Chris Regan left the family bullion business in London's Hatton Garden to enter financial services but still has a golden touch.
After joining Woolwich Building Society as an IFA from Royal London in 1989, Regan progressed rapidly to become one of the driving forces behind Woolwich IFA Services.
As managing director, he saw the number of Wifas advisers grow from 79 to 400 within three years. Wifas became the second-biggest IFA company by turnover at its peak, with income of over £100m a year and generated 38 per cent compound growth yearly over five years.
But after a short sabbatical, Regan is starting a new role in March as operations manager for Mark Howard's IFA group M2 Financial. He aims to bring all the skills he gained in establishing one of the UK's leading IFAs to expand the start-up firm into a top-20 player.
Regan says he has followed Howard's career from the sidelines with interest for some time and likes the “small business with big ideas” philosophy behind this venture.
One of Regan's main enthusiasms is the development side of businesses. Part of his success at Wifas came from highlighting weaknesses in the structure, such as back-office systems, and strengthening them.
But you cannot help but be curious as to why he left and whether the move has any relation to the firm's acquisition by Barclays Group. Regan is adamant that the deal in 2000 saw most sides of the business go from strength to strength. “The Barclays' deal added to Woolwich's stable of clients but really helped to expand its client base.
“Yes, there was a change in management style and in culture but this also happened when we switched from a building society. There is a different approach from a high-street bank and obviously a different culture.”
Regan says one of the main reasons for his move to M2 is because he is committed to the IFA side of financial services and looks forward to seeing the market strengthen over the next 12 months. Following depolarisation, he predicts a shift in focus from the big names operating as advisory firms as those which have links with big providers take the multi-tie route pretty rapidly.
“I think that the IFA community is going to remain strong because the players who decide to multi-tie are going to leave a lot of business for the real independent IFAs. This leaves quite a broad gap and that is where I see our role coming in. There will continue to be a strong demand for IFA services from a really large number of consumers.”
He thinks that most firms with more than 200 consultants will have to look seriously at streamlining and working more closely with life offices to achieve this. He also believes some of the inefficiencies of insurance companies are going to have to be resolved. Regan intends to work at board level on behalf of M2 with the companies with which he has already established links through Wifas.
Since its launch in October 2002, M2 has grown to 30 RIs but it plans to expand to 60 in the next six months and continue the pace to the end of the year. Regan sees this target as very achievable. Although the speed of recruitment has not been as rapid as expected, he seems quietly confident.
Regan says he is looking for entrepreneurial types who can think for themselves. This all seems a distinct move away from the world of high-street banks.
By his own admission, Regan is highly committed to his work but you get the impression he is looking forward to more freedom with M2 and that he wants to achieve a work/life balance. He clearly values spending a lot of time with his family.
One of his other passions is Charlton Athletic Football Club. A fan from age 14, he devotes many hours to following the club. He has tried indoctrinating his son but says sadly that he is veering towards Chelsea.
Regan believes many people in financial services are looking for flexibility and the chance to have more involvement in managing their own businesses. He helped set up a training programme for new financial advisers at Wifas, which recruited graduates and trained them from scratch as advisers, and does not rule out this option for M2 in the long term.
Howard describes attracting someone with such an impressive track record as a major coup for the company and predicts that Regan's appointment will kick off a number of significant changes in 2004.
Born: “I am 22. No, really I am. All right, I'm 38.”
Lives: Southfleet in Kent with his wife and two children.
Education: Eaglesfield Secondary School near Shooters Hill.
Career: Apprentice with gold bullion dealer Presman Bullion; insurance broker with Royal London; joined Woolwich Building Society as adviser in 1989 and became Wifas managing director in 2000; M2 Financial operations director from March 2004.
Career ambitions: “They are endless – but to carry on enjoying what I do.”
Life ambitions: “To make life as comfortable as possible for myself and my family.”
Likes: Most sports, especially golf, and spending a lot of time with his family. Changing things and challenges.
Dislikes: “I do not like being grilled with too many questions or being bored but probably most of all I hate missing opportunities and watching other people miss them.”
Car: Mercedes C class