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Adviser profile: Go team Plutus!

Adviser profile: Go team Plutus!

Plutus Wealth Management’s six co-founders are dovetailing their lively and youthful personalities with the budding financial needs of the City’s young, mass affuent market. See our adviser picture gallery for more pictures of this energetic team, and watch our video for their tips on digital marketing.

In Greek mythology, Plutus was the blind god of wealth who dispensed his gifts without prejudice. Plutus Wealth Management’s six young partners see their lack of prejudice about financial advice as a key asset and they are looking at debunking a few myths as well.

The visually challenged god is probably the only ancient thing associated with Plutus Wealth Management. The average age of its staff is just 31 years old and that of its clients, only 37. Its six co-founders Ross Yiend, Georgina Partridge, Robert Forbes, Alex Wild, Andrew Richards and Mark Croxford all worked for IFA Twenty20 in the last decade but broke away to start Plutus in January 2009 in the belief they could achieve something different.

After only two years in business, they are already doing that by targeting the younger, ‘mass affluent’ market in the City and proving that this approach can be profitable.

Restoring faith in financial services

Another myth they want to explode is that financial advice is full of aggressive salespeople. ‘We had someone from a life company here recently asking why we didn’t use these pushy techniques. But that’s not us,’ says Yiend. ‘We tell clients what the options are and say what we think they should do, but all decisions are up to them.’

Partridge adds: ‘We aim to restore faith in financial services. The old-school sales approach is one reason why people have lost that faith. We want to distinguish ourselves from that.’

The mass-market approach feeds into this aim. ‘We have an open door policy which is very different to other IFAs,’ says Partridge. ‘Everyone is trying to capture that high-net-worth client and while we do have high-net-worth clients, we feel we are really good at getting into that mass affluent area. We don’t want to reach a point where we say we don’t need certain clients. We’re very happy for the other IFAs to focus exclusively on high-net-worth clients, they can fight among themselves.’

Selling personality

Plutus has some lively characters among its staff, evidenced by their willingness to be photographed in sporting apparel on the street outside their Cannon Street office. The photographer had her hands full as the rugby balls started flying around!

The office, which overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral, is certainly a fun place to work, but Plutus has a shrewd understanding of how to market these exuberant personalities as a way of tapping into the mentality of younger clients brought up in the age of celebrity.

All of Plutus’ nine staff have active lives outside work which involve an array of exciting hobbies and activities from playing national level rugby and netball, to triathlons and cross-country cycle rides. Forbes has taken part in the extreme Marathon des Sables, one of the most gruelling events in the world.

All these exploits and some fun, Apprentice-style shots of the team walking across the Millennium Bridge, feature prominently on a ‘meet the team’ section which has become the most popular page on the firm’s website.

Breaking away from Twenty20 allowed these personalities to flourish, they say. ‘While at Twenty20, we all had a similar work ethos and way of dealing with clients,’ says Partridge. ‘We wanted to do something that was different and, being part of a large [firm], it was difficult to get your personality across and do what you thought was right.

‘It’s not just that we have hobbies, our personalities do make us different. If clients are a similar age to us, that makes us very different to the average IFA. We want to focus on that. People in their late 40s and early 50s will have advisers of similar ages. [Under that age], there is a big gap full of people who do not know where to go. That’s where we fit in.’

To enhance the ‘personality effect’, partners enter themselves into individual awards as well as corporate ones. For example, Yiend was listed recently in the Square Mile 30under30 awards and Partridge was nominated in the Jaguar Women in the City awards.

Advising young clients

Advising such a young client base requires a very different outlook. ‘One new client chose us recently because we are young, up-and-coming and he wanted to go through his journey with us,’ says Partridge. ‘We’re a growth company and they can grow with us.’

Yiend adds: ‘We’re here for the journey. It is good seeing the changes. I have a couple of clients who arrived as young, self-employed musicians earning about £20,000 from teaching, so they needed help on that side. Now they have jobs in the West End, and their salaries have tripled. For us, it is profitable as long as they can cover our retainer. We take a long-term view. And we know that some clients may not make us huge money now, but in five or 10 years’ time they will.’

Having said that, the firm makes a respectable profit already. Yiend says: ‘We are keen on keeping costs low. That is the beauty of starting in a recession – everyone was on top of the costs. We have fixed overheads for compliance and the back office system, so the main expense is rent.’

Partridge adds: ‘Part of the reason why costs look so good is the retainer system. Because we have that relationship, clients tend to do more with us. Each client will not just do one piece of business, but four, five or six.’

Access to online portal and investment committee

The firm offers three levels of retained service which reflect the number of face-to-face meetings clients receive, once, twice or four times a year. For this, they pay between £30 and £100 a month plus a 1%-3% implementation fee scale and 0.5% trail on investments.

Clients also receive access to an online portal, where they can view and update their fact-finds and get valuations. There is also a 24-hour response promise for any query.

Plutus uses Brewin Dolphin as a discretionary manager where it had £16 million under management at last count. However, it created its own proposition, named the Plutus Investment Committee (PIC), last year. This comprises four members of staff who review client portfolios on a quarterly basis. They allocate clients into risk-based portfolios and report back quarterly with changes, if necessary, which the clients need to approve by email. PIC offers all clients the chance to have their portfolio managed on a quarterly basis irrespective of the amount of investment that the client makes.

Croxford has the IMC qualification but the firm does not have discretionary status yet, it is looking at gaining that in the future, says Yiend.

