In this month’s interview, I’m joined by Jeremy Beament, co-founder of nudge Global, a software company for financial wellbeing. Jeremy grew up in an entrepreneurial family and so this was really the norm for him, unlike many of us whose parents had the more traditional 9 to 5. And his first job interview, although he thought it was for a big corporation, actually ended up being for a start-up where he got to wear lots of different hats, met a fantastic mentor, and ultimately got to know someone who would become his co-founder at nudge.
We talk about the bad careers advice we received when we were at school, the large element of luck that is involved in finding the right role, the shift in thinking that happens when you have a partner and children, and the difference between starting a business with the goal of revenue and wealth creation versus choosing to work for yourself for lifestyle reasons.
Watch the full interview or read the transcript below.
Building a Sustainable Business with Jeremy Beament
Jeremy is the founder of nudge Global, the leader in financial wellbeing in 2013. Prior to that he was 12 years and employee number 3 at Thomsons Online Benefits (now Darwin and purchased for £250m by Mercer.) His is dad to Max, Jake and Orla and husband to Annie and always wishes to be somewhere he can ski.
Okay. Hello everybody. Welcome to this month’s careers interview, business interview I should say. And I’m here talking to Jeremy Beament. So Jeremy, I’d love to hear from you already. How did you start your career and what are you doing today?
Jeremy: Yeah perfect. Hi Anna. Yeah, so my name is Jeremy Beament, so I am the co-founder of a financial wellbeing software company called Nudge, which I set up in 2013. And prior to that, I was 12 years and employee number three into a company called Thompson’s Online Benefits.
Anna: Okay. And how did you get started with that? What was your career plan when you first started out?
Jeremy: Yeah, so I was born in 1978. My dad first set up his company in 1980. And think about it, dinner table, weekends, night times, holidays, everything was consumed with the business. And as a consequence, that’s just what I thought life was. That’s what I thought people did. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a corporation. I didn’t know that you had a boss. I didn’t know that you had to climb the greasy pole. I just thought you work for yourself. So I suppose from a very early age, and I know it’s incredibly naive really looking back on it. But that’s just what I thought would happen. And then I didn’t have a particularly distinguished academic career and came out of university, really knowing nothing about anything. And I got fortunately lied to by a recruitment consultant.
So they told me I was going for a job with a company called Thompson Financial, which has now merged with Thompson Reuters or become Thomson Reuters rather. But anyway, I sort of turned up to this really smelly little office above Burger King in Victoria station. Which if any of you were around Victoria in 2001, you’ll know exactly where I meant. The building’s subsequently been condemned actually. And I went into this random little attic where for example, first thing I walked past was the loo to the left-hand side, but it had a bath in it and it was really random. And there was a guy in there, a real character, a guy called Michael Whitfield who was the CEO of that company. Really bought into his vision and subsequently stayed with him for 12 years building my way up. And as that company expanded, I think by the time I left, they had about 400, 450 people and stayed very, very close with him. So he’s now the Chairman of Nudge.
Anna: Amazing. You seem to have landed, accidentally, pretty much on your feet there. It’s interesting that you said that the upbringing you had with your dad, the expectation was very different. And I think that colours us so much, a lot of us have the opposite experience, that our parents have always had that nine to five and that’s why we that’s all that existed. Whereas for you, it was the entrepreneurial side that you thought was the norm, I guess. But it sounds like you thought you were going to a corporate interview, but actually luckily for you, I guess you found your way into something a lot more dynamic and interesting.
Jeremy: Yeah. When I’m occasionally given the opportunity to speak to people about their careers or they ask for career advice. I think that for young people, a real consideration is, are you a small company person or a big company person? And I really do think that that’s important. Because a lot of your happiness, for right or wrong will be driven from your working life. And for me, I think that that’s the biggest consideration for people to think about whether they are a small or a big company person
Anna: That’s a really great piece of advice. I happen to think that’s quite difficult for someone coming out of school and uni, because I just wouldn’t have known what I wanted to do, let alone what kind of company. But I think for someone who’s more senior in their career, that’s a really great consideration. I always talk to clients about, okay what are your criteria? Do you want to work one-to-one or one-to-many? Do you want to work online, offline? As you said, big corporation, you’re a small cog in a big machine, or do you want to really be, as you said, employee number three, getting your hands dirty, wearing all these different hats and so on?
