From Exeter to Edinburgh: around the UK in 30 advice firms

9 January 2017

Edinburgh: a natural contrarian

At New Model Adviser® we love to talk to people who go against the grain a bit.

So it was no surprise that our very own head of audience development Ian Horne had a great time when he sat down with Alan Steel (pictured), chairman of Alan Steel Asset Management in Edinburgh in January last year.

Steel has passed the billion-pound assets under management mark through organic growth alone, neither buying nor merging with other businesses as many of his peers do.

Moreover, he is a steely critic of 'evidence-based investing'. So do not ever go all salesman-like with your passive options to him. 

Top quote:

[On exchange-traded funds (ETFs)]: 'They should be called emotional trading failures.'

30 January 2017

Northern Ireland: out with the old, in with the Newry

David Crozier, director at Newry-based Navigator Financial Planning, told our audience development team all about his thriving business when they paid him a visit in late January last year.

Although the population of Northern Ireland makes up just under 3% of the UK's overall population, we were told there are around 14,000 millionaires in Northern Ireland.

But it is not just business types that Crozier attracts. His online service - 'Destination Financial Planning' - was set up in 2015 to encourage young professionals to invest.

Top quote:

'There's absolutely enough clients to go around here.'


6 February 2017

Brighton: Skerritt's on the skyline

When New Model Adviser®'s audience development team visited eight-times regional award winner Richard Skerritt in Brighton in February last year, he was late for the meeting.

And no wonder. He is a busy guy running an increasingly busy firm that features famous clients on its books. 

At the time, Skerritt was hurtling towards the £1 billion assets under management mark, and has since broken through that barrier. He even sent us some billionaire shortbread as a gift. Cheers, Richard!

Top quote:

'As you get older your values in life change. It's important we have a good atmosphere and I'm more aware of that now instead of just looking at the numbers.'

30 January 2017

London: the grass is always greener

We love a good story about young advisers making their way in the financial planning profession.

James Greenly, chartered financial planner at Capital Asset Management is only in his mid-twenties but has already spent a decade in financial services. 

Having been booted out of the car at age 16 by his dad, Greenly took his CV into several firms, one of which was former New Model Adviser® coverstar RJL IFA.

The rest, as they say, is history...

Top quote:

'I've taken exams to help people achieve their goals. But if I have to move a pension from A to B and charge x% because I want my bonus and a holiday, well that doesn't seem right to me. That's why our flat fee for service approach works so well.'


20 February 2017

Sheffield: Raj to riches

Raj Shah didn't come from a wealthy family.

As he himself admitted to our audience development team in February last year:

'My family started from nothing. There's been no silver spoon. My grandad went from India to Kenya in the 1930s and started a business there. My dad left Kenya in the late 1960s and opened a family business in the 1970s. He started off selling ice creams outside the Tower of London.'

It is no suprise then that Shah cites setting up Blue Wealth Capital as his best business decision. His 'ultimate career ambition' is to ensure the legacy of his work with clients continues for future generations.

Top quote:

'My dad told me: "you'll never make any real money working for someone else. You need to be the maker of your own destiny."'


27 February 2017

Swansea: fresh firm, firm following

Planet 3 Wealth may be a mere two (and a bit) years old, but it has experienced heads at the helm who are making waves in Wales.

It was formed by directors Christopher Morgan, Nick Romanello and Richard Stephens (pictured), who were originally self-employed advisers at Hedley Asset Management but departed on amicable terms with their clients to set up shop alone.

When our audience development team visited the team in February last year, they told us that clients in the local area have a pretty deep rooted attitude to money. Many work in steel or the public sector, so money has always been about saving for a rainy day.

'Swansea has a lot of people working in the public sector, such as the council and the NHS,' says Romanello. 'It was always a case of putting money away for a rainy day and that mentality is deep rooted.'

Top quote: 

'We'd like to advise everyone but it's whether there's enough value in that. It's hard having to turn people away.'

6 March 2017

Bournemouth: strategic success

When New Model Adviser® head of audience development Ian Horne popped up to trendy sky bar Level8ight in the Bournemouth Hilton, the weather was exceptionally poor.

He photographed Strategic Solutions' business principals Jefferson Fawcett, Giles Wellington, Kevin Forbes and Allan Cruse on the bar's balcony, in what looks to the reader like an extremely wet and windy day on the coast. But the guys had plenty to be smiling about.

By that point, the business had already built up an impressive £330 million in assets under management within six years, completely organically.

What is more, the business's separate discretionary fund manager (DFM), Casterbridge Wealth, was a product of the business questioning its values in response to previous changes in DFM choice.

Top quote:

'Quote often, the people you thought you'd selected at the start weren't the people you got in the end.'

