The founder and managing director of Cavendish Ware says: “I was becoming quite disillusioned with the increasingly transactional, commoditised way that financial services were being run by some private banks.”
But the final push to start the firm came from personal circumstances. His father had a heart attack and Ware says sitting in the hospital gave him reason to reflect on what he had achieved. “I was sitting there in the middle of the night and thought, if I am in his situation one day, would I look back and have regrets? What would I regret? One of those thoughts was, I’ve always said I want to set my own business up. If I do it now and it goes tits up, at least I’ve tried and I’m young enough and I hope I’ve got a decent enough reputation to get a job. If I left it for another 10 years that might not be true.”
He set up Cavendish Ware in 2003 and describes the business as a wealth man-agement and financial planning business, pitched at clients at or just underneath the traditional private banking client. “What I mean is probably people whose liquid assets are less than £5m. Somewhere between £5m and £10m, the private banks start to get out of bed and roll out the red carpet but their ability to service clients below that level is very mechanical.”
By offering a personal and tailored service and without the big commission charged by some private banks, he says he is offering a quality of service that banks are either unwilling or unable to offer.
When Ware left university, he planned to go travelling but did not have the funds so he approached his father who worked as a fund manager and was in the process of setting up by himself and he told Ware he should start work at the new firm.
“He said we need somebody who is cheap and reasonably intelligent and you certainly qualify as one of those, as this is what I am going to pay you.
“I was there long enough to realise I quite enjoyed it and I liked having some money in my pocket, which I hadn’t had before, but I also realised that if I wanted to do this seriously I had to go somewhere else and get some training.”
He joined Scottish Equitable where he spent three years before deciding he wanted to be on the advice side of the business. In 1990, he joined E Heath as an adviser and followed this with stints at Willis Corroon before joining Kleinwort Benson to set up their IFA division.
Now, more than 20 years after he started, he is back at an independent wealth management firm. Cavendish Ware has grown from four staff to 11. Ware says they are general financial planners but outsource some areas such as mortgages and concentrate on investment and financial planning.
“There are two pillars to the business. Investment management is a very strong part of what we do. We are an advisory business, although we are looking very seriously at whether we want to move across to a discretionary mandate. But first and foremost, we are a financial planning business. It is the engine room. You cannot run investments for a client unless you understand what the objective is.”
Ware says the firm uses a typical asset allocation approach but with some key differences. He says relying on asset allocation in isolation can be a risky approach, as the last two years show.
“If you are pension fund or a university endowment fund, you have got a 30 to 50-year time horizon. But people do not think like that or act like that. If you stuck rigidly to that model, you would have found that over the last two years, everything was correlated and everything has gone down, I know people who have got portfolios which are down by 35-40 per cent. Most private clients balk at that kind of thing.”
The company has an investment committee that meets monthly to set asset allocation and determine the risk overlay used. Cavendish Ware uses a traffic-light system that will adjust risk exposure of clients depending on economic conditions. Ware says this approach managed to save clients considerable pain in the last 18 months.
The traffic light is back to amber after being at red last year but he says it is still some way from green. “We are not convinced by green shoots for recovery, we think the economy has got a lot worse to go. But if you stock-select reasonably well, there are some calls and currency you can do but we have definitely not got a green light.”
Ware is keen to develop the business further and is looking at the Kinder Institute to life planning with some interest. As one of the founders of boutique wealth management forum The Aurora Group, Ware is also keen to get to grips with some industry issues. He says, by and large, the RDR will be positive, although he has some concerns over the capital adequacy rules. “To continue to raise the professional standards and be perceived by the other professions as having those standards is terribly important. I think the fact there is clear water between IFAs and wealth managers, like ourselves, and the banks, the historical direct- sellers, is very important.”
He is also keen to help address the problem of a lack of new blood through The Aurora Group. “Do we start to sponsor courses? Do we sponsor awards in universities? A few of us have already taken to interns from universities and continue to look at taking on graduates and to make it more relevant and make people consider it as a career path.”
Ware’s hobbies have also returned to their early beginnings. He plays bass guitar in comedy punk bank 14 Carat Grapefruit, a band he set up more than 25 years ago with school friends. The band reformed three years ago and can regularly be found playing in and around London.He is also a sports enthusiast and helped coached his local hockey club’s under-15s to the national championship.
Born: Muswell Hill, London, 1963
Lives: Orpington, Kent
Education: Highgate School, Leeds University, BA philosophy
Career: 2003-present: managing director, Cavendish Ware; 1997-2003: KIeinwort Benson private bank; 1994-97: Willis Corroon; 1990-94: CE Heath; 1986-90: Scottish Equitable
Likes: All sports, most music, people
Dislikes: Political correctness, rudeness
Drives: Land Rover Discovery
Book: One Day of the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Film: Anything with Steve McQueen
Album: A Long Time Coming by 14 Carat Grapefruit
Career ambition: To be regarded kindly by my peers as someone who has helped shaped financial planning in the UK
Life ambition: To play Shea Stadium and to have no regrets
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Have my own ski-guiding business