Jeremy: Well I really hope that career advice has improved since I was at school. So I remember taking this aptitude test and having this grand unveiling of my future career. Which if remember was actually had been ring bound, if there’s such a word, actually presented and my mum and dad were there. And it basically spat out that I was going to be a solicitor. Which for anyone who knows me, that is the last job in the world. And that’s with no disrespect to solicitors, but reading reams and reams of information and having that kind of memory for tiny details. And also wanting to say well, should the comma be here or should it be there? I couldn’t be more different from that. So I’m very, very grateful that I completely ignored that career advice that I got from school.
Anna: I think my report said that I should be either an actress or a librarian. So that was a great range of roles. It’s a bit like the government’s guidance now isn’t it during COVID as a record. It hasn’t been super helpful for people to retrain. So I guess it’s not the easiest thing for someone else to tell you what you should be doing.
Jeremy: You tell me, you’re a great coach. What is the best in class way that we can take a young person, let’s say they’re 17, 18 years old and get them some direction in life? Is there a best practise now, or is it still completely hit and miss?
Anna: To be honest, I don’t know what careers advisors do. I’ve gone back to a few schools and talked to them and I’ve given them my two cents. But again, I work with more people who have the experience. And I think that’s, to some extent, easier because we know we can do and so on. But to some extent, it is harder because we’re older. Somehow our comfort zones have shrunk around us, and we don’t have the confidence and the go-getter attitude that we have coming out of school.
So my best advice to someone coming out of school now would be just try things. Because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. Don’t just go for this because your best friend is doing it, or your parents say you should, whatever. Follow your curiosity, try something. If you feel like starting a business, do that. Try an internship here, just get a feel for as many different things as possible. And then you, as you said, will get some understanding of, am I a big company person or a small company? Do I like this kind of work? Am I the kind of comma, attention to detail person? Or am I the big picture, balls in the air, that kind of approach? So I think, yeah the best approach I think for someone young is to explore, to try things really.
Jeremy: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of luck involved. Because for me, I hope he doesn’t actually watch this, because I have quite a mickey-taking relationship with him. But Michael, the guy I was talking about Michael Whitfield, who I worked for and is now Chairman-
Anna: I’ll make sure I tag him in the video.
Jeremy: Oh thank you. He had such a profound impact on me. And I think young people really, really benefit from having a mentor figure, who’s not their mother or father, who takes the time to love them. And am I allowed to say bollock them? And all of those things that you need in that early career. And I think that’s really important. And sadly, most people don’t have that opportunity. So I think, another thing that is great for young people would be, if they can find that mentor figure, who’s going to take time to listen to them and give them feedback and really put them under their wing.
Anna: And as you said, someone who’s not your immediate family. Because I think you need someone who’s further removed and isn’t so emotionally involved. I mean, that speaks to almost starting in a big company. I really felt that I couldn’t have done any of the things I’m doing now. I don’t think so at least if I hadn’t had that experience and the connections I made. I guess the CV now has been a huge springboard and so on. And I think you meet some incredible people in those organisations.
But the trick is, I guess, not to get trapped there forever. So many of us, I have so many friends who wanted to study human rights and had all these beautiful ambitions. And then they’ve just ended up in some kind of bank and so on. And again, no disrespect to bankers and so on. But if your dream is to go and help people in Africa and you end up helping rich people and whatever, then that’s a bit of a shame. So I think by all means try things, but try not to get complacent and stay somewhere that isn’t ultimately where you want to be.
Jeremy: I think it’s very, very difficult though, because people through no fault of their own get trapped by their circumstances don’t they? If you have two or three kids, for example, and you’ve got a mortgage and you’ve elected to go down that route in life. And maybe you’ve decided that your children are going to go to private school, for example. All of a sudden you’ve got these obligations, that it’s very, very difficult to row back from.
And so I know quite a few guys who are literally just money slaves and they just can’t wait to retire. And it’s a shame. But at the same time, I’ve got a lot of respect for them because maybe they’re putting their own situation behind that of their family. So these things are not easy are they. There’s a lot of luck involved and a lot of foresight and a lot of bravery. And I think anyone listening to this, you wouldn’t ever want them to think, oh, it’s so easy, why have you done this? Or why haven’t you done that? This is proper tricky life changing stuff,
Anna: Especially as you say, I was single, I was renting a tiny little ghetto place. I did actually have cats, but I got rid of them. I had no obligations at all. No kids, I was completely flying free. Which made things very stressful in a way, because everything was possible. And so it made it quite difficult. But as you say, obviously if you’ve got three kids, you’ve decided to put them through private school, whatever that looks like. That’s a very different scenario. So absolutely everyone who’s listening always needs to look at your personal situation.
