This is Octo Members, a private membership home to over 2,000 UK finance professionals
Featured in this Story of Awesome: Octo Members
Launched September 2018
Octo Members is a private community that provides UK-based financial services professionals with resources for personal and professional growth.
Lee’s Mighty Moment: “Now we’ve got partners who want to work with us that before wouldn’t give us the time of day. It’s gratifying.”
Lee Robertson was always good at considering the big picture.
In 2018, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority had changed the rules around socializing in the financial sector, making it harder for professionals from different companies to get to know each other.
The former CEO of a London-based wealth management firm, Robertson knew how essential these relationships were. It was how he and his peers had risen in the ranks and built their businesses.
Yet, scheduling meet-ups at the local pub was no longer practical, or for younger financial advisors, even desired:
“Our industry is not very accessible, even for the people who work in it. On one side, you have the older generation who wants to socialize one way. On the other side, you have the younger people who want to socialize in a different way.”
But Lee was adamant. There had to be a way to get these financial professionals connected that would:
- Meet regulations
- Bring together up-and-comers with more experienced professionals
- Do all of this in a way that members would love
Lee envisioned a place where his peers could learn from each other and navigate what was becoming an increasingly dynamic financial landscape in the UK and abroad.
Things that had worked for decades were changing. The only way to navigate this was as a network of financial professionals across the stages of their careers.
Plus, this emerging effort would give him the chance to put his own legacy to work.
This industry had given Lee so much, and he knew that by making a career in financial services more approachable for more people, he’d leave a mark that he could be proud of.
With the seed of this idea in mind, Lee turned to his friend and fellow Scotsman, financial technology specialist Andy Brown. Over takeout, he asked Andy the questions he had been trying to figure out alone: “How can we find a way to reunite an industry that’s growing apart?”
Andy volunteered to partner with Lee on the spot. Now this dynamic duo turned to their professional networks to find additional co-founders. Almost immediately, they found Rob Page, a celebrated global chief management officer; Jon Rocchi, the former commercial director of business newspaper Financial Express; and multi-award winning journalist Gary Shepherd.
Now, they were a team. And “Octo Members” was born.
In search of a platform that enabled Lee to work smarter, not harder
To get a sense of what they wanted for Octo Members, Lee and Andy started with the most popular social networking platforms. They realized with WhatsApp, it would be hard to define boundaries. Meanwhile, LinkedIn and Facebook Groups lacked the essential community functionality they needed. Plus, all three options made it hard to ensure the privacy of their members:
“We wanted to prioritize the privacy of our members, and give them the ability to have deep, detailed discussions without worrying about someone’s personal experience getting out on social media, or any insider information getting out to the press.”
Without a solution, Lee and Andy were running out of options in the UK. Then, Lee read an article that changed everything.
Lee came across an interview with Mighty Networks founder Gina Bianchini. In the piece, Gina detailed how creators like Lee could have their own mobile apps that offered members a community under their own brand. With live events, robust multimedia content, and more, Lee knew instantly that this was the solution he had been searching for:
“Mighty Networks seemed a bit more grown up in comparison to the other options we had seen. And in terms of being able to have a branded app where we could host a community, and provide that community with a constant flow of content under our own brand with the Mighty Pro product?
It was just what we were looking for.
Lee and Andy chose Mighty Pro to realize their goals:
- Offer access to a private community, where members share stories and experiences freely without concern of being monitored by journalists or regulators
- Publish resources including podcasts, videos, polls, discussion threads, live Q&A events, and more to spark conversations and connections between members
- Make the community available to members around the clock via the web and dedicated native mobile apps on Android and iOS
- Do all of this on their own branded mobile apps without a year of custom development and the seven-figure budget that goes with it
With a home for the community locked down, Lee got to work specifying who his ideal members would be: UK-based financial services professionals with a growth mindset:
“We wanted a variety of financial services professionals. We wanted the entrepreneurs, the business owners, the wealth managers, and the fund managers. We wanted people who were genuinely interested, genuinely motivated, and genuinely looking to be better versions of themselves. We wanted people who weren’t focused only on business growth, but personal growth too.”
To make sure the community was only accessible to these members, Lee made Octo Members private. Joining is free, but potential members have to submit an application where they detail their financial services experience, the name of their employer, and their professional license number, if they have one:
“We verify everyone who joins. We have a code of conduct. And people actually do behave themselves. They’re respectful, and courteous, which isn’t always the case on social media sites.”
From side hustle to the next big thing
Today, Octo Members has over 3,100 members and counting. And while they’re constantly experimenting with structure, they’ve settled on a model that’s been working well for both them and their members.
Octo Members produces video and audio content on location every week, from podcasts with investment specialists to video interview panels with financial experts:
“We want to make sure we’re always delivering very honest, actionable, thought-provoking content that structures how our members connect with each other. We produce a piece of video content a day. We produce at least two podcasts a day. So far, we’ve produced over 400 pieces of video content within 14 or 16 months.”
In addition to videos and podcasts, Octo Members also provides its members with media-rich articles written by in-house writers, and access to online events, training, workshops, and daily check-ins.
The next step? Lee is exploring mastermind groups and online courses for additional support to Octo Members:
“We think of them less as courses and more as virtual venues. It’s just another dynamic way to roll out information that our members will find really helpful.”
Lee is also working on ways to keep people from feeling overly isolated during the pandemic, including a virtual pub gathering on Wednesday nights, and an upcoming weekly water cooler session on Thursdays:
“We want to get people on and engaged, and tell them, “Listen, if you’re just feeling a bit low, and you want to touch base with the rest of your people that you’ve not seen in a while, come on in.” Continuing to make these connections and getting value? That’s why we’re here.”
Building new practices and positive habits
As Octo Members continues to grow, Lee continues to find new ways to bring larger players into the membership and monetize his latest venture. He’s recently established “sponsored groups” within the community, headed by trusted companies in the financial sector. Now he’s incorporating virtual conferences, and fielding commissions for video content from a variety of financial brands and companies, too:
“We’re hoping to branch out with Octo Content Studios in the future. What we’re producing now has attracted interest from people that, in the early days, wouldn’t even look at us.”
Even so, Octo Members is still community first:
“Because we’re a community first and foremost, we want to make sure we’re putting our members first, especially in the current climate. We want them to know, we’ve been here, we’re still here, and we’ll continue to be here.”
3 key takeaways from Octo Members’ Story of Awesome
- It’s fine to figure it out as you go. Lee and his fellow co-founders started with a clear purpose: create a dedicated community space for UK-based professionals in the financial sector. But even now, Octo Members continues to experiment with their weekly and daily structure. That’s perfectly fine: no matter what they always offer members a rich experience and a path to success.
- And don’t be afraid to try new things. Lee is eager to try new tactics, from online courses to mastermind groups, and make them work for him. The resources you offer don’t have to fit any particular mold. They just have to be in line with your community’s goals and motivations.
- A successful community gives its members the safety to be vulnerable and navigate challenges together. Finding a platform where he could secure the privacy of each and every Octo Member was essential to Lee. Not only does that added security encourage members to be open and authentic, but it also gives them the space to be vulnerable enough to face their challenges, together.