The directors and staff of the financial planning and discretionary business bought fellow founding director and previous CEO Lee Robertson’s shares, as he decided to move on to pastures new.
West talks us through the deal, explaining how it was as an amicable parting of the ways, with Robertson remaining an adviser to Investment Quorum.
Since West was a Wealth Manager cover star in 2012, the company has doubled its assets under management and she plans to continue growing the business, now she is in charge. So, how is she finding the role?
What drove the management buyout and how has it changed the business?
‘It’s a happy separation. Lee and I had worked together for 18 years, but he wanted to do something else.
‘Lee is a critical friend to the business, he serves as a consultant to the board and is a key introducer to the business, so there is nothing murky in this. It is just that after 18 years, with Lee and I having founded the business, we wanted to do slightly different things – I wanted to stay concentrated in financial planning and he wanted to go off and work on different stuff.
‘Our legacy and his legacy is a really strong, fundamentally successful financial planning and discretionary fund management business.
‘Since the management buyout, the only difference is probably that all of the staff are now shareholders. That means that all of the staff are aligned with the clients in terms of the future growth of the business.’
How have you found being CEO?
‘Under Lee’s leadership our business grew phenomenally. We have more than doubled our assets under management over the last six years. We are building on the legacy Lee left us.
‘The key difference in taking on the CEO role is you are in the hot seat day in day out. [But] I don’t think leadership is something new for me because I have always run the client side of the business.
‘As a business, we believe in taking our best people and making them better at their own jobs. Peter Lowman is running the discretionary offering as chief investment officer. So my role is really just to keep the whole thing together.
‘What is interesting is the perception of a female CEO has garnered a lot of interest, but those are the opportunities Investment Quorum offers to all women in its business. From our head of operations, Lisa Ryall, it is embraced all the way through the company.’
How will you continue to build on this growth trajectory?
‘Of our new business, 80% comes from our existing client bank. This could be referrals to family or friends, so we are growing quite organically. We are also looking at acquisitions at the moment.
‘We are keen to look at smaller size businesses than ours. Where there is aligned culture, we believe that we can offer an investment solution for other smaller businesses.’
What is the biggest challenge on the horizon for wealth management?
‘What will happen is that our solutions will be available to less and less of the middle affluent market because under the terms of the regulatory environment, from Mifid II to the reporting directive, it will not be possible to deliver high level solutions at a reasonable cost to middle affluent people.
‘So in whatever shape or form you want to pay your adviser, if it’s fees or funds under management, becomes increasingly difficult to deliver an added value service when fees are below £2,500 a year.
‘It’s difficult for any firm to do that. This could be the advent of robo advice solutions, but let’s watch and see if these robo investment solutions’ algorithms can survive through tough economic climates. I don’t know whether machine learning can take over client specific financial advice – right now man is beating the machines.’