Chapters Financial director Keith Churchouse got into financial planning when his dream career of being a draughtsman was overtaken by technology.
“I took my A levels in art and engineering to become a draughtsman,” he says. “Six months into my first job, computeraided design came into the market, so the days of drawing on a piece of paper were numbered.”
When Churchouse was made redundant from his draughtsman role due to a relocation, he took his father’s career advice. “My father was a manager at Midlands Bank. I decided I would take his advice but I would not join his bank, so I went to Lloyds. I started as a grade one clerk and worked my way up to the dizzy heights of a grade two supervisor.
“The bank taught me an awful lot and gave me my first exposure to customer contact. I also learned what I did not want to be. In my first week, I asked a colleague if he could help me with a piece of work, and he said: ‘That is not my job.’ It had a profound effect on me and I thought to myself, ‘If I ever say that, I must leave.’ Two years later I said it, so I left.”
Churchouse joined Becketts Lightwater as a mortgage broker, where he stayed for seven years.
One lasting benefit of his experience at this time was his grounding in the need for further professional exams. “I found I enjoyed the technical insurance side of mortgages, so I spent a few years trying to get into Equitable Life. It had extremely high standards – not that I didn’t – and most candidates had a degree. I got in on my mortgage-selling prowess and they started me off on the exam regime we all know and love.” Churchouse was with Equitable Life for seven years until it closed to new business in 2001. “I worked for a few advisers in Surrey and London but Equitable Life had set a standard to which I presumed everyone worked. Being independent appealed to me. The demise of Equitable indicated having all your eggs in one basket was a bad idea.” He worked for a number of local IFA firms before deciding to go it alone and setting up Churchouse Financial Planning in 2004.
He believes each of his previous roles has helped make the firm a success: “Mortgages gave me tenacity, Equitable taught me about the technical side of things, the IFA firms were enjoyable and gave me a different outlook.”
Churchouse Financial Planning rebranded earlier this year after negotiating with Virgin Money. “They bought a bank called Churchouse Trust and applied for a trademark. We objected, but it was all resolved amicably and we changed our name to Chapters Financial.”
The new name reflects a pragmatic approach to potential opportunities that may exist after the RDR. “We will all be moving into new territory. There is no reason why in the future we will not decide to offer mortgages, accountancy, even legal services. If you have ‘planning’ in the name it narrows things down, whereas just ‘financial’ leaves scope
to introduce other services.”
Churchouse also plans to grow Chapters Financial over the short-term and in February the firm took on an apprentice. “I am an apprentice ambassador to Guildford College and took on our apprentice as part of this scheme. Graduates are the future. If we don’t catch youth early, it will be a struggle to attract them into financial services later.”
Chapters also recruited a paraplanner. “It is a growth area in terms of numbers and quality. If communication between an adviser and a paraplanner is good enough, the paraplanner can become indispensable. It also provides graduates with more opportunities to enter the industry.”
Churchouse says the RDR’s impact on the industry is likely to be significant and will certainly affect his business.
“The FSA’s document on independent advice raises questions of whether independence will be profitable after the RDR. The extra administration needed may mean more advisers go restricted, but we will remain independent, we have offered client-agreed remuneration since 2007.”
Pursuing independence means Chapters’ simplified offerings – websites planmypension.co.uk and investmentmadesimple.com – may be under threat in light of the RDR rules.
“Planmypension only looks at Isas, annuities and simple pensions, so it goes against our independent offering. Unless we sell them, we will take them down and perhaps revisit them in the future.”
But he says Chapters’ other website, advicemadesimple.com, will remain active. Selling the websites would be a blow, as they were launched partly to cater for the middle market which could be excluded from advice under the RDR.
“Take-up has been limited but after 2013 people will become more educated in the way advice is delivered. The websites could just be ahead of their time.”
He believes that online advice is the future for the middle market.
“In 1985, everyone had an insurance broker who came to their house, whereas now they use online aggregators. I think in 10 years’ time there will be advice aggregators and you will see that silly GoCompare man singing GetMyPension, while advisers like me will service high-net-worth clients.”
When Churchouse isn’t working in his business, he is writing. He already has four books under his belt, three non-fiction and one fiction and is working on a fifth.
“My first book, Sign Here, Here and Here! Journey of a Financial Adviser is the most successful by far. It has just been translated into Portuguese.”
He says progress on his fifth book is slow: “I have reached 15,000 words but I am running out of steam a bit.”
Other than overcoming his writer’s block, Churchouse plans to get his FPS certification and expand Chapters further. “We want to take on more advisers or businesses to spread the Chapters’ name. We are now a brand that can be used across a range of offerings and we want to build on that.”
Born: Oxford, 1967
Lives: Bramley, near Guildford, with his wife
Education: George Abbot School, Guildford; Napier
Career: 2004-present: director, Chapters Financial; 2001-04: IFA at various businesses in Surrey and London; 1997-2001: financial planner, Equitable Life; 1994-97: representative, Equitable Life; 1988-94: mortgage manager, Becketts Lightwater; 1985-88: supervisor, Lloyds
Likes: Crispy aromatic duck, modern British art,community work
Dislikes: Liars, jobsworths and closed thinking
Drives: Mercedes Cabriolet
Book: Assine aqui, aqui e aqui!…Jornada de um Consultor Financeiro, the Portuguese translation of my first book
Film: The Boat That Rocked
Album: Tin Drum by Japan
Career ambition: To be a professor in financial services
Life ambition: To be happy, if possible!
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…An author.