20 March 2017

Glasgow: Russelling up breakfast

When our very own Ian Horne visited Glasgow-based Davidson Asset Management managing director Russell Davidson in March last year, the pair sat down for breakfast and discussed all things advice, hotels and customer care.

As it turns out, Davidson's hotelier clients inspire him every day to put the very best of hospitality and customer care into his work as a financial adviser. 

During a special VIP stay at the Dorchester in London, Davidson recalls being taken aback when the receptionist knew his name as he checked in.

'They circulate a VIP list every day, and a photo of those on it, so they'll know who you are,' he said.

'It's all about going the extra mile, to make you feel special. It's incredible.'

Top quote:

'I once told [a hotelier client] that what he did was brilliant, and he replied: "we just provide a bed and food. We should be good at it, we do it every day."'


13 March 2017

Glasgow: a stark reminder

Glasg0w-based Murphy Wealth's Ciaran Stark may self-deprecatingly have described himself as a bit of a 'spare part' within this coverstar advice firm, but the way we would put is different.

Clearly, Stark is a financial services protégé. Managing director Adrian Murphy met Stark for the first time when the latter was in the second year of his finance, investment and risk degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. Stark won an award for receiving the best marks on his course, an award which was sponsored by none other than Murphy Wealth.

The pair then struck up a conversation that led to a summer internship. The rest is history. Stark enjoyed a summer in Florida before returning to Glasgow to take up a full-time job with Murphy. When we spoke to him, his role was still extremely varied. But for that Stark was grateful, because it allowed him an in-depth insight into all sides of the business.

Top quote:

'The best part is being able to oversee the whole business. In a massive firm I don't think I'd be able to develop the kind of experience I'm getting here.'

3 April 2017

Exeter: Emma aims high

Emma Ames' story is pretty inspiring. She began working in administration at the age of 16, and has worked her way to becoming the driving force behind a leading IFA practice which in April last year had more than £300 million in assets under advice. 

Ames is now director and chartered financial planner at Exeter-based Cathedral Financial Management. When she joined the firm in 2000, there were only two advisers with client banks.

Fast forward to the present day and the business has, at the most recent count, a seven-strong team of financial planners. What's the secret to this success? Well, read her top quote:

Top quote:

'I am exceptionally efficient: my bugbear is anybody wasting time. That's probably the fourth time I've said that today.'

10 April 2017

Manchester: 'there's no way I want to be an accountant'

Manchester-based ethical advice firm Castlefield has a keen interest in fostering young talent. So, when Ian Horne visited then-paraplanner and sub-adviser Liam Taylor, he was keen to hear about how this young gun was getting on.

Taylor, achieved a first class degree in accounting and finance from the University of Wolverhampton but realised his initial career plan left a little to be desired. 

'About half way through I thought: "there's no way I want to be an accountant."'

A glance across the office to the wealth management team at previous employer Torquil Clark (now Bellpenny) in Wolverhampton opened his eyes to a new opportunity.

'After six months I realised I wanted to move into wealth management,' he said.

The pull of friends and family to the north eventually sealed the deal and Taylor moved to Manchester to start at Castlefield.

Top quote:

'Client objectives can be so diverse. It's not just about money for the client, but the wider environment and other stakeholders. People have bespoke needs, and people are having more discussions about what their money actually does.'

Liam Taylor left Castlefield in July last year. He is now a paraplanner at Manchester-based Concerva Limited.

18 April 2017


When our audience development team sat down for breakfast with Devonshire Wealth Management director Nick Townsend, they had not quite bargained for sausages as good as the ones they got.

'I do not often dwell on reviewing the food, but I was left feeling as though I had moved up in the world. The sausage leave no grease marks on the plate and the baked beans are served in a silver cup,' our own Ian Horne wrote last year.

If Ian felt he had moved up in the world based on a few lovely bangers, one can only imagine how Townsend felt. He'd already smashed the £100 million in assets under management mark and looked set to continue successful organic growth in its mortgage and financial advice arms.

Top quote:

'You'd think, being on the corner of Harley Street, we'd only deal with the medical profession. But we haven't focussed on that. Our clients are spread far and wide.'

2 May 2017

Cambridge: Gibbs Denley gives lesson in M&A

It is a topic that will be earning the column inches in New Model Adviser® for the foreseeable future. Indeed, with current mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity showing little sign of abating, we are sure there will be plenty to write about in the future.

One man who gave us an on-the-road masterclass in all things M&A was David Ellis, director of Cambridge-based Gibbs Denley Group. At the time of our meeting, his firm had completed no fewer than 20.

Top quote:

'The danger is you can lose focus on what selling business is. You can forget the reason the business is a success, which is because its directors have done a good job for the clients.'

8 May 2017

Back to Glasgow, back of the net

Here at New Model Adviser® we spend a lot of time on the road meeting IFAs all over the UK.

