Adrian Murphy has embraced the challenge of standing out from the crowd, and a recent split of the business is designed to allow Murphy Wealth to tap into a lucrative share of the market.
Sometimes it is best to define yourself by saying what you are not, rather than what you are. This philosophy sits well with Adrian Murphy, who, as managing director of Murphy Wealth, has huge and unconventional ambitions for the future.
‘We’re the punks of financial services,’ he jokes, following his photoshoot at the BrewDog restaurant and bar in Glasgow’s rejuvenated Merchant City. ‘The punk thing appeals to me a lot, because I think our industry is ripe for change and something different,’ he adds.
ADRIAN MURPHY CV
2016-present Murphy Wealth, managing director
2014-2016 Murphy Wealth, partner
2004-2014 Murphy Financial*, associate partner
2002-2004 Three, technical support
*Same company as Murphy Wealth
BA Financial Services
What does different look like? In Murphy’s case, there are several distinguishing factors: he has a younger client bank than most due to his work with growing businesses; he has brought in a business coach to accelerate growth; he has introduced an adviser academy system to train up staff; and he lists marketing and PR firms among his most important professional connections.
Different is also an aesthetic, and the Murphy Wealth office is now decorated with dashes of unmistakable green and pink, rather than the usual ‘wealth manager blue’ that had previously adorned the walls. The dress code is a further consideration, and Murphy half-jokes that suits are banned in the office. ‘The vast majority of people we work with now don’t come to work in a suit,’ he says.
The new look is part of a rebrand that coincided with the firm’s 40th year in business. It includes the new ‘refreshingly simple’ tagline. ‘We put everything through that filter now,’ Murphy says. ‘If we can address the client’s needs, goals and how we’re going to achieve them and if we can make it presentable, engaging and understandable, that’s really worth something.’
It is clear Murphy also values enjoyment and entertainment. ‘Let’s not mince words – and I know I’ll get comments about this – but the industry is dull,’ he says. ‘We don’t all necessarily deliver things to clients in the way they’d like them delivered.’
Murphy is clearly trying to stand out. ‘We’re the "not them",’ he says, explaining that the national firms are the real competition, and reconfirming his punk status in the process. ‘One of the big pieces in our positioning project was positioning against. What do "they" do? Let’s do the opposite of that.’ Far from dismissing the other smaller firms in Glasgow, this is an observation that they rarely cross paths where clients are concerned.
For the Simply Wealth proposition Murphy Wealth plans to move to a flat-fee structure, though Murphy feels it is unwise to completely uncouple fees from assets due to the higher complexity and risk associated with larger figures.
For now, Murphy Wealth charges 2% or less for initial advice, and 1% or less for ongoing advice. Charge percentages will reduce on a tiered basis when assets are higher. In flat-fee terms, the minimum initial fee is £10,000 and the minimum annual fee is £5,000.
Murphy Wealth does not have a tier system for clients, but will generally speak to larger clients, or clients with complex needs, on a more frequent basis. The service is typically for clients with at least £500,000 of investable assets, but Murphy Wealth will make exceptions for clients where it makes business sense to do so.
An integral part of the rebrand was the introduction of business coach Fergus King. ‘I saw him speak at an event and I just thought: "I need this guy in my life",’ says Murphy. ‘He’s helped us look at who we are, what we do, how we do it, how we position ourselves, how we make ourselves different and how we work with our various channels for business.’
Bringing in King came at a price, and the changes he suggested led to further investment. ‘We probably spent in one year what we’d intended to spend in two,’ says Murphy, reflecting on 2016.
After further analysis, assisted by King, Murphy realised his brand lacked clarity, and decided the time was right to inject a new burst of energy into Murphy Wealth.
‘The brand is much friendlier now with more personality,’ says Murphy. ‘It’s refreshing and a much better reflection of who we are. It has given us that feeling of finding our voice. Before it was, "that looks kind of wealth, let’s go with that".’
King’s work has been the catalyst for a major shift in the way Murphy Wealth operates. The business is now split into two divisions: Simply Wealth, which delivers advice; and Simply Business, which will usher in a new era for Murphy Wealth and enable it to work with an otherwise untapped segment of the market.
Simply Wealth is Murphy Wealth’s core advice proposition. Murphy says the service is driven by cashflow modelling, focusing primarily on understanding the client and clearly mapping out how they can achieve their aspirations.
