I spent my final week of exploring the country looking for new model advisers this year in genteel Cheltenham. I have visited many beautiful towns on my travels but Cheltenham might top the lot.
First I met Steve Harper and Nicola Goldsmith from Attivo Group, or rather the Attivo empire, as Harper is building and expanding. The firm started as Fountain Independent, specialising in pensions.
Harper realised the firm was increasingly outsourcing and felt he needed to bring work back in-house. So that is what he did. There are now five divisions to the business, including a Sipp provider, chartered surveyors and tax specialists, and the next move is to become discretionary.
Goldsmith joined to run the expanding firm and has facilitated the acquisition of IFA firms. She comes from a
non-financial but highly corporate background and believes a financial advice firm should be run like a corporation.
My next meeting was with Simon Whitney from Montpellier Asset Management, who is also focusing on growth. He suffered from network Alpha 2 Omega going into administration. He cut staff but was one of the few advisers to become (relatively) quickly directly authorised by the Financial Services Authority.
Whitney, who has been in financial services for 20 years, talked openly about the fear of losing his business and career as a result of the network’s mistakes. Thankfully that did not happen and now he aims to hire and expand.
Growth through acquisition
Like many firms on the acquisition trail, Goldsmith, Harper and Whitney see the retail distribution review as a good opportunity to grow their businesses through acquisition. However, Harper thinks there will always be opportunities to buy books of business and will look to the period after 2013 as well as next year.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. I am sure I will catch up with many you at our January conference.
If you want me to visit your firm, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter @InTheFastLane.