Tilney chief: we give our advisers control but avoid anarchy

Tilney has 30 offices around the UK, including in major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London, and £24 billion of assets under advice. You may even have seen billboard adverts for its advice services at your local railway station.

It is a large and growing business with aspirations to add more advisers through acquisitions, as well as its training academy. But it also serves a broad church of clients and has to offer a range of service options.

Former boss of RAC, Chris Woodhouse, took the driving seat at Tilney 12 months ago. He says the challenge is to give its advisers the right degree of autonomy, avoiding cookie cutter comparisons, while maintaining standards and accountability.

What level of autonomy do Tilney advisers have? 

There has to be some degree of oversight and a framework of control that sits around it from the centre because you cannot have anarchy. But if you give people accountability and responsibility for running their bit of the business and allow them to make decisions around things, they are best placed to do it. And you get a better result. [All Tilney’s advisers are employed].

Do you have a set financial planning process?

We deal with quite a broad spectrum of clients. There are people at relatively low asset values that have quite homogeneous and relatively non-complex requirements and they fit more neatly into a more mechanical approach. But we have people with many millions of pounds of assets who require a much more bespoke approach. 

Say a potential client just wanted you to invest an ISA. Would you be able to deal with that person?

We have a telephone investment service. We have a sub-brand investment that can give people the ability to execute trades on their own or have some kind of advisory service.

What is Tilney doing to train the next generation of advisers?

Having upward flow and young people coming in is a sign of a healthy business. So, the fact we have young people coming in as graduates, taking their exams and moving up through the management structure of the business, eventually taking on a client book, is really healthy.

I would like to see more of it over the coming years. We have an academy programme internally, but it could be more structured. We encourage achieving chartered status, but it is not mandatory. [Around 60% of Tilney’s advisers are chartered].

What is your investment process?

We offer a number of different solutions in terms of investments, depending on what the client requirements are. Under the Bestinvest brand, advisers can construct execution-only portfolios themselves and get some advice from us on doing that. 

We have a series of centrally managed portfolios, which were put together by the chief investment officer and his team. And we have bespoke portfolios that were put together by around 100 investment managers around the business. They tend to be for people that have specific requirements in terms of how they want that portfolio put together.

It is not all discretionary. We have some advisory portfolios and we also have execution-only stuff, where people are managing it themselves.

You said clients come from both ends of the wealth spectrum. Is robo-advice a threat?

We already have a digital platform through Bestinvest. And we deliver a wealth planning and investment management service over the telephone. So, it would be a logical step to bring those together with a digital front-end.

I do not have anything specific to say, but do I think it is an interesting development opportunity? Yes, I do.