Financial advice was not the first choice of career for Addidi managing director Anna Sofat.
“Initially I wanted to be a journalist,” says Sofat, but by the time she was studying for her masters in international relations at the London School of Economics she had become disenchanted with the idea and decided to focus on a career in marketing instead.
“My first job was in sales of commodities in the City, for an Australian mining business.”
After two years Sofat left to join the Woolwich to pursue her aim of a career in marketing.
The company had a graduate level training scheme that trained people to branch manager level but which then allowed Sofat to transfer to the marketing department. However, the arrival of her first child put an obstacle in the way of progression at the firm.
Despite having invested a lot of time and money training her, a move to part-time work proved difficult. “They were incredibly inflexible,” she recalls.
“The last project I worked on was on financial advice and whether Woolwich went independent or not. When I left the Woolwich, someone joking suggested I set up as a financial adviser. The entry level was pretty low in those days and I became an appointed rep with L&G and did all my exams.
As her husband is an accountant, a lot of her business came from referrals and she found herself dealing with sophisticated planning issues, such as SSASs, executive personal pension schemes and tax planning.
“It was something I could really get my teeth into. If it had been basic mortgage selling, I probably would have left the business years ago.”
The business initially offered her the flexibility to fit her work around raising her two daughters, but as it grew she found she had to make a choice.
“It had been a part-time lifestyle choice but it was growing to the point that it was a full-time seven days a week business and I had a choice as to whether I took on other people and continue to grow.”
Sofat gave up advising and joined Jackson Batten as marketing manager. In the four years she was their she was promoted to business development director of the firm but when she felt she was no longer getting challenged by the job she decided it was time to see what else was available.
“At the time, Fiona Price was looking for an operations director. I was intriuged because amongst IFAs she was the one to have established a brand.”
She joined as the business was embarking on an ambitious growth strategy designed to allow Price to step away from day to day involvement.
However, as the growth strategy failed to hit its targets, Sofat found herself helping to re-shape the business. This involved Sofat becoming the managing director of the business but as the business plans were scaled back and as part of its focus on maximising profitability, she moved back into giving advice.
“One of the ways to make the business sustainable was for me to go back into advising. I had kept up with all my qualifications and I started working with some of the high net worth clients and found I really enjoyed it.”
When the business was sold to Thinc, Sofat said it was a fairly easy decision to set up on her own again.
“When you take the commission element out of advising, pure advising or financial planning is great.”
In 2006, Sofat set up Addidi ltd the firm now has two advisers and three support staff but in keeping with its ethos for clients, Sofat says the aim of the firm is not simply to make money and growth for its own sake is not the ambition.
Instead, Sofat says Addidi is designed to help its clients have a better quality of life and allow their money to work for them. As a result, the business can feel like more like a club than a financial adviser.
But Sofat is adamant that Addidi is a profitable and sustainable business. Clients are offered three levels of service and are charged an annual fee. The level of service is dependent on what the client wants, rather than the size of their assets, and Sofat says some clients pay a relatively high cost for the service, while others can pay a low fee as a proportion of assets but she says this is a result of responding to client demand rather than imposing a fee structure on them.
“We are not asset based at all. We aim to provide value for clients. If we are adding value, people do not have an issue with paying fees.”
Addidi is aimed primarily (although not excusively) at women and Sofat says there are convincing demographic and financial arguments for concentrating on providing financial advice to women, she say: “When I set up the business I decided didn’t want a lifestyle business. I can rattle off all the statistics about female wealth The idea behind Fiona Price was to help women achieve financial independence. We have that now but a lot of women, in my experience, were not translating that into any happier lives. I saw that if I could take away the worry of helping them look after their money and if I could devise services that could save them time, then they could have slightly more balanced lives.”
Under the Addidi brand there are three other businesses which aim to advance Addidi’s aims of helping clients’ money work for them and broaden their horizons. Alongside a financial concierge service, which , Sofat also runs Addidi Business Angels to boost the number of women investing in start-up businesses and Addidi Pioneers, a philanthropic initiative to encourage clients that can afford to to invest in social and sustainable projects.
“For many women, money isn’t an end in itself. Women think about money in a much more rounded way.
The way the business was set up with its set fee model means the RDR holds few fears for Sofat. The choice of remaining independent or opt for restricted status is also a straightforward one.
“We are independent. There is no thinking about it.”
However, she is concerned about the potential for the RDR to reduce access to advice overall.
“What would be sad is we lost the capacity to help people across all wealth sectors.”
- Born: Delhi, India
- Lives: Rochester, Kent
- Education: London School of Economics, masters in international relations
- Career: 2006-present: managing director, Addidi Ltd, 2000-2006, managing director, Fiona Price and Partners, 1996-2000; business development director, Jackson Batten Financial Group
- Likes:Learning, broadening my horizons, travelling and experiencing new cultures
- Dislikes: Waste, politics
- Drives: Either a Mazda 2 or BMW 5 series
- Book: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
- Film: Bend it like Beckham
- Album: Ne-Yo
- Career ambition: to be the best I can be
- Life ambition: not to have any regrets
- If I wasn’t doing this I would be….sitting on a desert island contemplating