But it is a rare treat to meet an IFA who is also a Scottish League Cup winner, quite apart from interviewing them as part of our Fresh Faces series. 

Former Hibernian star Kevin McCann still plays football for Scottish third tier side Albion Rovers, but nowadays he spends the vast majority of his time playing centre forward trainee financial adviser at Independent Benefit Consultancy (IBC) in Glasgow. 

While playing football in Singapore (!) McCann began thinking about life after football, and before he knew it a conversation with IBC's managing director Ken Simpson led to a job. 

Top quote:

'I'm being taught the best way to do things, and if it's not the best thing for the client we won't proceed.'

15 May 2017

Aberdeen: Kerr-ching...

In keeping with the topic of M&A, we found another IFA on the road who counts M&A activity as among his proudest business achievements.

Andy Kerr, managing director of McHardy Financial, sat down with our audience development team last May to talk all about his goal to make McHardy a leading Scottish IFA business.

At the time, McHardy had already completed two acquisitions, but Kerr hinted that more could be on the way. We are still keeping an eye on that particular story, but if it does enter a new chapter we are sure Kerr's words of wisdom will be as useful as they are relevant. 

Top quote:

'Our philosophy is we need to continue to work hard and sometimes we will need to work harder than others. If we can do that, hopefully we can succeed.'

22 May 2017: 

Bournemouth: client boom brings big business to IFA businesses

It was a bumpy ride from Bounemouth train station for New Model Adviser®'s audience development team, but they could not have been greeted with a better picture on arrival.

Surveying the Bournemouth advice market with the help of Atkins Bland investment analyst and financial adviser Robert Carter, it came as no surprise that Bournemouth's popularity as a retirement haven was keeping business for both him and other IFAs extremely buoyant. 

Top quote:

'There are more than enough [clients] to go round. In the last month we've taken on about 12 to 15 new clients. Usually we take on one or two a month.'

30 May 2017:

Plymouth: Just what the doctor ordered

Chartered financial planner Simon Lake is well and truly settled in to Sound Financial Planning, having joined as a graduate 15 years ago. 

While not hiking to the top of Dartmoor National Park, he's helping the firm to the top, with three acquisitions in the past seven years and swanky new offices. 

'Doctors with pension or tax planning queries is a big area for us,' he says.

Top quote:

'We've increased our professional connections in the legal space and do more trust work these days.'

19 June 2017

Bristol: Bringing in business

Our audience development team found Bristol to be a good alternative to London. It's still in the south and an affluent city, with the bonus of lower property prices. 

Firms such as Sovereign IFA and Elite Financial Consulting have made it their home and its young population and young businesses are expanding. 

Top quote:

'Entrepreneurs or business owners are one of our key target markets at Sovereign, so it's a great place for us to advise,' Mark Hibbitt, Sovereign IFA.

24 July 2017

Newcastle takes the biscuit

When our audience development team visited Ian Lowes, managing director of Lowes Financial, last summer, he had helped the firm achieve nearly £900 million of assets under management and a team of more than 70 staff. 

A new office might have been a risk but he has continued to grow the firm and its team at a steady pace. And he has no plans to stop growing yet. 

Top quote:

'A wiser man once told me that building a team is like making a cake. If you add the right ingredients in the right proportions you can make the cake bigger, but one wrong ingredient can ruin the whole thing.' 

31 July 2017

Oadby: Scoring success

For John Steptoe, a weekly five-a-side proved more than a fun kickabout. It's where he first heard about careers in financial services, later joining teammate Chris Parker as a paraplanner and later adviser at GP3. 

31-year-old Steptoe has now also started a family and spends his mornings working employed at GP3 and his afternoons self-employed. 

Top quote:

'I take a week off every summer to help lead a children's summer camp run by our local church. Also my wife and I sponsor a child in Kakira, Uganda, through Compassion UK. We visited her in 2011.'

30 October 2017

Peterborough: Key to finding top talent

Henson Crisp operations manager Georgina Key loves paperwork. And that's not even sarcasm. So she's perfect for a role that includes office management, paraplanning, admin, recruitment and development. 

Key says her favourite part of the role is building relationships with clients and her team, and she puts particular emphasis on maintaining Henson Crisp's culture and ethos when recruiting. 

Top quote:

'Until you meet somebody, you won't see what kind of person they are. I need to find people with a personality that will complement everyone else in the office.'

20 November 2017

London: Serving up advice

London's Duck and Waffle restaurant is an apt meeting place for George Bugakov and the audience development team because the EA Financial Solutions trainee financial planner used to own a restaurant himself. 

Sadly for the hospitality industry, but happily for the advice profession, his restaurant dreams were short-lived. And after meeting EA managing director Minesh Patel, a mentor-protege relationship was formed. 

