The top men at self-administered pension specialist firm Rowanmoor Pensions, managing director Ian Hammond and director David Seaton, have been business partners and friends for well over a decade.
A year ago, they took over the SSAS administration and associated consultancy business of self-administered pension specialist James Hay, which had been under the parental control of Abbey. They are now celebrating the first anniversary since going it alone.
Hammond says: “We complement each other in the right ways. In simple terms, David is good at handling the sales aspect, while I’m the administrator. I like looking at the details.”
The pair’s most recent accolade was the renewal of a five-year contract with Standard Life. A measure of the prestige they have achieved in the industry is that they won the SSAS category in the Pensions Management Technology, Administration and Service Awards, for the second consecutive year in 2007.
Hammond, who grew up in the Wirral and confesses to being a fan of Jeffrey Archer, is mad about sports. He was a club cricket player and a Sunday league footballer in his time.
He qualified as an actuary in 1973 after joining firm Duncan Fraser as a student in 1964 but relocated to Salisbury in 1975, becoming managing director at James Hay Pension Trustees in 1986. He has been a pensioneer trustee and involved with small self-administered schemes since 1979.
He admits he does not tolerate fools gladly. “I don’t like it when someone does something stupid when it is blindingly obvious that they have done some-thing wrong.”
Seaton wanted to become a jazz trumpet player when he left school and also held modest ambitions to become a pop mogul. But when he couldn’t afford a new horn, he opted to become an articled clerk instead.
“It would have been fantastic to be a record producer,” he says wistfully.
He only entered the financial services industry in 1986 after spells working as a partner in his father’s firm and independently as a property developer. But after one property deal went awry, Seaton joined Allied Dunbar as a sales consultant. In 1991 he was appointed the director of AIB Pension Trustees and established its SSAS administration department.
He joined James Hay in 1993 as the firm’s director of consultancy, a new post which the board decided would further its growth ambitions. It was a decision that Hammond disagreed with, at least initially.
“We didn’t even have a consultant, so I wasn’t sure why we needed a director,” Hammond says. “We interviewed two candidates but they did not quite fit. Then when I met David, we instantly hit it off. It was like we had known each other for 20 years.”
In fact, their paths had already crossed. Seaton had been profoundly impressed by Hammond’s speech at a conference for the Association of Pensioneer Trustees in the early 1990s when divisions over Europe risked dividing the association.
Seaton says: “It was the best speech I’d ever heard. It was so impressive I came home that night and told my wife about it.”
As their partnership developed, the firm grew at an impressive rate. When Seaton joined it had a turnover of £1m and just 14 staff. But today Rowanmoor has a turnover of £10m, employs over 200 staff and administers about 4,400 schemes.
It was Santander’s takeover of Abbey in 2004 that triggered Hammond’s long-held ambitions to buy out James Hay. It was the big break they needed.
He says: “Abbey was not interested in letting a management buyout take place but when Santander took over, the company decided it could not so easily quantify what our advice arm offered and did not see us as part of their future plans.”
Seaton, who is a board member of Aifa and Hammond say they want Rowanmoor to build on James Hay’s reputation for innovation.
In this vein, they launched the Rowanmoor pensions family pension trust last week. It is a small group Sipp which acts as a private pension scheme, independently established as a discretionary trust. Hammond says it gives members access to personal pension principles, while offering the functionality of a small self-administered scheme.
Seaton says: “It is one of the first products launched post-simplification. It is run like a SSAS with a common trust. All the members are trustees who effectively control everything as co-owners of assets. You can ringfence it and bring children in.”
Hammond says the scheme is fully flexible and offers the full range of investment and retirement options allowable under legislation. Members join together to make specific investments, such as property, unquoted shares, quoted equities or offshore managed funds through common investment funds.
Hammond says: “The product provides the best features of both Sipp and SSAS. Each family pension trust is separately registered with HMRC. There is much more control at the member level than there is with a conventional Sipp.
“If you and your wife and brother-in-law wanted to buy a commercial property, you might have three separate Sipps and each end up owning a third. But you have three sets of legal fees and jointly own it. But with the family pension trust the trust owns it and it’s a single, much simpler, more cost-effective transaction.
Born: Surbiton, Surrey, 1952
Lives: Salisbury, Wiltshire
Education: Tiffin Grammar School, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey
Career: 2006-present: director, Rowanmoor Pensions; 1993-06: director of consultancy, James Hay; 1991-93: director, AIB Pension Trustees; 1986-90: sales consultant, Allied Dunbar; 1981-86: independent property developer; 1976-81: partner, Jeffrey Seaton Ltd; 1970-76: articled clerk, SP Moore
Likes: Pop music, classical music, playing the trumpet, skiing, gadgets
Dislikes: People with no passion
Drives: Jaguar XJ8
Reading: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Film: The Sting
Album: Mahler’s Fifth Symphony
Career ambition: Growing Rowanmoor into profitable business where staff are kept motivated
Life ambition: Financial independence
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be: A record producer
Born: Birkenhead, Wirral, 1946
Lives: Salisbury, Wiltshire
Education: Birkenhead School
Career: 2006-present: managing director, Rowanmoor Pensions; 1986-06: managing director, James Hay Pension Trustees; 1974-86: pensions actuary and deputy general manager, UK Provident; 1964-74: actuarial student, Duncan Fraser
Likes: Sport, gardening and Tranmere Rovers
Dislikes: Fools, stupidity and spicy food
Drives: Mercedes 320
Reading: Next by Michael Crichton
Film: The Queen with Helen Mirren
Album: Greatest Hits by Abba
Career ambition: To continue to own a portion of Rowanmoor for foreseeable future known for being among best at what it does
Life ambition: To own a Sunseeker yacht
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be: A barrister