Lister’s background was in pensions and actuarial before he joined Abbey National as an adviser in 2000. He left the bank after two years to become an adviser at IFA Insight Financial Associates.
In 2004 McClurg left a role in insurance to start up Foresight Financial Associates. Initially this was a completely separate business from Insight except for some shared resources and a mutual director, Jason Howard.
However, the idea had always been Insight would absorb Foresight. This happened in 2006.
Howard saw Insight as a scale business whereas Lister and McClurg wanted something more bespoke. So it was control over their destinies, says McClurg, rather than financial gain, that was the pair’s main motivation to leave Insight and set up ML in 2011.
'We sold out of Insight because of a desire for a very different type of firm to what Insight was,' says Lister. 'We wanted to be a very personal, high quality financial advice firm.
ML has three business writers: the two directors and Simon’s father, David Lister. Simon followed his father into financial services before his father followed Simon to Insight. David worked as an adviser there and moved to ML when it was set up.
This link is not what ML is talking about when it calls itself a family business though. That is more to do with its ethos.
'We try to run the firm by traditional family values,' says Lister. 'For example, we sit down with the team and have lunch once a month.
'There are positives and negatives to working in a small firm and we see a family spirit as one of the positives. For example, we bought everyone a Christmas present last year that we wrapped in ML paper. They had it under the tree and were not allowed to open it until Christmas Day.'
McClurg says there can be a perception that a smaller firm has less job security than a large company. 'People at Poundworld thought their job was pretty secure. Why? Because it is a big brand,' he says. Last week Poundworld fell into administration.
'The perception can often be "if you're working for a small company, how secure is your job?" We do not share that view. But we bear it in mind when people come to us, especially if they join from a large organisation and want more reassurance.'
ML also recognises a hard-working team deserves staff events that have been given a bit of thought. 'I cannot imagine anything worse than being a firm that goes to a marquee and has a disco,' says McClurg. 'That is not who we are so we try and do something a bit different.'
Over the years ML staff have tried their hand at cocktail making and pizza making in Rome and been tasked with an Apprentice-style treasure hunt around Edinburgh. Lister apologises for not being able to reveal what is lined up for this year’s ML summer and Christmas events because it is top secret. Even the staff do not know until the last minute.