you know I like to think the UK advisory market has grown up a lot over the years and warrants its own inclusion in that phrase 'professional services'.
So it makes perfect sense to me that you know from a financial point of view and a legal point of view, those bodies, those entities need to be able to work together. What is it that you perhaps if you could explain what it is that you do in that sector and how that transfers from the advisory market I think that'd be useful to the audience to understand.
Dave: Yeah, sure. So Arken is a business founded in 1992 by two private client solicitors and one of the very first legal tech businesses ever in the UK, in fact number two I'm led to believe. So the business grew and grew and really that was in and around a core proposition of helping to automate repetitive tasks to reduce risk, to make things more efficient, to ensure that things were a lot more consistent in every aspect of creating documentation, which is of course what lawyers do.
And of course the parallel there with the financial services industry is that there's a heck of a lot of documentation and financial services as well. And there's also a heck of a lot of manual process, a lot of rewriting and re-entering of data, not a lot of kind of seamless transition, which leads to inefficiencies and frustrations.
And so there's a lot of parallels between the legal services industry and the financial services industry.
And in that respect, albeit that I think probably the financial services industry is further ahead because there's some very large organisations that are driving the adaptation and the digitisation of the industry whereas you don't so much get that in legal services.
So our core business is to help legal services professionals, mostly lawyers, to automate documentation and to be more efficient holistically in the practice.
So we help practitioners create wills, LPAs, any sort of estate planning documentation, trust documentation.
So we have an all online wills package and there's all sorts of sort of efficiency tools that surround that.
But one of the things that you've touched on there, Paul, which is a really significant change that we're- that we're in now, which is only going to accelerate and intensify over the next 20 to 30 years, is the change that we're seeing in the baby boomer cohort which is of course one of the largest population bubbles ever in the world, matched only by the millennials actually would you believe in terms of size and the- the baby boomers are now, the oldest baby boomer is 76.
Now the average life expectancy in the UK is 81.7 years. And for males it's 78. So what we're starting to see is we're starting to see that the baby boomers are starting to reach the stage where they're starting to pass on and actually if you looked at it, just at a UK context and you looked at the increase in the death rate from 2020 to 2030, the ONS tells us that you're going to have something like 627, sorry, six-hundred and- 67,000.
No, six-hundred-and- oh my god i've stuffed that up completely Paul, let's go again. The ONS tells us that there are going to be an increase in deaths now typically we've had 500 to 550,000 deaths per year. What's going to increase is we're going to get to 675,000 deaths. So that's, if you think of it, over a ten year period, the population is about 67 million, about 10% of the UK population.
Now that's driven a lot by the baby boomers and, and what that does is it triggers the greatest transfer of wealth that humankind has ever seen because of course the baby boomers have been very fortunate in rising property market, low interest rates, a lot of industrialisation. And so wealth has been accumulated.
Paul: So I saw a stat or listened to a stat that you'd given in a speech you gave. I think this is what you said, but just to- is it 70% of the wealth in the UK is now with the over 50s population which just really reasserts the point you just made. So it's just extraordinary isn't it?
Dave: Oh look it is extraordinary. And you know when you think about it in pounds and pence we're talking about a truly staggering amount of money £5.5 trillion is going to transition.
Now, that'll transition to typically the wives because the males tend to statistically speaking die sooner.
Then, it'll transition to Gen-X and millennial generations.
And of course the influence on that on both the legal services and the financial services world is quite profound because there's an increase in deaths so that means more probate work and a need for greater efficiencies.
It means that there's a lot more that needs to be done in terms of digitising the legal services industry. And of course, the outcome for the financial services industry is that there's existential risk, but also opportunity, because who gets that wealth? How does that wealth transition? And certainly at the heart of that inheritance is an estate plan.
So you need to, if you're somebody who's an adviser, whether that be a mortgage adviser or anybody who might sort of have a conversation with somebody about about wealth or succession planning or planning, typically holistically, you need to be able to go and say to people, have you got an estate plan because you need to have one.
Now, the benefit for the adviser is, of course, in maintaining that portfolio and having a relationship beyond just the existing relationship that you might have with somebody who is, you know, perhaps in the older age group and maybe they're more statistically likely to pass away.
Paul: So seeing through into that beneficiary so and again, that was something else that resonated when I looked at some of the video snippets.
An interesting topic - I mean, again, we chatted very briefly before this recording. And, you know, financial services, in fairness, is not renowned for its pace, shall we say, digitally.