Simply Business, although listed on Murphy’s website, has not been finalised yet and is currently in testing, having been rolled out to a select handful of younger clients. It will offer business advice on a fee and retainer model ‘It will allow us to work with clients, helping them manage their goals and objectives alongside their strategic business objectives, always making sure decisions are made with an objective in mind,’ says Murphy. Simply Business will not deliver regulated advice, but instead will be a premium service providing consultation and general advice.
The testing group were asked to challenge Murphy and he says the feedback has been tremendous. ‘It then supports our wealth advice business because we’re eventually able to advise clients there on investments, tax, pensions and everything that comes off the back of the business doing well.’
The target market is successful owner-managed businesses, in particular the types who might be reinvesting their assets back into the business. ‘The challenge for the industry is how to work with people who are building their lives and businesses,’ says Murphy. ‘They still need an adviser to work with them along the way, keep them on the right path, and bear in mind what they ultimately want to achieve.’
Murphy more than happy with Tatton’s discretionary service
Murphy Wealth outsources its investments, with the vast majority managed by Tatton Investment Management on the Nucleus platform. ‘Switching to Tatton was probably the best investment decision we’ve ever made,’ says Murphy.
Besides performance, which Murphy is very satisfied with, he chose Tatton due to its low cost and quality service relative to other discretionary fund managers he has outsourced to. He also praises Tatton for its risk management and provision of clear information, which can be passed on to clients.
Larger funds in the portfolio include Baring European Select, managed by Colin Riddles and Citywire A-rated Nicholas Williams; Fidelity Asia, managed by Citywire A-rated Teera Chanpongsang; and Franklin Templeton US Opportunities.
Although largely active, Tatton allocates to passives where it believes active management has little value to add, such as in bonds and the US. Passive funds in the Tatton Managed Balanced portfolio include HSBC US equity tracker and Vanguard UK Inflation-Linked Gilt Index. As a firm, Murphy does not have a preference for active or passive and is in line with Tatton’s positioning.
Murphy updates clients on market developments, and feels he has educated them to understand fluctuations and volatility.
Murphy has partnered with venture capital platform Growthdeck on the Glasgow Investor Networking club (GIN) project. Through regular GIN events, Murphy Wealth is able to introduce people with relevant experience and significant wealth to investment opportunities that they might be interested in.
Murphy Wealth can also help the companies that are pitching, which might become clients in the future. Murphy notes he would not be averse to investing in some of the companies personally at some point in the future too. ‘We want to support small businesses and, if we can, more Scottish businesses,’ he says. ‘It’s a really interesting thing we’ve got going.’
Toiling over tech
Murphy has overseen an overhaul of the firm’s back-office systems, and he has put significant financial and time investment into building the Curo system. ‘It’s fantastic but requires so much work and commitment,’ he says.
Embracing technology such as Moneyinfo could lead to a white-labelled Murphy Wealth app, allowing clients to view their holdings and information with ease. Murphy has also earmarked the Simply Wealth proposition for growth, but admits profit is what matters, rather than funds under advice.
‘It’s just an ego thing and I’ve never been about that,’ he says. ‘We’ll absolutely gather assets over the years, but I don’t care what funds we’ve got under advice.’ To bolster this point, Murphy explains that he eventually plans to abandon his percentage charging structure.
Pushing the boundaries
King’s services have also included providing individual coaching sessions for Murphy’s staff, with the aim of building technical knowledge alongside soft skills. There is a drive towards promoting a positive working culture, which Murphy sagely states ‘isn’t just putting a foosball table in the corner and saying we’ve done culture’.
Murphy is looking to grow his team and says: ‘If you’re looking for a completely different opportunity, and you like the idea of not doing things the way they’ve always been done, give us a call.’
Murphy still shares a 50/50 ownership stake in the business with his father, Brian. At present, Brian still works two days per week, seeing a handful of clients and essentially performing the function of finance director. ‘Dad is a great sounding board for me,’ says Murphy. ‘He gives me constant advice and support, but doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day stuff, or even the strategic stuff.’
Drawing all these developments to a neat conclusion is perhaps a futile effort. Murphy Wealth is showing how enterprising IFAs can look beyond the obvious frontiers to build their businesses. It certainly seems to have gone beyond the boundaries of a regular IFA. ‘Exactly,’ he says, ‘and that’s so exciting.’
FIVE TOP TIPS
Be clear on your position in the market as it is very crowded.
Understand who your customer is and do not chase the same as everyone else.
Look at your channels and be brutal. If you cannot talk about a strategic relationship, end it and move on.
Strive for a cultural and commercial match in all relationships, whether client, introducer or supplier.
Whatever you think your business is worth, it probably is not. Be honest and get to work making it happen.