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Justin Urquhart Stewart and Tom Sheridan

Seven Investment Management’s founders believe we are seeing a split in the sector between the old school of product sales and the new generation of professional planning.

The early years of anyone’s career in a financial corporation can be challenging but being gunned down perhaps goes beyond the usual problems.

But that was the situation that young Justin Urquhart Stewart, now Seven Investment Management’s marketing director, found himself in when he was caught up in gunfire when a coup erupted in Uganda when he was working for Barclays Dominion Colonial & Overseas.

This near-death experience has not left a bitter aftertaste but seems to have boosted his appetite for life, as well as motorbikes and archaeology. Urquhart Stewart and his colleague of the past 10 years, chief executive of Seven IM Tom Sheridan, the two are clearly upbeat when discussing financial services and their company’s part in it.

Seven IM, celebrating its fifth birthday, was founded by Sheridan and Urquhart Stewart with five others and now has 0.5bn under management. When the firm launched, with just seven staff, it started out as a discretionary asset management service. Since then, Seven IM has, among others, created an Oeic and introduced the first sterling-based wrap account to the UK investment market.

Sheridan and Urquhart Stewart met while working for Barclays Stockbrokers. They were disillusioned with the faceless approach of big corporations towards clients .

Sheridan says: “We were looking for our own retirement fund and we were working in one of the larger investment services companies in the UK. We could not find what we were looking for. We felt with the simple questions such as,’can I see it?’ ‘can I talk to somebody about it?’ that the answers were invariably no and we believed this was not right.”

Urquhart Stewart says: “We wanted to offer something different.” Part of this process at Seven was incorporating institutional-calibre investment for the retail market. Irrespective of size – whether someone has 7,000 or 700,000 – the same investment discipline must be carried out. Urquhart Stewart says: “What you really need to do to add some benefit is to have access to the institutional. A large pension fund has access to institutional managers, costs, commission – why can’t we provide this to the retail market?”

Sheridan explains that he has had issues with stockbroking – a primary one being that the person making the portfolio decisions was not an investment manager by trade. “Essentially, it was a salesperson making investment decisions and then, just for good measure, they would be put on to a commission basis. We wanted to make sure we never had an in-house manager because people will want to have different asset classes and one person cannot be good at all of them.”

Next up for Seven is a self-invested personal plan . This month, the group plans to launch a Sipp with Pointon York Sipp Solutions. “It is a corporate Sipp to allow companies to have a personal Sipp in a corporate structure, to enable them to move away from defined-contribution schemes. They can effectively have individual Sipps under a corporate banner,” says Urquhart Stewart.

Seven works exclusively through IFAs and Sheridan and Urquhart Stewart believe this is the start of a new era for advisers. They feel the sector is on the cusp of dividing into two very distinct groups. Urquhart Stewart says: “The milk is separating from the cream.” The pair believe that they are witness-ing a new stage of professionalism from IFAs which is more akin to US-based financial consultants. Sheridan says: “The old school is product sales. The new generation is helping people to get to that day when they do not have to work any more and they can keep the same lifestyle. That is what people want.”

Urquhart-Stewart says: “Those IFAs who realise they are not selling products but are providing a professional service to, more often than not, families is the way forward. We see families developing some financial tribalism because there is husband, wife, secondhand husband and wife, children and grandparents, and the financial planner will be co-ordinating across generations.”

Sheridan and Urquhart-Stewart see this evolution, in part, as a reaction to a lack of financial education in the UK.

Urquhart-Stewart says: “In US schools, you are taught financial services. Here, it’s ‘hard luck mate, cut up your Barclaycard and hope for the best’. That all has to change.”

A number of factors have caused this, says Sheridan and Urquhart Stewart, with the latter citing the many new products entering the market, the evolving nature of information technology and two other factors which have been key drivers – regulation and demand.

Urquhart Stewart says: “Regulation is the best defence against all the horrors beyond but, to have good regulation, the industry has to participate and teach people. The regulator does not prevent things we do. The other element is demand because the majority of people still want face-to-face advice.”

Justin Urquhart Stewart

Age: 50

Lives: Hammersmith, London

Career: 1979: Barclays Dominion Colonial & Overseas; 1985: Barclays Stocksbrokers; 2000-present: Seven IMEducation: Studied law at Southampton University

Likes: Fine wine, archaeological digs as well as visiting wild and woolly places to see what is going on, such as Mayo in the West of Ireland

Dislikes: Thoughtless people

Ambition: To thank those in Uganda who saved his life. Do more archaeology, and professionally “to have a business, where our ideas and thoughts are put into effect”

Heroes: Alcibiades, a general in the Peloponnesian War. He was a “master of perfect communication, so always ended up on the winning side”

Drives: BMW K75S motorcycle

Tom Sheridan

Age: 51Lives: Esher, Surrey

Career: 1975:Prudential-Bache; 1996: Barclays Stockbrokers: 2000-to present Seven IM Education: Finance Fairfield University, Connecticut, US. Completed his Masters in economics whiIe at Prudential-BacheLikes: Cooking and sport – especially golf and hockeyDislikes: Organisational politics

Ambition: Give something back something in the form of training in sport. To grow the business correctly and honestly and to show fairness and honesty can win

Heroes: Eric Clapton, “he has reinvented himself so many times and has overcome some very difficult patches in life

Drives: Four-wheel drive Mitsubishi truck

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