I think COVID, you know, we were chatting there're some interesting stories that are more personal that we'll come onto around the COVID impact.
And we saw you know email that love-hate relationship we have with it- we saw, you know, the usage of it, the propensity of usage of it to soar when people were working, living at home and locked behind doors, et cetera.
Do you think you've seen and will see change- it would make absolute sense, wouldn't it given the stats you've just given but in the legal sector, I guess focusing there- their use of technology and digitisation, I guess it's the only way they can cope, is it?
Dave: Yeah, look, we're starting to see that already. And let's just take a step back and look at that, because there's a couple of barriers historically to that not happening.
Now, part of that has been because typically the way that decisions have been made within law firms has been on a partnership basis. And the senior partner, who is typically somebody who's in the older age group, not always, but typically has been less likely to embrace technology because they've worked in a certain way for a number of years.
And so culturally decision-making within law firms has been really fraught, particularly around technology and the adaptation of it by this kind of cultural issue. The other thing that's happening, though, is that now we're starting to see the baby boomers retire from practice.
And and what's happening is that you're getting this influence of younger lawyers and legal services professionals saying, well, hey, you know, my job is really important to me and I'm not gonna sit there doing other repetitive tasks.
So I'm only going to go and work for an organisation that's actually on technology. So if you don't have the technology, I'm not coming, you know, because that makes my life better and easier.
So we're starting to see that that change starting to happen.
And look, I think the other thing that's happening, too, is that we can't get around the fact that whilst there's more business, there is also a- an influence of COVID, because people have seen now that technology can work, that you can work from home and you can do calls with people and you can be a lot more efficient.
And so that's that's certainly had an influence regardless of age group. I think people have, have used technology. Yeah. That's probably true isn't it of the legal services and financial services world as well.
Paul: Yeah no I agree. And I think, I mean this is testament to that isn't it really I mean you know, I still personally think- I think there will always be a place for that personal contact.
But I think there's a blend now that it's accepted, isn't there? You know, COVID. You never thought before COVID that you know, this technology existed well before COVID and yet, you know, suddenly we were all able to leap on it and it proliferated and it's persisted, the work from home culture, all those things.
But from an education point of view, I guess, I mean, do you- there's a phrase I know people use, I'll be careful not to use the expletives but if you digitise a poor process, we'll call it, you know, it's still a poor process.
Dave: Yes. So do you think people, as a consequence of having to deal with some of the dynamics you're talking about are much more receptive to using tech? It sounds like they are. I mean, you've seen an increase in that side of things?
Yeah. Look, and I think it's also a lot easier now isn't it, to adapt technology. I mean, the predominant technology is cloud based.
Obviously Arken is a cloud-based platform and and as such, you tend to have a platform that is used by everybody. It's not something that needs to be customised. It's not something that needs to be built.
You just kind of rent it or subscribe to it. Yeah. You know, so really easy to implement.
All you got to do is decide, hey, that makes absolute sense and we're going to do it.
The hardest bit for a firm is just making sure that they do drive its adaptation throughout the business and if I look at legal services firms and it's probably the same in all firms, you're going to get the people are going "yeah I want it" and you're going to get the people who go "oh, I could be persuaded, and you're going to get people who say, I'm never going to use it in my life".
And firms that have done best with it are now to our perspective, are the people who say, you're all using it.
Because as a firm, we need to get this efficiency.
We need to get this consistency.
We need to make sure that we understand that everybody is working off the same page and as the business grows and grows and grows and grows and grows, we have to make sure that our- that we've got access to the critical thing, which is data.
And we can't get access to your data if you're using word-based precedents and you've got it saved on your computer.
Paul: And time, I guess, as well. You know, I mean, you know, time is a very precious commodity to us we'll talk something on that front in a minute that you mentioned, which I thought was fascinating, but you know, technology, hopefully what it does do is creates the opportunity to create time, you know, not just for you, for the user of the technology, but for the people that benefit from the practices that are, you know, embracing technology to make their processes more efficient.
So it doesn't feel like there's any losers so it absolutely makes sense. Just in terms of that COVID effect. So, we were chatting just getting slightly back to the personal David piece.
You mentioned you've written a book for your kids during COVID which I thought was fascinating because I think everyone reassessed their lives during that period.
You went as far as to write down, I think you said 100- 100 things to tell my children, 100 life lessons.
Tell us a little bit- tell us a little bit about that, because that was, that sounds interesting.
