The new Sofa director is not short of a few words, which could be explained
by a spell as a market trader in South London when he was younger. But
rather than turn him into a wheeler-dealer type, Jason Butler insists that
working on a stall helped him learn how to “read” people.
Although Butler has two entrepreneurial brothers in the motor trade, he
says the Del Boy influence goes no further. But he does have a battered
Volvo which could probably outdo the Trotter three-wheeler. However, he
aims to replace the old banger, which he drives to the station each day,
with an Aston Martin when he has completed the 20 achievement goals he has
Butler is a straight-talker who sets himself high standards and dislikes
those who dither or appear indecisive. So it may appear surprising that he
survived a temping spell in the Civil Service before venturing into
His first personal finance job came as the result of a car deal. After
delivering the car to a Cornhill representative, he was promptly hired for
the company. He says his time at Cornhill taught him a lot about sales but
there was not enough training to keep him occupied and he quickly decided
he needed more to get his teeth into. So he became a financial adviser.
The 33-year-old is now the managing director of Bloomsbury Financial Group
and recently faced tough competition from nine other candidates for a
leading role at Sofa. He is uncompromising about his fairly controversial
proposals for the society, which include much closer ties with the
Institute of Financial Planning. He will not entirely write off a merger
between the two.
Butler also suggests much closer links with other organisations such as the
LIA and says he will not be afraid of putting people's noses out of joint.
“I was elected based on a clear set of objectives that I fully intend to
He describes the last Sofa conference as rather downbeat and hopes to
inject a bit more enthusiasm into next year's conference. “Financial
advisers have got nothing to feel down-hearted about. It is a fantastic
job,” he says.
Butler sees himself making the Bloomsbury group a household name in the not
too distant future. He says there are many aspects that separate his firm
from other financial planners, including its stance on products such as
hedge funds, where he is deeply sceptical.
He is looking at mergers or acquisitions with more than a dozen firms which
follow similar financial planning strategies but says he is well aware of
the dangers of unchecked growth. “If you grow too quickly, then you lose
He is concerned that the group finds a good match. Bloomsbury likes to
train its own staff and predominantly recruits people without experience of
financial planning. “Most of our team have worked in financial services
but, for the large part, they are graduates who have sales experience and a
basic know-ledge of the products. We want to train them up our way.”
Butler draws a distinct difference between what he believes are the skills
needed to be an IFA and a good financial planner. Part of his proposals for
developing Sofa are based on establishing a financial planning faculty to
improve training for advisers in both technical and soft skills, such as
improving customer relations techniques.
His contemporaries attribute part of his recent success to a carefully
constructed team. With five handpicked RIs and plans to recruit more,
Butler is now able to set aside more time for developing the company
He describes his firm's charges as “proper chunky fees”, which at the top
of the range are as high as £4,000 for a planning session. In view of
escalating PI prices and increasing costs, he has no qualms about raising
fees again and says: “The only complaints we ever get are from new clients
who think we charge too much. But that is before they have really seen what
they get for their money and then they are extremely happy with the
detailed, conscientious type of work we do.”
Butler recently moved offices from Bloomsbury to Devonshire Square after
“enduring the Central Line for far too long” on a daily commute. Although
the group website favours quotes from Oscar Wilde rather than Virginia
Woolf, he likes to think it still appeals to the Bloomsbury set. He says he
has the kind of high-net-worth clients that most advisers dream of having
on their books – sports stars, actors and young entrepreneurs.
Although school did not really appeal, he gained a place on a business
studies degree course but eventually dropped out because he “wanted to get
out there and get rich quick”. He realised he was not earning any money in
a classroom but now advocates more professional exams and work experience
for anyone who wants to train as a planner.
Butler says he has compensated for a lack of qualifications ever since
leaving school. He now has several AFPC certificates but adds: “They
certainly weren't a walkover and I have a lot of sympathy for those people
who struggle at first.”
Lives: Suffolk with his wife and daughter.
Born: April 1969 in Lewisham, South London.
Career: Walsingham School, Orpington.1989 – Cornhill sales team. 1991 –
Lamensdorf group IFA, 1995 – Jackson Batten, founded Bloomsbury Financial
Group in 1998, Sofa director 2002.
Career ambition: “By the time I'm 40, I want to have established Bloomsbury
as a brand name – the John Lewis of financial services.”
Life ambition: Short term – to row 2,000m in under six-and-a-half minutes.
Long term – to complete a triathlon.
Likes: Keeping fit at the gym, tennis lessons, spending time with his family.
Dislikes: Cheap beer.
Peers say: “He's a very energetic and enthusiastic guy with very strong
views. He doesn't take the easy option and some people will welcome his
changes at Sofa with open arms but others will certainly not.”
Car: 1988 E reg Volvo 340.