My mother – who Becketts is named after – was a chartered accountant, and my father was a solicitor. An adviser at Bradford & Bingley used to pass big investment cases over to them. In 1998, she invited him to join forces and start a business.
She provided the backing and he did the financial advice. In 2006, the adviser took the business and set up on his own, under less-than-ideal circumstances. While they had discussed splitting, they hadn't come to an agreement.
Turning lack of trust into structural organisation
This is when mum asked me to join Becketts. At that point, the company was just a shell.
At first, this experience and lack of trust probably held us back. Our firm is now very transparent, but for many years mum and dad were very protective. I truly believe an inclusive, open culture is required to thrive.
We want to get the right people in the right seats, and are very organised structurally. We offer a range of benefits. For example we have an employer ownership scheme in place, a management buyout (which gives the whole team profit figures), and objectives for the future. This means that lack of trust shouldn't be an issue.
Getting qualified quickly to ensure professionalism
When I joined Becketts, my only business experience was selling 'Legend Trumps' at university. I had some high-flying customers – including Ernst & Young and the Liberal Democrats – and learned a lot about price points and supply chains.
For me, it's always been important to have the highest qualifications. I raced through my exams and attained Chartered status as quickly as possible: when I was 25. Not many had that qualification back then – not at that age! I was one of the youngest advisers on the scene.
In my first job, I was sitting across from a 55-year-old business owner, which was sometimes quite difficult. Now that I'm older, I think it’s great to see so many more younger advisers coming through.
Baptism of fire during the 2007 crash
In 2007, I was given the job of Chief Investment Officer. And then the financial crisis happened and changed everything.
This was a baptism of fire – both in terms of building a business and advising clients during a difficult period. Cutting your teeth in these periods is hard work, but this is the steel that will make you a better adviser in the long run.
That’s why I often tell younger advisers to make the most of these tough times. It's gold dust from an experience point of view. During times of crisis you learn essential skills and some resilience. You have to be open and honest. It's your job to educate clients, reassure them and offer guidance to make them feel better about market volatility.
At Becketts, we use cashflow modelling and forecasting, which helps to allay fears.
Leaving your ego at the door
Today we serve over 400 client families via four full-time advisers, and manage around £200m in client assets. Our committee includes eight investment professionals, analysts from Parmenion and an outside adviser – Rebecca Kowalski – who has helped build our super-robust 'Resolve' portfolios.
Our committee mantra is based on challenge: no egos are allowed in the room. That’s where our investment solution sits. We're now in the process of applying for discretionary permission ourselves.
A flexible approach to fees
Since starting at Becketts, I've always wanted us to be transparent on costs and fees. We charge a fixed rate for a financial plan, which starts at around £2,000, but can move up the scale towards £10,000, depending on complexity. On the other hand, it’s not unheard of for us to waive the initial planning fee for clients who want Becketts to take on the plan implementation in addition to advising on their long-term wealth management needs.
Our ongoing fee is 0.75% - which is largely considered middle-of-the-road - however we pride ourselves on delivering a higher-than-top-level service.
Excellent service at the heart of everything
We focus on having a smaller number of clients per adviser, and a high level of service based on the Japanese philosophy of ‘omotenashi’. This loosely translates as 'unobtrusive, diligent service'. For example if you go to a nice restaurant, it can be off-putting if the waiter is hovering around. You want them to silently appear to refill your glass, without being overbearing.
Our goal is for clients to experience minimal disruption. We want them to enjoy their leisure time and passions, while receiving bespoke, stress-tested financial plans delivered by our team of expert planners.
Another Japanese philosophy we’ve adopted is ‘kaizen’ meaning ‘continuous improvement’. Every part of our business is consistently under review – improving quality, efficiency and consistency. No process is allowed to fall behind the standards we set.
We have a clear goal to be ‘the best small financial planning firm in the country’ and last year were awarded NextGen Firm of the Year and Advice Firm of the Year by Money Marketing. Ultimately we try to provide an invisible but supportive service in our business and believe this is one of the many things clients appreciate about us.
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