Last year, Almus Wealth managing director Chris Holmes jetted off to Vietnam to visit his children, who had spent a few months traversing South East Asia. Holmes explains the attitudes of his children inspired him to reflect on how he runs his business.
‘My daughter volunteered at an orphanage in Cambodia for six weeks and now works at a school in Melbourne for children with autism. My son works for a homeless charity back in the UK, following his graduation from university. It’s great to see them work hard to change the world. It made me realise I have not made as much of an impact as I originally wanted to.’
Almus Wealth already offers an environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing proposition, with Holmes himself a big advocate of socially responsible investing (SRI). However, he admits he has not pushed this strategy enough, bringing in many of Almus Wealth’s clients on a traditional investment proposition. ‘I fear I have become part of the wider problem,’ says Holmes, stating he will now introduce impact investing early on.
‘I am seeking to market the firm fundamentally as an impact investment advice firm to our future clients. This may not get traction with all clients, but the discovery meeting brings out the key values of how clients wish to invest. Where we are not aligned, I am happy to wish them well and signpost alternatives, which may well lie elsewhere.’
Holmes clarifies he will not rush to change existing client’s propositions, although he will be bringing up his views on impact investing in client reviews. ‘It’s about finding the right balance. I don’t want to alienate our clients. We have made them a promise so we will deliver on that.’
Holmes believes there needs to be a change in the overall attitude towards investing. ‘There is still so much pushback. Many advisers do not seem to even contemplate incorporating SRI. I wonder if aligning client values with portfolio outcomes is properly considered during the client fact-find.’
As Holmes pushes ahead with this change of approach, Almus Wealth faces another interesting crossroads: remaining a niche business, or pushing for growth.
‘I like being under the radar,’ says Holmes. ‘It keeps away the consolidators.’ The firm is not large, but with a nine-year-old daughter, Holmes says he is not thinking about exit strategies for at least 10 years.
The future of advice
Whatever the firm decides, Holmes is extremely positive about the future of advice, and believes retiring IFAs will be replaced by young, well-qualified entrants to the profession. ‘There is a lot of fear about the number of advisers who are going to retire in the next few years,’ Holmes says. ‘But the talent coming through universities is amazing.’
Holmes’ wife is a lawyer, and there are a lot of good quality candidates her firm has to turn away each year because it has reached its quota. Meanwhile, advice firms are crying out for talented people.
‘The talent is there. We just need to open people’s eyes to the profession,’ he says. Holmes has pulled his weight, taking part in university talks for the Personal Finance Society. ‘You get some really good feedback from the students. Although I think it would come across better from someone a similar age to them.’ He believes firms should do more to show off their young talent, as this will attract more people to join the profession. ‘There seems to be a fear of showing off young advisers from some firms.’
Yet Holmes harbours some worries about the future, and is fully prepared for a drop off in referrals when he tells professional connections he is going to focus much more heavily on SRI. ‘We solely work from introducers,’ he explains. ‘The mission now is going to the accountants and lawyers to tell them this is our approach now. We want to do the right thing. We are going to back our proposition without compromise.’
What’s the best breakfast you have ever had?
Rosti and fried eggs high up, gazing at the Swiss Alps.
How do like your eggs?
Poached and very yellow.
What annoys you in the morning?
High winds, which are just about the only weather phenomenon to stop me from cycling to the office.
What is your career ambition?
To create a formidable, niche practice focusing on clients, who want to invest for positive social impact.
What’s your top tip?
Accept guidance from industry insiders judiciously; do your own research and try to break clear of established industry behaviours. Be your own person!