I have always liked numbers and money and when I finished university I thought PwC would offer a chance to learn how businesses are run differently from a numbers point of view. It also offered a chance to obtain another qualification, to get the ACA three years in, so it seemed the obvious thing to do.
I did maths and economics at my university. I think there were seven on my course and six became accountants, so it was a natural step.
I was with PwC for five years and for the last two or three I worked in the deals’ team, helping clients to do acquisitions, valuing them and doing due diligence.
An opportunity arose at Perspective and they said they were an acquisitive firm, keen to buy IFA firms across the country.
It was an interesting industry to join, with all the M&A activity going on and the changing compliance landscape. Perspective is an extension of what I was doing at PwC. I’m still doing the same sort of thing but just in industry rather than as a professional organisation.
But there are a few differences too. The main one would be that you see it from the start; from the initial telephone call and through the due-diligence stage; then negotiating the deal and seeing it happen, a year, two years, three years after that. You see firms develop at the Perspective group. When you are working as a consultant for a professional body you only see it for a month, then you are off doing something else.
I joined the firm in September 2008. I spent the first six to nine months with subsidiaries, to help me understand the industry and learn what we look for in IFA practises and about the RDR. We then built the team up at Perspective which allowed me to concentrate on the acquisitions. That happened in July/Aug 2009 and I have been in full-on acquisitions for more than a year now.
At the moment, we are looking to buy 10 IFA practises next year and another 10 after that in 2012.
We really try and buy firms that are well geared for RDR anyway, so we buy firms that we won’t have to try and change very much. But of course we are trying to get the firms to share best practice. We take the lead, helping them to make sure they are absolutely bullet-proof when it comes to the RDR and also trying our best to improve their recurring income, funds under management and profitability from being part of a bigger group and having that expertise to share.
The pressure in this job is different. When I was at PwC many of the deadlines were set by our clients, whereas we are the people who set the deadlines now. So you can manage your time and manage the flow of deals better.
The key thing for this job is to make sure I see plenty of businesses, make sure I keep the pipeline coming through. If you don’t see any firms now, you will be alright for the next couple of months because you have deals coming through, but it will hurt you in three or four months time.
For the future, I see myself in an accounts function or M&A, as a finance director or M&A director. Those are the sort of jobs I would see myself doing in the next five years.
But with the IFA industry the way it is, anything could happen. There are certainly good opportunities for consolidation at the moment. So I’m just keeping going at this job for the present.
David Hesketh is group M&A manager at Perspective Financial Group