I guess, just thinking about what you said just now. Absolutely, I admire these people. And as you say, they may be selflessly, or at least they think they’re selflessly putting their kids ahead of them and so on. But do you think, a bit of a leading question, but is that the message we want to give to our children, I guess. Would I want my children… I’m thinking out loud, to put their happiness on hold for their kids. It feels like it’s just an endless cycle. Rather than actually I want to role model for my kids, you can at least try to be anything you want to be and to have a fulfilling life and earn money. But not, as you said, be that money slave.
Jeremy: Yeah absolutely. I mean, who doesn’t want that for their kids? And I’d say one thing I do as a dad, which I wish I didn’t do, that I do put them in pigeon holes to a certain extent based upon their character. And I think you should never work for a large corporation. You’re creative, you’re freewheeling, you’re easygoing. I can easily imagine you being in a creative agency or something like that. Whereas one of the other kids, almost you like, do you know what you’d be perfect in the military. Because you need to be told exactly what to do and when to go. And you don’t seem to have any kind of ability to think it through your yourself.
But I know that’s wrong, what I’m doing there. So I really try and keep that inside and hide it. Listen, being a parent is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. Because you go into it with a big heart and wanting to do the right things, but inevitably you’ll make mistakes along the way. But yeah, I think if you can give your children that passion for learning and that curiosity and that bravery to be able to make difficult decisions, then you’ve done a good job.
Anna: Well, that’s it isn’t it. And it’s a shame because as you must know them better than anyone, and the fact that you have that sort of idea of what would suit them. We don’t want to see them make the same mistakes or different mistakes that we made. But at the same time, the last thing we can do is to tell them what to do, because they’re probably going to just do the exact opposite. So it’s such a tricky balance to want them to succeed, but have to let them spread their wings and yeah, explore and make their own mistakes along the way.
Jeremy: Yeah. And I know also, if people had known me when I was 19 or 20, which I know your partner, Luke did. You’d be like, who is this guy? And you can flourish in your own way later on in life as well. You don’t need to necessarily be the high achiever at school or university or highly academic or highly sporty. You can find your own way in the end. And so I don’t think people should write themselves off. Even if today, maybe life hasn’t dealt them the best hand.
Anna: So for you then if you’re not… I guess you didn’t necessarily have that ambitious game plan and where you are today isn’t perhaps where you thought you would be. And as you said, based on your academics and so on. Were you just lucky or what do you think? What are the choices you’ve made? What are the opportunities that you’ve jumped on?
Jeremy: Yeah, well I mentioned earlier on, I was very, very lucky with the company I was selected. So being in a really successful high growth company where you grow from three people to 400, however many people it was. And I got to do every job in the company. And I really enjoyed it. I found my feet and I found something that really, really loved doing. And so I grew quite quickly with the company and I ended up as a Director there. So that was great. And having that mentor was great as well. And then I was also fortunate that I met my wife, Annie who you know. And that was what I would almost describe as like a zeitgeist moment, where I realised all of a sudden, you know what, I’m not just doing this for me, I actually want to do it for someone else and provide a good life for someone else.
And that kind of motivation, and that drive came out of me, where I guess it hadn’t really existed in my teens or early twenties. And I have it now. I jump out bed in the morning and I’m motivated by myself. So no, I don’t get that motivation from anyone else. That’s the other thing, no one’s harder on me than me. So I just… I need to do it. Otherwise I feel desperately uncomfortable. So yeah, these kinds of feelings and motivations emerge, I suppose, from a combination of internal and external forces.
Anna: I love that. I’m the same way. I hate other people telling me because I’m already pushing myself so hard that if someone is trying to force me more, it just makes me want to rebel and not do it, which is a very childish response, but that’s just how I react. And I guess coming to, because you’re doing this really interesting company now, and as you said, you’re so super self-motivated, you’ve got, of course your family that you’re taking care of and so on. But what was it that led you to take the leap from, albeit an entrepreneurial and exciting company, but still a pretty stable, you’d been there for I guess 12 years, what then led you to leap into starting your own thing?
Jeremy: Yeah. So a couple of things. So my job at Thompson, so we looked after a lot of American companies, so we had this amazing client list. People like Apple and Google and Goldman Sachs and pretty much anyone you can imagine. And my job was looking after them. And winning them and looking after them. And I became aware in the States of this thing, that they called financial wellness. Which is basically about companies taking the time to help their people understand and manage their money better. And I just thought, wow, that’s a great idea to bring to the UK and then try and spread out globally again.
So it’s very fortunate that I had some shares in the company I was working in. They went through a private equity deal. I had a brilliant relationship with the CEO and I was able to say, “Listen, I’ve had this idea, I think it’s really, really good.” Or myself and Tim, I should never exclude him. He’s been an incredibly important part of my life as well, my business partner, who I’ve worked with 19 years. And we co founded the company together. He’s an amazing guy.
