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Wealth Adviser: Alec Stewart of Anderson Strathern brings 18th century service into the 21st century

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by David Campbell on Feb 04, 2011 at 00:01

Like many venerable English institutions, the private client industry’s roots lie in the 17th and 18th centuries, as land enclosures revolutionised the ways in which agriculture was managed by creating private estates which, in turn, created a specialist cottage industry of bankers and lawyers. 

Land reform came somewhat later to Scotland. Edinburgh private client law firm Anderson Strathern is a relative stripling compared with some of the oldest names of British finance, at little more than 200 years old.  

Founded by several landed families – some of whose names remain on the client books today – and their lawyers amid the extraordinary explosion of wealth in the country in the early 1800s, the company has over the course of its history become synonymous with the Scottish gentry it serves.     

This has, of course, included changing alongside them. Alec Stewart, partner, head of investment and lead financial adviser at the firm, is more likely to advise on the tax efficient alternative power projects that are a major source of regional revenue than on the sheep contracts of years past.

‘Anderson Strathern always was primarily private client, and primarily rural,’ says Stewart. ‘Private client is still the biggest area of our work that we are known for, albeit now we also have a very strong reputation in corporate law.’

While it has always been a full service law firm, it has updated its reputation by bolstering its corporate team, and successfully managed to shed the fustier aspects of its image while bringing with it the values that have ensured its longevity.   

  

Following a recent recruitment drive, Anderson Strathern now employs 48 partners and around 300 staff spread across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Haddington and Currie. The private client team is based in the Scottish capital and employs seven investment managers, three qualified financial planners including Stewart, who is authorised as both, and a paraplanner, serving 475 clients with a total of £205 million in assets under management.

The division generates £1.25 million in annual income, with a gross profit margin of 65%. Around 50% of income is recurring on annual fees of 0.75% below £750,000 and a sliding scale above this down to 0.35%. One-off financial planning projects are time-costed and charged separately. Asset growth stood at 12% last year, with similar expansion expected in 2011.      

The next step in the company’s growth will be the spin-off of the private client team into an independent, separately authorised and regulated entity, Anderson Strathern Asset Management, later this year. While the equity will remain with the partners for the foreseeable future, Stewart said this restructure will allow the planning and investment staff to assume directorships.

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