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Make a difference

It was a matter of luck I suppose that I began a career in the financial services industry. Home on a 72-hour pass from my posting in Germany as a national serviceman, a mate said his girlfriend’s boss was looking for a new recruit. It was a good job – you got a car and played golf most days.

Sitting on the boss’s desk smoking a Senior Service cigarette, I persuaded Equity & Law that I could sell insurance although I could not spell reversionary, let alone know what it was. As it was, I sold a policy while I was waiting to join them at Lincoln’s Inn HO and my reputation was already made. I was 20 years of age.

Looking back, I know I have been lucky to join the insurance business and would recommend it to any young person. Indeed, two of my sons, Neil and Nick, are now running our City-based professional insurance (PI) brokerage.

After six years with Equity & Law and seven years with Stenhouse International Insurance Brokers, it was time to strike out on our own. I was joined by my old friend Syd York and within three weeks of starting business we had the 1971 postal strike. The post was crucial in those days but somehow we turned adversity to our advantage and Pointon York (PY) went on to beat its three-year forecast in three months.

Apart from the satisfaction of doing a deal (we called it selling in the early days) my own thrills have come from building strong businesses based on pathfinding innovation. We were ahead of the field in the late 70s with Ssas and again in 1990, PY was the first practitioner to launch a Sipp.

We learned how expensive and difficult it was to try to do everything and since then businesses have been sold off so that we could focus on what we do best – PI & Sipps. Over the years, we have employed many first-class people. Alas, the urge to do what Syd and I had done and start new businesses presented us with new competitors regularly. Today, there are over 20 businesses out there owned and run by ex-PY people.

There are many problems with our industry and I have tried to raise standards. I was instrumental in establishing a number of trade bodies and embryonic regulators such as Biba, Fimbra, APT.

More recently I have concentrated on developing our Sipp business Pointon York Sipp Solutions. As the name suggests, we try to produce innovative concepts for our advisers and their clients so that the maximum benefit can be obtained from what I believe to be a magnificent tax- efficient savings vehicle. While Sipps are good for owning conventional investments such as equities and bonds, they have become particularly popular for fans of individual properties.

Clients love to transfer their favourite building in specie into a Sipp and enjoy the cashflow created by the process. More-over, they can take the kids out on a Sunday morning and visit it, touch it even. As market leaders in this type of scheme we have noticed how robustly valuations have stood up.

Our corporate Sipp initiative began three years ago and is catching on fast. Our focus is on the new “top hat” market, where executives now deprived of final-salary schemes can get the benefit of high employer contribution and control over their own investments.

Hang up your boots, I hear some say, not always kindly. With the fun I am still having, there is no chance. This is one satisfied customer who does not believe in the maxim, a career is a job you’ve had too long.

Geoffrey Pointon is chairman of the Pointon York group of companies

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