Dave: Yes, so the back story, which don't mind sharing is that I was an early adopter to COVID shall we say.
So I picked it up before we went into lockdown, the week before we went into lockdown, and I was pretty sick. And at one point there I suddenly realised, oh, I am pretty sick. I wasn't just being sick, man. Paul I swear I was sick. Bit of man flu. One man flu. Yeah. And I actually picked up my phone and went to record some video messages for my kids because I thought I may never see them again.
And I wanted to say these are the things that I want to tell you that I haven't had the chance to do so yet.
And so it's this moment of kind of great reflection for me and obviously came through the COVID thing eventually. And my kids were coming over and in 2022.
First time I've seen them in three and a half years and I thought what would be a special thing, you know, to kind of mark this moment and what- how could I kind of capture that, that thought that I had when I was lying in bed.
And so I wrote this book. It is called Things to Tell My Children and it was really- it actually got up to 105 life lessons holistically right across every aspect of life you could ever imagine.
You know, how to get the best deal when you're negotiating to you know, how do you keep yourself your mental health in good shape and how to be- harness the power of your mind and to be successful and to not kind of take too much notice of what the world around you thinks.
So I gave that to them. They weren't too bothered, to be honest, Paul.
But it was brilliant for me, you know? So I enjoyed it thoroughly. So I do enjoy writing. And I have some plans for some further books if I ever get into- I'm sure the time when that will really resonate, you know, later on when they're looking in on this and reading those things.
Paul: Yeah, a number of people have sort of spoken about the fact that COVID had some quite profound effects on them, not just in a negative health way but you know, the way they conduct business.
What we've already been talking about, their receptiveness to doing things differently, more efficiently so that their work life balance is better. I know you're a big advocate as we are here.
You know, this business and I know you've said the same is it's people. The technology's great I know yours is the same but actually the value- the business itself thrives on on great people.
And so, you know, that mental health theme is just such a prevalent one isn't it? Just talking again about the personal data piece because I can't help it.
I was talking before about your football, your football shirt in the background there. Yes.
I think you- I think you still coach in a big way. What you didn't tell my colleague when you were chatting was that you were involved in, you know, in a big way with one of the biggest clubs in New Zealand I think you mentioned to me, which is the shirt you've got down there behind you.
Tell us a bit more.
Dave: Well, there's a connection to the shirt behind me. The shirt behind me is Burton Albion.
But yes like I, I ran the most successful club in New Zealand for a number of years and only had to give it up because I came across to the UK.
So we've won more national titles mostly at the youth level, but also won the equivalent of the FA Cup in New Zealand the Chatham Cup twice.
Did that for the first time in the club's 53-year tenure under my watch, which I was immensely proud of. In fact on my desk I have a photo of that day. That's how much it means to me and - fantastic.
And so football is really important to me. All sports are important to me, but football's really important to me because of a number of things.
One of those is particularly because of its impact and the power of it, that it can have inside communities so yeah you can bring communities together, you can provide inspirational pathways for kids who desperately need it.
And so the connection with the Burton Albion journey- jersey behind me is that when we were running that club, we had a wonderful goalkeeper, in fact Oceania goalkeeper of the decade.
I think he was, Danny Robinson, expert and old boy and he left after coaching the football Ferns to the New Zealand women's football side and he left to go back to Burton and to head up their academy and I connected with them again when I got back over to the UK.
Once thing led to another, went to watch his academy team play and we ended up sponsoring him because there's a story that really grabbed me and that was of a particular family, a particular lad who really has a chance.
He was a kid from with a solid mum and there was nine kids in the family and he lived in Birmingham and he just needed a little bit of help to get the training and to have you know, shin pads and things like that.
And, and so for an organisation like us, you know, what's a few grand, you know, and, and yet to kids and as you know there's a number of them, a few hundred quid a year for petrol money or for train fares or whatever else can make a difference and that's the power of football and that's what I love about it, you know.
So you know I still coach I think it'll be my last year this year. The lads are turning 18 so they're going to all splinter off and do their own thing.
We're on for the doubles so hopefully we can get that done but we'll see and I love that because you get an opportunity to help young men be the best version of themselves to to learn lessons through sport that they can take with them into later life.
So it's not just about you know hey you know this is how to hit a knuckleball and this is where to stand with what to do.
And you know, it's as much about taking the lessons of football into life and making better young man or better young women if you if you help coach women as well.
Paul: Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah. And it's like say resonates. And I know it's a mental attitude in your business as well.
