Recently appointed to work with well-known charity the RSPCA, Epoch Wealth Management has not only seen a big boost to their charity clients, but plenty of growth across the firm writes Eleanor Mahmoud.
Set up first and foremast as a financial planning business in 2010, the Bath-based team gained discretionary powers in 2014. Having started from scratch, the firm now houses 35 people. They look after Epoch’s £450 million assets under management, of which around £300 million is managed on a discretionary basis.
Speaking to Tom Annear, head of business development and marketing, I’m keen to hear more about this increased focus on charity clients.
‘We have a close working relationship with haysmacintyre, who are the largest auditors of charities in the UK,’ Annear explains. ‘Their client bank was the reason we developed this service.’
With regards to the RSPCA appointment, he continues:
‘This was a classic David and Goliath story, as we were probably the smallest firm in the running for that tender. I guess they saw the ability in us to achieve what they wanted as a charity.’
Annear explains that the split between Epoch’s private clients and charity clients is approximately 75:25 respectively, but the charity side is where they are seeing exponential growth.
‘For charities, we provide consulting services and take on some or all of their investment advisory needs. We act as an independent consultant and have influence on over £250 million of assets, which is separate to Epoch’s own AUM.’
It’s not just working with charities in a client capacity that Epoch is interested in, but it plays a notable part in contributing to the region’s economy by supporting local charities.
Annear has plenty to talk about on this front. Undeniably refreshing to hear a firm with such desire to willingly share in the community, he is keen to explain more:
‘Epoch subscribes to the Bath Percent Club. This is where businesses commit to giving a percentage of their profits to local charities,’ Annear begins. ‘In the last two years we have deployed over £30,000 to local charities. A whole host of different charities, ranging in size, have benefited from that money.’
Epoch’s focus is on charities with a slant towards children or the elderly, causes close to the team’s heart. Wherever possible, they stay as local to Bath as they can.
‘We don’t just donate money but we also encourage the team to donate time too. As part of our Christmas team outing last year, we split into groups and went out to help six different charities. Collectively we donated 300 hours of our time that day.’
Annear jokes that they did also treat themselves to a Christmas lunch and beers afterwards, but wanted to kick their team outing off with something a little different to the norm. Alongside the above, the firm also supports individual members of the team in their own personal charity endeavours.
Managing partner Barry Newbury and partner Jon Rolfe raised nearly £30,000 for charity by trekking across Costa Rica.
‘Another team member raised £20,000 for a local children’s hospice,’ Annear continues. ‘We are very proud of their efforts!’
It is clear that Epoch has a definitive presence in the South West of England. A mere 11 miles from Bristol, Annear has no reason to think they caught are under its shadow.
‘Bristol is still the financial hub of the South West but its dominance is waning. The presence of Hargreaves Lansdown, who are clearly a big player, is important. I wonder whether without that firm there would be as much focus on being located in Bristol,’ he questions.
However, the South West is a large region and we know well that the presence of wealth management firms decreases the further west you travel.
‘Maybe we think so [that Bristol’s dominance is waning] because Bath is located so close to Bristol that we don’t feel its effect. Perhaps if you were located down in Penzance, you might look more longingly at the bigger cities.’
Epoch’s financial planning arm is very much an integral part to the discretionary arm, the latter relying solely on the former to introduce clients. Recently expanding the team with an addition of an analyst, the team seem to be sitting in a relatively sweet spot.
‘We’ll undergo expansion as and when we need it. We have no specific plans to hire a certain number of staff in a certain timeframe, but as we push to grow our client numbers and assets under management this will lead to us needing more staff,’ Annear says.
Close proximity to the University of Bath and the University of Bristol means they do see a number of speculative contact from graduates:
‘The enquiry form on our website is most commonly used by people offering us search engine optimisation and enquiries by graduates – the latter being the encouraging one!’ he explains. ‘It’s inspiring both for the firm and also for the industry that people are viewing this as a viable career path.’
The firm’s plans for the next 12-18 months include building on the existing success they have seen to date but more specifically, expanding its capacity in the charity reporting space.
‘Reporting for private clients is not necessarily compatible with reporting for charity clients therefore we would like to grow our expertise in this area.’