Wealth Manager continues to home in on our regions across the county, one at a time writes Eleanor Mahmoud. As we return to the North of England, we’re looking to Leeds – a city with a history tracing back to the 5th century, having been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Elmet.
What started as a humble settlement along the banks of the River Aire is now the third largest UK city by population and one of the UK’s most diverse economies. A number of major companies, across both financial and other industries, have headquarters or regional offices based in Leeds.
What sounds like quite the welcoming business environment for new firms is confirmed, as I speak to David Battersby from Progeny Asset Management.
I meet Battersby at our annual Citywire North event at the beautiful Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate, where he has travelled from Leeds to join us.
Battersby is originally from a small village outside the city, so this is a great opportunity to speak with someone who knows the region as well as he does. Having also spent time working in Blackpool, he is now based in the city of Leeds, with no plans to leave the North of England.
Battersby is one of a team of six who set up Progeny Asset Management in 2016, having left Redmayne-Bentley after over eight years. He tells me their story of getting started with, quite literally, not a lot to their name:
‘We set up Progeny Asset Management from scratch. On day one we had nothing at all, not even a computer!’
Progeny Asset Management is part of Progeny Group, a collection of separate but related companies based in the same building. Having rebranded and overhauled the group, its proposition now spreads from financial planning to corporate and personal legal services, with the logical birth of its discretionary investment management arm last year.
The team started off with simply a floor, desk and photocopier and at this stage, their job was to go and set up all the systems they needed.
He continues: ‘We weren’t even regulated at that point so we had to go through the process of applying to the FCA.
Once we got all the setup bits done, it was a matter of attracting business.’
Battersby explains that whilst they kicked off with some legacy business, new clients also came from across the Progeny Group. Not surprising, given the prime opportunity for cross selling services across the group.
And whilst the companies within it are independent, there are evidently benefits to being part of the group:
‘Once a month all the companies in the group get together for beer and pizza,’ Battersby laughs. ‘It’s a wonderful way of getting people to talk to each other.’
The firm’s head office is in London, however the bulk of the day to day work is done up in their Leeds office.
‘Some clients like to deal with a London centric firm. It doesn’t matter if the chap doing the investments is based in Leeds - they can still arrange to go and see the client the very next day.’
This brings us to look at the city of Leeds a little closer. When I ask Battersby if he thinks there are any challenges of being in the area, he struggles to think of any.
‘I don’t see any challenges of being based in the North of England. Leeds has fantastic transport connectivity. In fact, it has everything you could possibly want.’
Trustworthy words from someone in the thick of it, I’m sure you’ll agree. Something else the two of us agree on is the ability to work any time, any place, thanks to the technology we know and love. Battersby continues:
‘Everything is electronic and interconnected now. As long as you have an internet connection, you’re connected to the markets – it doesn’t matter where you are located.’
When it comes to location, some UK regions tend to have a clear financial hub. However, I find that in the North this is a little more difficult to determine. Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds may all rightly compete for this title.
Battersby contemplates this before saying that he if he had to, he would name Manchester or Leeds as the financial hubs of the North: ‘There are some very strong financial hubs; you don’t have to be in London.’
The North as a region also hosts an array of high quality universities, something that the team at Progeny have picked up on very quickly.
‘We have more than one university in Leeds, churning out some very clever people and providing young talent.’
Utilising some close associations with the universities, they have been invited to talk to the students there about particular investment topics. Battersby is proud to have been one of the team that have done so and says:
‘Britain is known for its higher education and we’re happy to have a place we can go to locally for talent.’
As we talk talent and looking to the future, the team of 6 who have grown Progeny Asset Management into what it is today have themselves grown to a team of 8. Instead of piggy-backing off the Progeny Group, they now have their own compliance and administrative staff. Besides this, Battersby thinks plans to open another office may be considered.
Further plans for the next 12-18 months are concentrated around growth, both organically and through acquisitions of other businesses:
‘There are certainly acquisitions in the pipeline across the group, some have been made and some are ongoing,’ Battersby says.
Having achieved a commendable amount in the short space of time they’ve been operating, Battersby’s team has palpably benefited from its location in the North of England.
With launches like this as successful as Progeny’s, the future continues to look bright for the team and for the region – watch this space.