I'm going to jump backwards and forwards a little bit here because there's one question I always like to finish up with our personal level, which I'll come back to.
But just quickly going back to that sort of whole sector of the technology adoption and wealth transfer and all those things.
I think given that a goodly chunk of the community that will say there are in financial services, I think there was an initiative that you're underway with in that technology in your suite to it accompany the pro and lifetime aspects of the product Estgro.
And is that particularly focused around the advisory market you know, perhaps you could enlighten us a little bit around that if that's okay?
Dave: Look, it's absolutely focused on the advisory market. So one of the things that we've identified is that legal services and financial services don't really kind of cohabit or exist in any one space other than a very informal one.
So there might be relationships that people have with, you know, friends at the golf club or whatever.
But increasingly, as we start to look at some of the stats that exist around the world with millennials going to inherit a whole load of wealth, but millennials only have, 25% of them have an estate plan.
There's Gen-Xers who are the next kind of generation, who also aren't highly represented.
In fact, only 40% of people in the UK do have that estate plan, and yet all this wealth is going to be transferred.
And if you look at, say, the sort of financial services advisory land I get that, you know, because whilst you might want to be interested in offering a holistic customer service you're nervous about a few things.
You'd be nervous about your customer relationship and losing or damaging that in any way.
You'd be nervous about having to put time in to become an expert in a field that is adjacent to what you're doing instead of the core of what you're doing.
You'd be nervous about having to pick up even more administration and even more kind of rekeying of data.
And, and frankly, it's not something that they want to then kind of deliver a service on because it gets away from core business.
So with all that in mind, what we've done with Estgro is to bring the legal services world and the financial services world together.
And Estgro is a digital platform that is enables an adviser to access world class estate planning simply by sending their customer a link.
That's as much as they have to do.
And it controls the whole journey from there and ensures that they get full visibility, full control of who is delivering the service where their customer is at with that, and then helps to demystify some of these problems that are created by the great wealth transfer.
So that's I don't mind saying, that's a global product Paul. We've got discussions going on it won't surprised you in New Zealand fancy that.
But also in South Africa and of course here and in the UK.
And so that is something we're really, really excited about bringing to market and we're not very far away from from doing that.
Watch the space and I know we'll be talking with you a bit more about that.
Paul: I mean it's interesting because whenever you know I've been involved the financial services market a long time and you know, when people talk about someone's statement of the truth in terms of their estate you know, their will you know tends to be you know that because at the end of the day it's the basis under which their estate will be dealt with etc.
So it makes so much sense as a catalyst to get to know your client to be frank with you, you know, the compulsions around that.
Interestingly, and it came to me a minute ago but, in speaking to a legal practice where we have an interaction some time ago, there was a slight reticence to go through and register wills you know, in terms of, you know, ensuring that those wills are found at the right time.
And when I asked the question why, they said, well, because when we interact with our customers, they interact with us in droves very quickly and we can't cope with it.
So it just occurred to me that, again, this is another reason why, you know, technology has to be able to step in and assist around that stuff or else traditional processes and practices is just going to fall foul when the customer really needs something to happen and to be done.
You know, it just makes sense. But yeah, no, I get it. Just, given I know we've been talking enough incredibly it's half an hour.
It's very easy when you're chatting away to do this stuff so, one of the questions I always like to ask guests on this session because this is a bit selfish but I've got some profound insight for myself and my own boys.
You actually wrote a book with 100 tips, for your kids around things they should be thinking about lessons and their life lessons.
So it's a bit nasty to do this. But if you if were are called upon to give your younger self a bit of advice, a tip, if you could pick out one, I might give you the latitude of a couple, is there you know what would be the one that would come to mind for you?
Dave: Don't limit your ambition. You are capable of so much more than you believe. Anything is possible. Anything with positivity, with energy and belief.
That's a good one that- I won't ask you for another one because I think that that feels like the perfect place to draw this to a close if that's ok with you.
Really grateful, David, for you coming on this session because I know- I try not to dig deep on this stuff.
It's nice to actually get to know the people behind their businesses because I think people like to see that.
So thanks so much for your time. Looking forward to working with you more in the future.
And yeah, thanks again for doing this for us.
Dave: Well, thank you, Paul. I've really enjoyed it and hopefully we might get to record another one. And yeah, look forward to future business dealings. Perfect.
Paul: Cheers again David. Thanks for that.
Dave: Thanks, Paul.
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