Nestled in the serene village of Rotherfield Greys, a couple of miles outside Henley-on Thames, sits The Malsters Arms, writes Eleanor Mahmoud. It has all the makings of a good quality pub. In fact, it seems to pride itself on home grown produce, good beer and being ‘a spot for muddy boots and roaring fires’.
The Malsters Arms is owned by two Henley locals and I am also here to meet another Henley resident, Ian Brady, chief investment officer at Harpsden Wealth Management.
Brady, originally from Scotland, has lived in the area for 20 years. After working at Invesco Perpetual’s nearby office, he set up Harpsden in 2008 – the brainchild of himself and co-founder Jeremy Arthur.
‘We started from scratch in my house with just three people at the time and pre-funded the company ourselves for three years,’ he says. ‘2008 was certainly an interesting time to set up.’
Launching in the run up to the retail distribution review (RDR) and treating customers fairly (TCF) initiative, Brady comments that the move to fees is the ‘biggest industry change’ he’s seen in the 10 years since he set up Harpsden.
Whatever potential uncertainty there was, it seems it has not affected the business’ success: ‘I see RDR and TCF as positive changes, making this a profession rather than just an industry, which is only ever a good thing.’
Utilising referrals from existing relationships, the team then grew steadily. It now houses 17 people, looking after over 400 clients and £235 million of assets under management on a discretionary basis.
We eye up the menu and Brady goes for the classic fish and chips, whilst I take the plunge and go for something on the daily specials menu: pork chops.
Something I am particularly interested to hear more about is Harpsden’s ethical portfolio offering.
In 2011, the firm launched an ethical strategy portfolio, made up only of funds following an ethical or socially responsible mandate. Our food arrives at our table, so it’s the ideal time to head into a good chat about this style of investing, its subjective nature and the opportunities that lie within it.
This portfolio was created in response to demand from clients and Brady reports that it has continued. ‘We have noticed a sharp increase in interest in the ethical portfolio over the last couple of years’, he says.
He explains that it is made up of eight funds, a mixture of thematic and screened:
‘We try to analyse to stock level in all the funds. It’s such a subjective area of investing so we make sure clients understand the mix of funds in there.’
Alongside client demand, I discover that this part of the business also feeds a personal interest. When Brady and Arthur set up the company, they also set themselves a goal.
‘A key social aim was that we wanted to reach a position where we could set up a school in Africa,’ Brady explains.
‘So far, we have used company profits to pay for sanitation facilities in a village in Ghana and provided education materials through the charity School Aid.’
It is clear that Brady is fully immersed in the world of Harpsden Wealth Management – clients, investing and a positive use of profits – and that he is keen to help the wider world where possible along the way.
With our empty plates in front of us, we draw lunch to a close. As we leave The Malsters Arms, Brady ends on an optimistic note: ‘I really want to see the world of ethical investing grow. People are scared of losing returns so they shy away from it, but you really don’t have to compromise performance.’
Glass half empty: 'The increasing professionalisation of the industry is great. It can be testing, but the intentions are positive. There’s a long way to go but we are certainly getting there.’
Glass half full: ‘The shift to a multi-polar fragmented political world. It doesn’t usually end well.’
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