We came up with this idea of bringing this concept to the UK and then spreading it out globally. And we use that money that we got from the private equity deal to be able to found it. Which was really useful because, there’s a fundamental problem with venture capital in the UK, in my opinion. Whereby people who’ve got really good ideas and want to set up tech companies basically just have to give away so much of the equity to be able to afford it. And so much of the control that actually, what the venture capital companies do is then drive them too hard and too fast and lots of them fall down the wayside. So lots of really good ideas are lost because of the, in my opinion, how ruthlessly poor the venture capital industry is, particularly in this country.
So we’re able to fund the growth ourselves and really discover who we are and what we wanted to be and what our value proposition was and what our target addressable market is. And all of those really, really important things. But it does take a little bit of time to understand. And as a consequence, we’ve been able to grow in a better and more sustainable way. So I don’t know if I’ve answered your question properly there, but that’s what we’re up to. So financial wellbeing, we’re helping, we sell our product to big companies for them to provide to their employees as a benefit. And it basically helps you make better decisions around your pension, your share plan, your mortgage, your childcare, your healthcare, all of that stuff that happens around your finances. So it’s a bit like your coach that guides you through your career with the company.
Anna: And it sounds like that really came of the idea, from the idea that you came across, that you could bring that across. So has anything else changed? I talk a lot about the freedom, the flexibility of being your own boss. Have you crafted that as well? Or have you pretty much just recreated the Monday to Friday, nine to five for you guys as well? Are there any differences there?
Jeremy: I have to be open with you. I haven’t enjoyed yet the lifestyle benefits of owning a company. So for us, this isn’t really a lifestyle choice that we’ve made. This is like a growth and wealth creation choice. And that’s not to say that that’s a better choice in any way, shape or form. I completely understand other people want to do their own thing because they want to be home more or have more opportunities to learn a language or whatever it might be. But for us, we haven’t chosen that route. So work’s more crazy and busy and all-consuming than ever really.
Anna: But that’s a really important distinction. Because even for me, when I started, I was very much only lifestyle. Again, single, all I care about is being able to travel and work less and so on. And then it changes instead when you have a family and a partner and so on. I guess with the sort of more growth, wealth creation… Personal question, but you feel you’re again in that money trap to some extent? Or do you feel actually, no I love this. It’s super fulfilling and I’m so glad that I’ve come across this idea and that’s what you want to be doing right now?
Jeremy: Well, you’re in charge of the parachute more. Like you can bail out when you want to. There’s no one saying that you have to go to 20,000 feet, you can go to 10,000 feet. So I think you do need to have in your mind what the end objective is and stay true to that. Because it can be quite addictive, I think, just to kind of keep going and going and going. And actually, to contradict myself slightly. I was talking to a guy I know, an investment guy. And he was saying that he keeps in touch with some of the ex founders who subsequently sold their company and their biggest regret in life is selling the company. And so actually, the money element can’t be the only factor that keeps you going. There is an adrenaline junkie enjoyment of it all as well I think.
Anna: Well that’s the classic retirement dilemma I guess. Are you planning on early retirement and then sitting back, or do you think that’s not quite on the cards, you’ll be jumping on another idea and taking that forward?
Jeremy: I just don’t know. I think, it’s not only about me. I’d need to consult my wife on that. She’s just been so patient with me and she’s a part of our company as well. So she has done all kinds of things to help Nudge. And at the moment she goes all of our invoicing because who else would you want looking after all the cash collection than your closest confidant? So she’s kind of in on the journey as well, which is quite interesting. So she knows, and it’s not one of those, “Oh working again?” She knows if it’s difficult periods. So that’s been quite interesting as well, working together as well.
Anna: Well, briefly then yeah. Those two aspects, you mentioned your co-founder, I often have lots of people ask about, I’d like to have somebody else come on and so on. Could you just touch that? And I know where we’re getting to the end of the time, so I appreciate you’re sharing a few more minutes. And then also with your wife, I guess, that sounds like a really positive thing, but are there any challenges as well with having a co-founder and having your wife within the business?
Jeremy: Yeah. So I think that you do hear a lot of stories about people who fall out with their business partners. It’s inevitable, I’ve been very, very fortunate with Tim. But because we worked together for 12 years before we even set up the company, he knows about my terrible weaknesses, as well as hopefully some of my strengths and likewise. And you have to be very tolerant of each other because one of you will be in a bit of a mood and one of you will fly off the handle about something. One of you will not take something as seriously as the other one does. But overall, we live by this creed really, where whoever is more passionate about whatever the thing is, we tend to go, “Okay, well we’ll do that then.” And we were quite respectful of that. And we worked very well together. With Annie, yeah it just works really, really well. I mean, she does something they’re very removed to what I do day to day and she’s a very, very different person, very, very detailed, very diligent. And so, yeah it just works. It works well, fortunately.
