I was back on the road again and retracing old ground as I headed to Cheltenham to meet Simon Whitney and Spencer McPherson of Montpellier Asset Management.
Rising from the ashes
I first met Whitney two years ago, having just started my travelling adventures with New Model Adviser®.
Back in 2011, Whitney was operating a skeleton firm following the collapse of network Alpha 2 Omega. However, he managed to service his clients and took care to distance himself from the network. Even so, he downsized the staff numbers to three and moved into an office with an outside loo.
In Cheltenham the name ‘Montpellier’ is well-known: the town is famous for the Montpellier Gardens.
Keeping with the firm’s noble influences, Whitney decided it was time to leave the old premises, and in December 2012, Montpellier relocated to the iconic Imperial Square, the town’s financial services hub.
The second big change is that Whitney is now fully qualified, and in record time. ‘I think I took the exams faster than anyone else in the country,’ he said.
This is a bold claim, but he told me he took all the exams from R01 to R05 between 26 September and 18 December last year.
‘I think it was apathy that made me leave it to the last minute,’ he said. ‘But it was also confidence in my own abilities as an experienced adviser, so I knew I would be able to pass.’
The exams took their toll: Whitney’s focus was away from business development for the last quarter of 2012. However, investment consultant Spencer McPherson, who joined the company last April, was determined to drive the business forward.
Expansion and growth
McPherson joined Montpellier from Investec, which has an office across Imperial Square. His technical experience has allowed Whitney to expand the firm’s full offering of what he calls ‘belt-and-braces financial planning’.
McPherson started his career as a tax adviser at St James’s Place. He said that was where he cut his teeth. ‘While at St James’s Place, I was on the helpdesk, so I came across every kind of tax and trust problem. I moved on to similar work at Investec, so I have been able to work with lots of clients here at Montpellier,’ he said.
With 10 new clients on board in six weeks, Montpellier is already ahead of its target for 2013 and its assets under advice are steadily increasing. This quarter is all about moving the focus away from exams and back on the clients.