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What's up in the North - catching up with Sanlam's Teesside office

What's up in the North - catching up with Sanlam's Teesside office

It seems fitting that the first of Wealth Manager’s 2018 regional instalments brings us to the North of England, amid reports that plans for the Northern Powerhouse might actually be kicking off, writes Eleanor Mahmoud. Transport for the North, the new regional transport body, is set to publish its plans for improving transport links between cities in the North this week.

Admittedly, this is not exactly what I am here to speak to Sheila Tindle about, but you can hardly blame me for wanting her opinion. Tindle is the head of Sanlam Private Wealth’s Teesside office.

‘The North East has, in the past, been seen as an area which struggled economically, with people often thinking of the issues with the steel industry,’ she begins. ‘But the Northern Powerhouse initiative has sparked much more interest in the region.’

Tindle, like many, recognises there does appear to have been a focus on Manchester and the North West in George Osborne’s original plans. She is keen to see them make waves into the North East as well:

‘We’ll wait to see how it will ripple through to us in due course too. The intent is still there, although it will probably take a few years to get going enough to really permeate.’

Speaking of a few years, this is all the time it has taken for Sanlam’s team in Teesside to fully integrate itself into the wealth management space there. Opening in March 2014, the team of six now manage £125 million in assets under management for over 300 clients.

Tindle was born and bred in the area, as were a number in her team. She highlights this as a reason why the firm wanted to open an office in Teesside.

‘We have a sound knowledge of what’s required in the area and Sanlam saw that as an opportunity to work with us,’ she says. Tindle goes on to make the point that the team already knew what the area was like, what people wanted and conversely what they would not want.  

I question if there was truly a big enough gap in the market for Sanlam to open its third office in the region. The national firm already has teams on the ground in Harrogate and Kirkby Lonsdale. Tindle certainly thinks so, explaining that the other offices are one and two hours away from Teeside respectively and that in itself, presented an opportunity for a new client base in the area.

‘You won’t see as many firms operating here as you would do in Manchester, but that’s not to say there isn’t wealth here that requires assistance.’

With a healthy average portfolio size of £350,000, the large majority of the team’s clients are local. Tindle defines this as around 90% based within an hour’s drive and 80% within half an hour. She acknowledges that this level of accessibility is appreciated amongst clients, who increasingly want a local service:

‘That is where we score really highly in this area. I think the further north you go, the more people feel like that.’

Tindle explains that the team of six are the same team of six who first opened the office in 2014. Such small turnover is no doubt testament to an enjoyable and stable working environment, however I wonder whether no new hires is a choice the team have actively made or whether it is, in fact, due to a lack of choice.

Keen to get Tindle’s thoughts on whether she agrees with the sweeping statement we often hear - that young talent migrates to the South and big cities - I ask whether this is a challenge they find themselves faced with.

‘It’s fair to recognise that is a slight issue – people often feel they have to start out by cutting their teeth in the city, although I personally didn’t and at least one of my colleagues didn’t.’

She goes on to say:

‘Sometimes you don’t have the same options for taking on a new person as you would in the South. You have to recognise that the talent pool, in terms of young people, is greater [there]. However, you often find people saying ‘I’m from the North and I’d like to stay in the North’. Hopefully the people who think like that will be available to us when we look for them.

‘At the moment we’re happy with the numbers we’ve got, so it doesn’t cause too much of an issue but if we do want to look to expand then it’s something we’ll have to work with.’

Tindle explains they are focusing on expanding the business they have built to date and would look to grow the existing team should the right person come along:

‘We are always open to individuals or teams who are looking for a suitable home, whether that be investment management or financial planning. However, we won’t take someone who’s not a good fit for us or our clients.’

Unable to put a timeframe on a new hire, we will have to watch this space. They are however, building new relationships through networking and Sanlam is seeing out partnerships with other professional firms to add another string to their bow.

Tindle reveals she started working in 1984 and has always worked in the North East. With this in mind, I take my chance to ask her about the best parts:

‘The best part about operating here is that we can build a really good relationship with clients, who generally speaking are very loyal. We’ve worked with some clients for 20 to 30 years.’

‘It’s also a great place to work in that as I look out of my window at work I can see the hills. It’s so nice to be close to the countryside. We also have a pretty short commute!’

She tells me the team supported the Cascade fundraising campaign by walking up three of said peaks in 24 hours. It is no wonder then that Tindle responds to my next question as follows:

‘Recommendations for visitors? Definitely things like walking. We have good countryside, nice old towns and great places to eat in both.’

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