One of the fastest consolidators in the industry is run by a man who started out in life selling motor oil. However, David Collett was not to be found behind a petrol pump or in a spare parts store. His first job after university was as a sales manager for American manufacturer Wynn's, where he quickly realised that understanding people's needs was the key to a successful business.
A pragmatic approach to consolidation also seems to have played a part. Many in the industry see the shrinking of the marketplace as a catastrophe but Collett sees it as completely natural, if a little overdue. “The same thing happened in the automotive industry over a decade ago. Smaller service stations turned into parts of large franchises in much the same way that smaller IFAs will have to now to survive.”
Looking back at Collett's career, a pattern is apparent.His success comes from his understanding of his own strengths and talents. Whether it was selling oil or joining with a national IFA, Collett has approached everything he has done by trying to understand the needs of the person he is speaking to.
“The first question I ask a potential Destini IFA is not how much money they want or how much they think their business would be worth. Money aside, I ask them what they want out of the deal. If they do not enjoy the results, then it is not worth doing it.”
For an IFA, Collett says coming into the Destini fold is more about being able to free yourself to do what you want to rather than a clinical business deal. He says Destini is not dictatorial and does not go in to pull apart a new acquisition's business. “The point of the deal is to allow the IFA to do what they need to do to be happy. They do not need to worry about regulation or compliance and we give them the support to grow and market themselves so that all they need concentrate on is what they enjoy — providing financial advice to their clients.”
Collett says he is conscious of creating an environment where IFAs do not feel stuck any more. “Small businesses get a rough deal all over the world but particularly here in Britain.”
This seems to be working a treat for Destini, which has grown by 18 companies in 18 months. “We have built this business from zero by hoping to make an impact on people's lives.”
But by following this approach, Collett admits that Destini's own destiny has turned out somewhat differently from what was envisioned. “Initially, we thought we would get a lot of people retiring and wanting to sell us their businesses. But more and more, because we have created such a safe and enriching environment, we are attracting mature, growing, successful businesses that want to work within the Destini framework.”
Although he is not an IFA, Collett says he feels a real empathy with financial advisers, who he believes share his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for helping people. “It is in the nature of IFAs to make money but below this I think that most IFAs get into the business simply because they enjoy meeting with and talking to people.”
The average Destini RI brings in around £130,000 — far above the industry average – and Collett says the ideal fit for him is a successful, mature IFA with a turnover from £500,000 to £3m. “These are the IFAs that I believe will show true innovation after depolarisation and these are the ones that will be most popular to consumers.”
He agrees there will still be immense consolidation throughout the industry but cautions people from guessing who the main player will be in the future. “There will be a few surprises for people who have not taken Destini into consideration.”
Destini is something very dear to Collett and he says he has been blessed along the way by interesting turns of events that he could never have forecast. He had a son during the 1960s who he later tracked down living in Australia with three children of his own. “No sooner had I found out I was a father, I also found out I was a grandfather.”
By an interesting quirk of fate, Collett also learnt that one of his son's children is called Destiny.
He says his greatest joy comes from helping people and applying his experience to contributing to solutions to problems. “Over the years, I have learned a lot of commercial and social lessons and, if I can pass on this experience and help people, I find it very rewarding.”
Rather than become involved in big organised charity events, Collett prefers a more personal approach, helping people vocationally and building smaller projects for individ-uals. “To help change an individual's life for the better does not take a lot but you can get a lot out of it.| He says as he has grown in age and “some might say wisdom”, he has become less hedonistic and more able to see the “great disparity in the world”. He takes on various projects such as supporting a child's education or helping communities to organise better to get more out of life.
“Around the world, people are just surviving and it can make any Westerner with even the most meagre possessions feel guilty. Even basic things can dramatically change people's lives.”