Top quote:

'The experience I have gained so far has been invaluable.' 

27 November 2017

London: Ethical ethos

Ethical investing is the name of the game at London-based Holden & Partners. And the firm's £450 million funds under advice suggests it's going well. 

Managing partner Steve Pyne says he has seen more interest in this type of investing from young people. 'The children of clients don't want to be investing in things that harm the environment, or things such as armaments and tobacco,' he says. 

Top quote:

'The message is that we are not stuffy and unapproachable, but equally we are reliable and in it for the long term.' 

11 December 2017

Birmingham: Birmingham's big issue

When we sat down with Aurora Financial Planning financial planner Aj Somal at a coffee shop on Colmore Row in the city's business district, he made it very clear that Birmingham is a good place to give financial advice.

However, he was concerned that not enough young people were entering financial advice as a career, especially given that the city has the most number of people under 25 years old in Europe.

Top quote:

'Financial advice firms need to follow the lead of accountancy firms and attend university and schools frequently, so students understand the career path sooner.'


8 January 2018

Dorset: Fresh face Roberts in it for the long haul

After sitting her A-levels, Simone Roberts decided that she did not want to go to university. Instead, she found herself back in the financial services. She is now committed to becoming an adviser.

Having held various small roles, in 2014 a paraplanning opportunity arose at Dorset-based Ward Goodman, where Roberts has been ever since. She has now taken her mortgage exam but is in no rush to sit all her exams in quick succession.

Top quote:

'I have wanted to be an adviser for a long time because of the client contact, the satisfaction of helping people and guiding them to make financial decisions.'

15 January 2018

Manchester: the way it has to be

When we visited Olivia Bowen, partner at Manchester-based Castlefield she told us all about managing change. She seems a bit of an expert on it.

From joining Gaeia in 1999 before it eventually merged with Castlefield to the merged business's own acquisition of Barchester Green in 2015, it is safe to say that Bowen has embraced a lot of change.

Indeed, she admits that sometimes it was frustrating. In particular, the repapering process that took place prior to the retail distribution review and after the Castlefield-Gaeia merger was particularly difficult. But it seems as though the acceptance of change is now firmly embedded in the business's mindet, as our top quote below displays. 

Top quote:

'Transitioning to having back-0ffice data for everything was hard to accept. But when I did, it was such a pivotal moment. It gets so much easier once you accept that's the way it has to be.'

22 January 2018

London: diversity dilemma 

EA Financial Solutions' managing director Minesh Patel had strong opinions on diversity, so if you have big ideas about how to push the planning profession forward, we would like to visit you too. When we visited him earlier this year, however, he set the bar pretty high.

'The way we can get a higher proportion of younger clients and service a wider population is by having more diverse firms,' he told us.

To combat an ageing profession, Patel believes, as many of his colleagues do, that firms should recruit younger advisers. Younger clients will follow suit, he said. Quite literally. 

Top quote:

'The diversity situation has not changed since I started off. The profession is serving the wealthier individual, generally middle-aged and middle class. Therefore the type of person servicing that body of work is naturally not diverse.'

29 January 2018

Rugby: paraplanner's progression

Perry Appleton's Jeevan Manak is not that bothered about the money. Like many others of his profession, he fell into financial advice 'by chance,' after a summer internship at an insurance company. Here he learned about the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).

Resilience carried him through several paraplanning jobs, some of which were cut short by cost-cutting exercises, before he landed on his feet at Rugby's Perry Appleton. The key to it? Confidence, he told us.

Top quote:

Confidence and ambition stand out. People are aware there is an age gap in the market. If you're at university and haven't secured an internship, just call local IFA firms and ask for a week of work experience. The worst thing that could happen is they say no.'

5 February 2018

Edinburgh: comedy capers encourage client confidence

Edinburgh is not just known for its beautiful scenery, delightful architechture and rich history. It is also a financial hub for some of the biggest business names in the world. Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life both hold headquarters in the city. 

So what on earth would that have to do with comedy?

Well, when we spoke to Murray Asset Management financial planning director Richard Johnson, he said that the annual Edinburgh Festival is great for business.

Top quote:

'The city gets so energetic during the festival. Clients come to enjoy it, which is great for networking.'

12 February 2018

Bath: finding your niche

For Bath-based Epoch Wealth Management, the key to building a good firm is finding a niche.

But when we say finding it, we do not just mean sitting back and waiting for it to jump up in front of you. Epoch have built theirs.

Customisation, in the form of the firm's specially built cashflow modelling system, is at the heart of the firm's success.

'It has become the beating heart of what we do,' business partner Markas Gilmartin told us earlier this year.

Top quote:

'It's not just about making the big decisions, it's about the little things coming together as well. It's all about continuous improvement.'