This year Wealth Solutions celebrated its 10th anniversary. So it was an opportune time to catch up with managing director Simon Redhead to discuss the business’s past decade.
One indication of the changes it has undergone is that the firm started with around £40 million funds under advice and now has £350 million. ‘We’ve made five acquisitions through that process,’ Redhead says. ‘We’ve made sure we’ve had the right capacity with every acquisition to grow the business, both from an adviser point of view and back-office administration.’
Redhead praises his team and puts emphasis on them playing a key role in the success of the firm. Staff numbers have increased from two to 20 over the past 10 years. Currently, Redhead is looking to take on a couple more, including a paraplanner and senior administrator.
The firm’s focus has been both on new business and existing clients. So it has tried to ensure it can adequately resource the ongoing service of clients. Redhead explains: ‘Everybody in the firm has been employed; we have no self-employed workers. So we are able to make sure the delivery of service is consistent and high quality.’
Discussing the next generation, Redhead says: ‘As we take on more young, keen and enthusiastic staff members, it becomes even more important to have a place and environment for them to grow.’
But he also warns of the difficulties in the earliest stages. First, he says firms need to ensure the business is in a financial position to take on graduates, as it is a proposition that pays off over a longer time period.
‘In the short term, you’re going to feel a little pinch,’ he says. ‘They have no technical knowledge, no understanding of the profession. It’s like a blank piece of paper.
‘But you’ll find individuals who are professional and progressive in terms of their outlook, and they’ll challenge you,’ he adds. ‘Once you’ve put a two to three year investment in them, you’ll have someone who fits your culture. They will fit the way you work and understand your business.’
The next challenge is keeping those people. ‘We keep them by ensuring there’s place for them to grow. We also give them the opportunity to purchase shares in the company,’ Redhead says.
‘We have an enterprise management incentive scheme. Once you’ve hit five years of service, you have the opportunity to get shares in the business at a discounted price.’
The firm has also opened a new office in Leamington Spa as a result of a recent acquisition made in April this year. Redhead emphasises there is a lot work to be done in the early stages of any acquisition. The firm prides itself on really getting to know the business owners and their motives for selling.
Wealth Solutions has been very cautious. Redhead tells me the firm has only ever used its own cash, and has never borrowed money. Prior to the acquisition, it made sure it took time to carry out plenty of due diligence.
As a result, it has often taken the firm a long time to make purchases. ‘I’d say each one has been at least 12 months from start to finish. The last two have been 18 months. There’s a lot of work that goes on in that preparation,’ Redhead says.
He advises any firms looking to acquire to take their time. ‘We have looked at 10-15 firms for every acquisition we’ve made. I think that’s been about right.’
Are there more acquisitions in the pipeline for Wealth Solutions? ‘I wouldn’t say we won’t make an acquisition within the next 24 months. But I wouldn’t say we are under any pressure to do that,’ says Redhead. ‘We’re in a very good place right now.’