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Former Openwork director to head network’s fifth largest firm

Group of business people holding a jigsaw puzzle pieces. Business solution integration concept. Multi ethnic group. Close up of handsFormer Openwork director Philip Martin has joined the network’s fifth largest advice firm as a co-owner and manager.

Martin is leading Unique Financial Planning along with practice partner and chief executive Stewart Williams, who set up the firm in 1991.

Martin’s departure from Openwork, where he was proposition and marketing director, was confirmed in November after six years with the business.

Unique has offices in Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Dorset. It is a member of the Openwork network.

Martin tells Money Marketing  the firm’s total valuation is split between £240m in assets under management, with approximately the same amount in off-platform assets.

Unique currently has 20 advisers across its three offices, and will gain 11 more in an acquisition Martin says will be finalised next week.

He says Unique will be looking to run the same technology and systems across all of its acquired firms.

Zurich sells out of Openwork

Martin says: “Advice businesses find it hard to scale and get scaled because the centralised processes are very weak. They haven’t invested in technology. We want to start to make principle decisions about which bits of technology we want to embrace first, and work on ways that we can make it easy for our advisers to see more clients and do a better job for them.”

He adds: “The objectives over my first six to nine months are to complete our current transaction and embed those advisers in, start to integrate the businesses we’ve got better and start to have our business trade together under the same name.”

Martin says Unique will be recruiting paraplanners who will be supported through exams to become chartered planners, and the firm will look to completely automate some manual processes for its advisers, including the writing of suitability reports.

He says: “We want to deliver a way of writing suitability reports centrally, because that frees up time for advisers and gives us a handle on quality as a business so we know they are being written in the right way and to the same standards.”

Looking at getting graduates into the industry is also a point of interest for the firm.

Martin says: “Getting younger people trained up to be competent and professional enough quickly enough is important to plug the gap.”

Unique will also be passing on client books from retiring advisers to new advisers who have been trained up through the firm.

Martin says: “Training is a huge investment in time and people and it’s a slow burner; it can take three to four years to get advisers ready to see clients. Whoever we have coming to join our business, we see them as being in it for the long term.”

Of the business model, Martin says:“Everything needs processes, but we don’t want a land of manuals and tedium. A business needs to breathe and have enough spontaneity to still be entrepreneurial but if it’s going to be really successful, you do need those core processes, whether you’re in one office or another.”

He adds: “I want to know that if someone comes to us for advice, the end outcome will be the same, and delivered to the same standard in the same way.”

Martin says the firm is alsonlooking to have strong female representation. Four of the business’s 31 advisers will be women following the completion of its acquisition next week.

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