The PIC service has just completed its fourth quarter and its balanced portfolio has returned 14.55% as at 23 March, beating the 12.34% returned by its benchmark, the FTSE APCIMS balanced portfolio. So far, the firm has added £3 million to PIC, with an end-of-year target of £5 million.

Short on qualifications

Only three of the partners, Yiend, Forbes and Richards, are currently registered advisers.

New staff member, Tom Diaper, started a week ago, and will become the fourth registered adviser when the firm receives direct authorisation. (This is scheduled to happen in April, currently it is with network Financial Limited). Another member of the team, Gemma Stanbridge is set to be the fifth registered adviser.

Yiend admits that the biggest gap in the firm’s new model credentials is qualifications. Currently only Forbes and Diaper have reached level four, Stanbridge is four exams away and Yiend is still three exams away – he admits ‘it’s hard work’!

20% annual growth

Plutus aims to add £1 million a month to assets under management and keep growing at the current rate of 20% a year or faster.

Partridge says: ‘One of our key aims is to develop Plutus Connections (with lawyers and accountants), which will be a brand in itself, and there is a Nest project planned for the summer. We think there’s a huge opportunity there.’

Yiend says: ‘When we go directly authorised our fixed costs will go up initially. But it will give us more control and help us to grow, so over two to three years, we will become more cost efficient again. Also you need to be independently authorised to form connections with solicitors.’

How to get clients from Twitter

As well as gaining a plethora of coverage in the press recently, Plutus has been very active in social media and discussion forums. To boost its appeal to young people Plutus hired consultants, Y14 Marketing, to help create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

‘We feel we need to be ahead of the game in the social media space,’ says Partridge. ‘If someone Googles "Plutus", there are loads of references to us. We tweet about press articles and seminars. That is something clients would not ordinarily see. It gives them access to all that trade press and gives them more reassurance.’

Constantly tweeting turned out to be a bit much even for these 31 year olds though. ‘Y14 said we should be tweeting once or twice a day though we don’t as we don’t want to bombard people,’ says Partridge. ‘So we’ve adapted that strategy to suit our needs.’

Yiend says Twitter works because it is a quick and easy way to advertise other coverage and activities. ‘We have attracted clients from Twitter,’ he says. ‘For example, via tweeting about a seminar we did recently.’

Another way that the firm raises its internet profile is by replying to questions on Yahoo Answers. ‘If anyone posts a question about pensions, we can go on as Plutus Wealth Management and answer them,’ says Partridge. ‘It just puts another reference on the internet and keeps it building. Every Friday, I log on and search for those questions using relevant terms.’

The young ones

From left to right: Tom Diaper, associate; Alex Wild, partner; Andrew Richards, partner; Gemma Stanbridge, associate; Ross Yiend, partner; Mark Croxford, partner; Georgina Partridge, partner; Will Clark, associate; Robert Forbes, partner

Sporting structure

Like positions in a rugby team, the firm’s team structure gives a specialism to each partner – Yiend looks after PIC; Partridge does marketing and PR, Richards handles mortgage advice; Wild manages back office systems; Forbes deals with business management and compliance; and Croxford handles dealings with the office landlord in addition to his investment specialism.

Partridge says: ‘We want our clients to know that it is team-based, so they have the whole of Plutus taking care of them. We want to make sure people’s strengths are used. Also, every Friday the partners get together to discuss new clients taken on that week. We all know the whole client base of the company.’

The team mentality also helps bring flexibility into working life. ‘We’re all like minded and ambitious in our sporting and our working lives and we respect that in each other,’ continues Partridge, who plays netball for Cumberland, the largest team in London, and coaches. ‘We have a flexible working environment and if someone needs to go off to play netball, that’s fine, because the others know that person will be there until 9pm the next evening to make up for it.

‘There are definite crossovers between team sport and work, it helps you to be open to other people’s ideas. With no managing director, we do have some heated debates. You might need a captain for the game and one week it might be me, the next it might be Rob. We all respect each other enough to allow that person to captain the team. We are modest in our approach.’

Yiend, who previously played rugby for London Scottish before settling for his current team, Civil Service RFC in league 3, agrees with Partridge that playing national level sport is much easier than running an IFA business.

‘My coach said recently "all I need you to do is come with your mind focused on 80 minutes of rugby",’ says Yiend. ‘It’s much easier to switch on and off. But there are lots of uncertainties in work, it’s always in the background. Also, in this work, the rules and regulations change all the time. In rugby and netball, they don’t move the goal posts, do they!?’

Regardless of these difficulties, if Plutus the mythical god could look down and see how the company named after him is handling wealth today, he would probably be quite impressed.

Five top tip

  • Engage your clients’ aspirations
  • Listen to your clients and understand their needs
  • Talk to your clients regularly and know what they want from you and be able to adapt accordingly
  • Always keep control of your overheads and costs
  • Make things open, simple and enjoyable

CV: Ross Yiend

Career

  • 2006-08 PDC, associate
  • 2008-present Plutus Wealth Management, partner

Professional memberships/qualifications

  • CF 1-5
  • Cert PFS

CV: Georgina Partridge

Career

  • 2002-06 20Twenty, financial consultant
  • 2006-08 PDC (appointed representative of 20Twenty), financial consultant
  • 2008-11 Plutus Wealth Management, partner

Professional memberships/qualifications

  • BSc business economics and finance

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