Is it better to ‘take the quantum leap’ to buy a business or focus on building it organically, one step at a time?
This was the question Paul Denley (pictured), chief executive officer of Oakham Wealth Management, had in his mind a couple of years ago when setting out the plans for his business.
The company was originally established in 2004 as SC Davies & Co by Denley and Simon Davies. Following Davies’ departure in 2014, the business was renamed SCD & Co, and Denley went straight into conversations with Hanson Asset Management about a potential merger of the two companies.
However, ultimately the deal did not go through, and Denley decided that establishing strategic partnerships rather than trying to do big deals was a better vision for the company.
‘After that I was less keen to do some quantum leap deal. Why would I spend that time and effort again, particularly when extra time is needed to wait for the FCA to confirm or deny,’ he explained.
Over the years, while Denley always had a plan to rebrand the business, this finally came to fruition last year when the firm announced that it would be renamed Oakham Wealth Management.
Around the same time, it signed a partnership with ex-Old Mutual Global Investors fund managers John Ventre and François Zagamé, so the pair could launch a boutique under the Oakham umbrella.
It already had a similar deal with Richard Bonnor-Moris, ex-Newscape Capital head of multi-asset, who launched Rivers Capital Management.
For Denley, one of the biggest risks for a boutique is taking on the wrong person. He said: ‘For me it’s much better to have strategic relationships and consultants as far as possible, rather than endless headcount. That’s a better set up. It’s easier to change a strategic relationship or break it without going through the personal nature of employment.’
With these two deals and the new brand in place, Denley is ready to look to the future.
At the moment, the business provides wealth management services to private clients with an average portfolio size of £750,000. New clients coming in are anywhere from £300,000 to £10 million, with the largest client on the books having £9 million.
For smaller clients, the firm has three Ucits compliant funds of funds, which are blended according to an individual’s risk profile. Following demand from IFA clients, it has also recently started managing model portfolios on platforms.
Denley is the majority shareholder at the firm, owning 90%, with the rest shared between former directors. However, he points out that he is looking at ways to get in ‘good quality shareholders’ by offering meaningful equity ownership to incoming staff, particularly wealth managers who might be disaffected at large institutions.