Planning with Acumen
Dynamic director duo Keith Mackie and David Gow (pictured in the middle) of Aberdeen-based Acumen Financial Planning are first up in our list of star Scottish advisers.
The business has twice featured on the cover of our magazine - once in 2008 and once in February last year - and Mackie and Gow made it two in a row this year by winning our regional award for Scotland for the second time running.
According to our latest profile on the firm, Acumen has around £435 million in funds under advice, with 89% recurring income.
'I’ve had people come up and say "you’ve changed my life". It’s fantastic, and it’s a great feeling.'
'All I've ever seen is evolution.'
Creating and Prospering
Graeme Inglis (pictured), director of Create and Prosper (C&P) Financial Services, moved from the world of bank advice to heading up a New Model Adviser® top 100 firm by focusing on a strong service proposition with a personalised approach.
After getting frustrated with the 'target mentality' of bank advice, Inglis decided the time was right to go it alone and create his own business. The retail distribution was on its way, so a fee-based business was the future.
It is safe to say Inglis has not looked back since.
‘I got frustrated with the target mentality and having too many clients to look after. I have always wanted to run my own business, so I thought, with the RDR coming, it was time. A fee basis and getting the firm chartered were important from day one.’
One step ahead with Wealthflow
Duncan Glassey, founding partner of Edinburgh-based Wealthflow, first featured as a New Model Adviser® cover star in 2008, but returned to our front cover in May last year.
Glassey (pictured), who was a chess prodigy from the age of nine and still plays the occasional tournament at international level, describes chess as central to his ability to think about things strategically. This has enabled him to develop his niche for helping those who suddenly come into money, such as lottery winners or those who win claims for personal injury.
When we last profiled the business in 2017, Glassey had £120 million of funds under advice, with 100% recurring income.
‘The families need our help. Parents are fearful about what to do with this money, for example who will look after their child when they are gone.’
Glasgow based Murphy Wealth's strapline is 'refreshingly simple,' which says a lot about managing director Adrian Murphy's approach to life and business.
Murphy (pictured) sees his business as a beacon of originality in an otherwise 'dull' financial advice market. This approach even filters through to the decoration and dresscode in the Murphy Wealth office. The walls are green and pink, and Murphy has half-joked that suits are banned.
When the business was last profiled in 2017, the business held a projected £70 million in funds under advice, with 60% recurring income.
'We’re the punks of financial services. The punk thing appeals to me a lot, because I think our industry is ripe for change and something different.'
Burns McKnight celebrations
Graham McKnight, of Glasgow-based McKnight financial, left Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2009 when it was at its lowest ebb, to go it alone with a fee-only advice proposition. When he means alone, he really does mean alone.
Among the things that McKnight (pictured) is opposed to is using discretionary fund managers.
‘I don’t believe in handing it over to someone else. I believe most [funds invested with DFMs] end up in model portfolios,' he said in our 2014 profile of the business.
'Also doing it in-house allows us to assess carefully whether the portfolio is tracking the clients’ needs in terms of risk.’
‘Clients were always asking me how I was at that time. I had an epiphany and realised they deal with me, not the brand that had been above me since I was 17. That gave me the confidence that I could do it myself.’
Welsh winning in Scotland
Having previously worked at HSBC Actuaries and Consultants, where he dealt with ‘board room director types’, Ken Welsh set up IFA Anderson Welsh in 2002.
It took eight years to build a core of 50 clients, who were typically aged 55 and over and initially preparing for an important life event, such as selling a business or retiring from a profession.
In 2004, he merged with Ian Vance and Fergus Muirhead to create VWM. The idea was to gain strength in numbers and facilitate growth, but he later split from both; Vance in 2005 and Muirhead in 2010.
Welsh then brought in consultant Brett Davidson of FP Advance to improve systems he felt were not strong enough, and gradually turned the business around. When he was our cover star in 2014, he had resized the business from 247 active clients to just 58, with 90% recurring income.
‘The systems weren’t strong enough,’ he says. ‘Brett implemented a best-of-breed process and system aimed at improving performance for clients.’
The iconic monument to the Duke of Wellington is what led sisters and directors Nicola and Jennifer Ellis to name their firm Wellington Wealth, and despite some initial upheaval, the name has stuck (just like the traffic cone which permanently adorns the statue itself).
When New Model Adviser® head of audience development Ian Horne profiled the business last year, the firm had already racked up £38 million in funds under advice in two years, thanks to some clients inherited from the Ellis sisters' father Raymond Ellis, who works part-time for Wellington on its investment proposition and compliance processes.
Typical Wellington clients are in their 50s, and are usually business owners or professionals such as accountants, lawyers and doctors. Indeed, Nicola Ellis has noticed similarities between them all. 'When we looked at our client back we realised everyone was quite realised with their income,' she said.
'They're not extravagent people; they're conscientious savers with realistic expectations of retirement.'
Jennifer Ellis: 'We're not the kinds of people to sit on the sofa.'
Nicola Ellis: (on having children and running a business) 'It was a shock to the system. But we kind of had to do it, and you just have to get on with it. You can, if you put your mind to it.’
Ailsa Brown started her firm in 1993, way back when it was simply named Neilson Brown.
Introductions from lawyers, accounts and mailshots helped her in the early years but it was a merger in 2003 with Gilliland & Co Financial Servuces that really set the ball rolling on a bright business's future.
'That was the biggest springboard,' Brown told New Model Adviser® head of audience development Ian Horne when he profiled her business last year.
'Prior to that it was just me, and there's a limit to what you can do by yourself in a little office.'
'If we don't have happy clients then we don't have a business.'
Return of the RobMac...
We put Edinburgh-based financial planning firm Robson Macintosh on our front cover way back in 2011, but the business is still going strong.
Indeed, IFA Lisa Davies is now lead adviser at the firm, which is jointly directed by Jeffrey Lewis and Andrew Hannay (both pictured above).
After a difficult time in 2007 with an acquisition that ended with the acquiree leaving with the majority of his clients, the business bounced back to become a fee-based new model firm.
'We adopted wrap, kicking off with Transact and Standard Life,' Hannay said.
'But Nucleus is our preferred wrap now and we have been shaping most of our business around that.'
‘We are advisory not discretionary. That’s good as it means more client contact. With discretionary, you might not see the changes to the portfolio until a year later.'
Lowland Financial managing director and keen musician Graeme Mitchell has come a long way to becoming sole adviser at his Galashiels-based firm.
Mitchell is now supported by three administrative staff, and, when we profiled him in 2014, he seemed perfectly content with advising on his own.
'I am more than happy to be just me, in control of what I do and not having to supervise anyone or worry about what they are doing, how and how much,' he said.
However, in September last year it was announced that advice consolidator Loyal North (which is backed by Fusion Asset Management) had bought Lowland Financial on a five-year buy-out deal.
Loyal North will take over from Mitchell as he prepares for retirement in the next four to five years.
'I need to find another adviser in the next couple of years so there's a proper handover,' he said.
We wish him a happy retirement and many happy gigs with his band 'Borderline.'
'Increasingly, my clients have been asking when I am going to retire, and now that the right time, the right company and the right circumstances have arisen, it is great to give them peace of mind.'