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Big city slickers: The lowdown from Cardiff and St. Asaph

Big city slickers: The lowdown from Cardiff and St. Asaph

‘We’re a city firm with local connections,’ jokes John Sangster of RPG Wealth. This would usually be a fairly straightforward comment, but for Sangster, based in RPG’s St. Asaph office, there is more than a slight element of tongue-in-cheek. St. Asaph is often reported as the second smallest city in the U.K, with a population count beneath 3,500 when last measured in 2011. It was granted city status in 2012, as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The label makes little difference to how business is conducted, however. Sangster explains that commerce still retains a local bias and that St. Asaph residents still prefer to do business with familiar faces. Fortunately for Sangster, who is married to a local, this bias extends to family connections. He also tells us that businesses need to maintain a local presence. ‘Local law firms still have offices in each market town, rather than one regional hub,’ he explains.

There is another local quirk to be aware of; the language. While the vast majority of residents speak English, RPG has once been in a position where a member of staff, fluent in Welsh, needed to translate for a client. ‘We can all just about hold our own,’ says Sangster, who is not fluent but knows enough Welsh to get by.

Nuance is at the heart of financial advice in St. Asaph, and Sangster explains that he works with ‘everyone from coal merchants to business owners turning over £5-10 million’. He also deals with an array of retirees and local businesses, and points out that the city has a vibrant tourist economy. ‘You see plenty of caravan and holiday home owners here at the weekends,’ says Sangster. ‘We’re close to Snowdonia and Anglesey, so there’s plenty on the doorstep. You really notice it during winter as the area feels a lot quieter.’

There are upsides to being located in a rural setting, yet recruitment is no walk in the park. Infrastructure can be a drag in this respect, and Sangster elaborates by mentioning that a six mile drive can take more than 25 minutes. CPD can also be a hassle, with Sangster often choosing between Liverpool, Manchester, or other parts of Wales for accredited sessions. The overall message is very positive, regardless. ‘The lifestyle more than makes up for any transport issues,’ he says. ‘There are great views and scenery here.’

From St. Asaph, let us now turn our attention to Cardiff, and to Kelvyn Hatch who chairs the South Wales Personal Finance Society meetings. We always like to hear about regional initiatives and Hatch informs us that his breakfast seminars have been very successful. What is the secret to a successful seminar? Hatch wastes little time in his response. ‘Every IFA loves a bacon roll in the morning.’

Hatch has recently delivered an event discussing the residency nil-rate band, and has an upcoming event focusing on onshore and offshore investment bonds. ‘They still have a very valid role in financial planning,’ he tells us. For those interested in attending, the event will be held on October 30 at the Holiday Inn Cardiff North, from 9:15am to 11am. Does this mean there will be bacon rolls? In a word, yes. For more information contact Hatch at khatch@acumenifa.co.uk.

For any IFAs in South Wales seeking further involvement with the PFS, there is no shortage of opportunities. The AGM is being held on November 14, and this is a prime opportunity to influence the local IFA scene. Hatch also mentions that basic feedback is always appreciated. ‘I’m trying to create opportunities for members, so please let me know what you’d like to see. Unless there is a large response or request for something, it can be difficult to know what people would like us to do.’

For those looking to sharpen their knowledge and pass exams, Hatch elaborates on the work being done by education officer Ian McIver. ‘He’s very dedicated, and will be running study groups ahead of the October AF1 and AF3 exams,’ he says. There are also opportunities for advisers and paraplanners under 35 to be a part of the NOVUS group, which spans across the insurance and PFS arms of the CII. ‘It encourages networking and promotes what’s available for young people.’ For more information on NOVUS, contact Lewys Richards, independent financial adviser at Prism IFA (lewys@prismifa.co.uk).

There is a lot going on at an organisational level, and Hatch informs me that Cardiff life is also going well at his firm, Acumen Investment Solutions. ‘It’s a very good time to be an IFA,’ he confirms. His work currently focuses on longstanding clients, with referrals keeping his client bank topped up. He has also found, intriguingly, that an increasing number of clients are referring their parents, who often need later-life care. Intergenerational planning can go both ways, it would seem.

Having taken in the big city life in St. Asaph, and discussed the mass appeal of the humble bacon sarnie in Cardiff, we reach the conclusion of this edition of the Wales newsletter. For those who would like to be involved in future, get in touch with Ian Horne at ihorne@citywire.co.uk.

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