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Bellpenny chief: FCA review not behind independence move

Bellpenny chief executive Nigel Stockton

Bellpenny chief executive Nigel Stockton says the FCA’s review of consolidator business models was not behind its decision to set up an independent advice arm.

The regulator began writing to advice consolidators requesting information on suitability processes when acquiring new firms last September.

Bellpenny and Succession were among a number of consolidators contacted by the regulator amid concerns that clients have been charged to automatically move into a centralised investment proposition once deals have completed.

Money Marketing revealed earlier this morning Bellpenny has purchased an advice firm, EFG Independent Financial Advisers, to launch an independent advice arm for the business to be called Bellpenny Independent Advisers Financial Planning.

Speaking to Money Marketing, Bellpenny chief executive Nigel Stockton says concerns over CIP use did not motivate the move away from an all-restricted national advice business.

Stockton says: “I don’t understand the finger pointing. We have a good relationship with the FCA and there’s no ongoing issue. We look forward to the review. They came in and saw us, I don’t think that’s a secret, we had a really good chat and we both went away extremely happy.”

Stockton says he “can’t speak for others” in the sector but was “comfortable” with how his firm’s CIP runs.

He says: “Our CIP is excellent for clients and for providers.”

Independent enquiries

After a string of 32 deals in the three years since its 2012 launch, Bellpenny had not made an acquisition for 15 months before purchasing EFG.

Stockton took over as Bellpenny chief executive in September 2015, one month before its last deal was announced.

He says: “This deal really does announce we are active again in the acquisition market. We are now fully active again…Do I think this will be last this year? No.”

Stockton restated Bellpenny’s new mantra of doing “fewer, larger deals” and says this would also apply to independent firms Bellpenny might want to acquire.

He says: “We need to do things that will move the dial. Ideally we are looking for target businesses to be profitable, with more than £500m funds under management and 10 advisers. Does that mean we are not going to look at smaller deals? No.”

While independent status is a first for Bellpenny, Stockton says the consolidator is more interested in the quality of firms they purchase than their status, including the “strongly independent” EFG.

He says: “We liked everything about it really. It’s a pretty well run business…very well led with strong management.

“We were looking at a number of additional channels for us which have still got some good fits together. The opportunity at EFG was such that whether it was restricted or independent we would move to accommodate to do business.

“We are going where the opportunity is greatest…This is the first time we have entered the IFA market and we will look at the whole of the market in terms of opportunities.

“It’s about what best for our business at the time. If its independent its independent if its restricted its restricted.”

Stockton admits while Bellpenny knows what it is looking for now and how to execute after making so many deals, there have been “ones we have learned from” in the time off the acquisition trail.



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