Anna: And how quickly did you get to the business being profitable? Just in terms of, again, transitioning out of a steady salary and so on. Were you able to very quickly get the money you needed to continue as planned?
Jeremy: Well, we didn’t take salary for two years and that was really, really difficult. I can’t lie to you. So for those people who want to set up a kind of B2B, tech business, the most difficult thing is winning those first 10 clients. It’s the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. Because even if they know you and trust you from days gone by, actually people are quite risk averse by nature. And will go, “Oh yeah, we will one day.” And then they won’t return your calls.
But something then magical happens when you’ve won the first 10. Winning the next 10 is a bit easier. Then winning the next 10 is a bit easier. And then you’re on your way. When you get to 50 clients, then you are a proper business. When you get a hundred clients, you’re doing well. But the early days are really, really difficult. But that the human condition is that we forget all of the bad times, don’t we immediately. And that’s why we’re able to carry on. So yeah, I can’t really remember it now, but at the time I seem to remember it was really, really difficult.
Anna: Yeah, I can imagine. To be honest, I think it’s the same for B2C in a way, and not in the same scale, but it is of course difficult. Because you have no client testimonials, you don’t feel very confident because you haven’t yet got the proof of it working. [crosstalk 00:24:41] Yeah, exactly.
So, okay perfect. And you’ve already given lots of good advice, but any advice I guess, for someone who sounds “Okay yes. I’m willing to invest the two years before it’s profitable and I’m willing to make this happen, and excited by this idea of more the wealth creation approach.” What nuggets would you give them?
Jeremy: Yeah, I think one of the most underestimated virtues that we can have in our society is our own resilience. And it’s quite interesting as a consequence of COVID. So we’re filming this in February 2021. There’s been a lot of chat about kids and how we need to get them at school. And I’ve got three of them schooling at home, so I know better than anyone. But someone made a comment to me, which I thought was really, really good. Which actually, even as terrible as this has been for kids this period, that actually it can help make them become more resilient people. And I think that that’s kind of spreading it and making it into more of a positive thing. And so I think resilience is just incredibly important. Just don’t let the little things just get you down. Just don’t sweat them, just keep going, keep going, keep going and you will get there.
Anna: Persistence and not taking failures personally. And just, keep going.
Jeremy: One hundred per cent yeah.
Anna: And just on that homeschooling, I know you said again, it wasn’t a lifestyle business for you. But have you found that you’ve had more flexibility to manage those challenges over locked down and Corona and so on? Because you’re your own boss.
Jeremy: Yeah. Well, you’re at home more, for sure. You never go out. I mean, one of the really interesting things I found about COVID and business, is that I used to spend a whole day going to Manchester and back for a one-hour meeting. Or to Glasgow or to Paris or wherever. That just seems crazy now. So as a consequence, you can be more efficient. There is definitely that upside and as a consequence that you are able to be home more with your family and take the kids to school when they’re allowed to go to school, and those kinds of things. So yeah, there’s definitely been some positive aspects of the whole… Obviously not the health side, which is terrible. But on the working side of what’s happened as a consequence.
Anna: And do you think you’ll continue with that more remote meeting set up? Or will you be flying back to Manchester?
Jeremy: I can’t imagine it going back to how… It’s just so inefficient. It’s so inefficient. So I think, yeah people will go into work a little bit more and it’ll be more like a clubhouse environment. Where people collaborate and do that kind of work. But if you just want to get your head down and do your work, I can imagine people working from home. I can imagine many more meetings being virtual. So yeah, we’ll see if I’m right in five years.
Anna: Well I hope so, making it more flexible, more entrepreneurial to be within a big company as well. I think that would look very different in the future. So yeah, we’ll find out. We can chat again in a few years time and see how things have changed.
Jeremy: Yeah, definitely.
Anna: Thank you so much Jed. So where can we find you and read more about Nudge?
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s nudge-global.com is the web address and yeah look us up, let me know what you think.
Anna: Perfect, I will. Thank you so much, that went in a different direction than what I expected, but so many interesting angles there. And I’d love to talk to you more about it, but thank you so much for time Jed, and best of luck with the coming negotiations and the next phase of the business.
Jeremy: Cool, thanks.
Anna: Thank you.