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Commentary – Success story

Yet another year has passed and, inevitably, depolarisation dominates the current agenda. The banks and product providers shuffle and every week a new player announces a multi-tie or other proposition. The increasing complexity of the regulations and the pace of change are adding to the stress levels of all of us, pushing up PI and ICS costs and so on.

So, how do I feel?

Well, great actually as I have spent the last year working as a Partner at St James’s Place Partnership. I am enjoying working in a team environment with a group that cares for its partners and staff.

I was a staunch IFA for 20-plus years and as a highprofile adviser was involved in many debates on issues affecting the industry. However, with increasing burdens placed on us and the collapse of markets in 2000, it is no wonder that I pondered on my future and what direction I should be taking my business.

I was approached by St James’s Place in the summer of 2001 and I thought it would do no harm to talk to them. I knew very little about the company, except whenever I came across its funds it always appeared to hold its own. This was to be the key that led me to becoming a St James’s Place partner.

The decision to stop being an IFA was not taken over-night. I spoke to various networks, strangely enough some are multi-tied, big IFAs, and consulted my top clients.

I met with new and old partners of St James’s to get a clear picture on what it meant to them and why they were happy working there.

I spent time with a board member of the company who explained the ethos of the partnership and why it is so successful. This was a group that had a vision to be the leaders in wealth management and was committed to that end.

Already, I am seeing this vision unfold. As a partner, I also benefit directly through the ability to earn stock options. Where else can you build an equity stock in a 1bn company while running your business?

What are the attractions of being involved in St James’s Place? Can you give up the title of independent financial adviser and feel contentment? For me, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. I know as I am living the life and only wish I had been app-roached earlier.

The key strength of the group must be in the branding and marketing of the partnership which has about 15 years’ experience in financial services. Wealth management is the focus for our clients and, believe me, there are few areas left untouched in the range of services that it offers. Its financial solutions for personal and corporate clients are second to none, including bespoke banking and tax services, which adds value to your business.

With the advent of depolarisation, I am looking at the same life companies as many IFAs when considering term insurance. St James’s Place also has a panel of pensions providers for stakeholder and the range will shortly increase to include GPP and S32 plans. Future increases will take place if it is right for our clients.

On inheritance tax solutions, it has some of the best trusts and tax-planning legal teams available. This means you can write the business and know that if loopholes are closed the company will guide you and your clients.

Pensions simplification are viewed by some in the industry as a nightmare and conversely by others as an opportunity. The marketing material provided by St James’s Place is brilliant. St James’s Place is ahead of the game and I am convinced that it will continue to deliver.

I mentioned earlier that the investment side was key to why I joined the partnership which has proved rewarding for my clients. OK, we have had a rising market but there is more to it than that. The range of funds available can meet different investor needs, catering for income or growth.

The key to our success is an investment committee whose role is to manage the fund managers on behalf of our clients. The overriding objective is to achieve consistently superior investment returns.

This is achieved by selecting some of the best individuals within an investment firm and monitoring the manager and firm to ensure that the committee remains happy with the choice and changing them where necessary.

What’s more, St James’s Place has won accolades for its funds across different sectors. But remember that past performance is no guide to the future.

These areas all help close business but surely the winner is that St James’s Place stands behind and guarantees the advice given by members of the partnership when recommending any of the products and services provided by companies in the group.

So I have a brilliant group behind me, I run my own business I get stock options and a clearly defined exit route which would never happen as a small IFA. The future looks bright.

Wai Man Cheung is a partner at St James’s Place

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