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Correspondents week

My week starts on a Thursday, having returned from holiday. A warm sunny day beckons, better weather than in France, and once again I delight from the fact that my journey takes only 25 minutes by bicycle.

Everything ran smoothly during my absence (thanks, Jemma, Daphne, Michelle, Mark, Debbie and Laurie). I could go away again but for the inevitable catch-up of hundreds of emails and a new client meeting. Clients come from many sources and this one is from our contact in Brussels who met the client on an aeroplane and recommended us.

Friday&#39s big event is the announcement of our merger with Crossley Mackenzie, a Norwich-based IFA. It is a significant step for both our companies and something we want to announce to the press.

Helm has maintained a very low profile historically but now plans to grow RI numbers to 50 and double our turnover to £7,000,000, hopefully raising profits to £700,000, and we want to get this message out there.

Next stop is a meeting arranged by one of our consultants with an offshore fund manager. He wants to discuss whether we are interested in hedge funds. The meeting requires a full understanding of the proposition, money laundering and compliance. Having satisfied ourselves that all is above board, we agreed.

Running an IFA becomes more and more about risk management. This is underlined by a meeting with our PI brokers who, in a nutshell, inform me that there are only four players in the market and that the only avenue open to us is to stick with our current underwriters Magian. But Magian is now going to be a mutual and so our broker leaves me with pages of details of the new set-up. The problem is nothing is yet fin-alised so we do not know what we will be letting ourselves in for.

On top of that, we do not wish to pay massive premiums with huge excesses and then be a party to underwriting other IFA firms. It does not strike me as a risk that I would be keen to take.

Mondays commence with our usual 8:30am consultants meeting to discuss the weekend press, any new ideas, training issues or any other matters the consultants want to raise.

An interesting insight was that the Government is to provide funds for the regime that oversees the training of financial advisers with the aim of beefing up the quality and image of financial advice. The package is to be announced on September 10.

With two young trainee advisers on board, there is always interest in any Government initiatives that will help.

A meeting with a potential recruit takes place in the airy halls of the Royal Exchange. While a great believer in getting out of the office, watching the wealthy and glamorous passing through on their way to Tiffany&#39s is quite a distraction from discussions around the tax efficiencies of film partnerships.

Tuesday also starts with a meeting, this time with the MD of a firm of nine RIs to discuss the possible benefits of a merger. Our two firms are really quite different in structure, with Helm&#39s advisers all being self-employed and his being in the main employed by the firm.

We agreed that to survive and prosper, firms need to be bigger, with high levels of professional competency. His view, with over 30 years of experience, was that IFAs were in meltdown and this was the hardest business environment he had ever come across.

Survivors would, however, see huge benefits over the next few years as high-net-worth individuals and companies would continue to need advice.

Wednesday sees me abandoning the bicycle for a drive down to Southampton and a day out at Cowes courtesy of Skandia. The hottest day of the year so far is spent chatting, drinking Champagne, sunbathing and swimming, reminding me what a great job this is.

Bruce Wilson is managing director of Helm Godfrey


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