Rowanmoor Pensions corporate governance director Shirley Hylands and the company’s administration director Lucy Matthews believe the combination of technology expertise and personal service help to set the specialist company apart.
Matthews says: “We spent a lot of time making sure we had a really good administration system to run the Sipps on before we launched them. Technology is critical. You are not going to be able to operate a product like a Sipp without it but, at the same time, our clients love the fact that they can phone us and always speak to the same person. It is about the balance.”
This business continuity is part of the reason that Hylands believes Rowanmoor will benefit from changes such as the RDR and, as the company has a small IFA division, it understands the issues that the IFA market faces.
Hylands says: “With all regulation, it will be professionalism that rules the roost. The RDR will benefit us specifically for two reasons – first, that we already operate open architecture across the board and second, because we can use our IFA arm to demonstrate our professionalism in that arena.
“One-third of our team have already got their certificates of professional standing and our sales director is looking to achieve chartered status for the whole company.”
Auto-enrolment also poses opportunities for Rowanmoor. Hylands says: “We are looking at potentially offering administration services around Nest through our IFA arm for companies that want to do more than a plain pension.”
Rowanmoor’s broader business plan consists of building on what it has. “We would not rule out another launch if it felt appropriate,” says Matthews. “But we will be mostly continuing to focus on the Sipp area and see if there are any nuances we would want to get involved in. Forging more links with third parties, as we have with Brooks MacDonald and Investec this year, is another priority.”
Hylands’ role means she will be focusing more on contending with forthcoming regulation, such as capital ratios for businesses. She says: “We have to use what is going on to be innovative. Although legislative changes can be difficult, they can also be very positive.”
Matthews agrees there will be big opportunities for providers. “Everyone is living longer and pension products need to cater for that. We have not got a magic plan that is going to be the new Sipp for the next 20 years but as the Government announces policies and things become clearer, we will be there, looking to react.”
Both women moved in the pension sector after career changes. “I started off thinking I wanted a career in estate agency but after I got my first role I realised I was not happy doing it,” says Matthews.
“I joined James Hay as a junior administrator in 1986. It was one of those passing comments in a pub situations. I got an interview, and ultimately the job.”
Matthews has seen the company change hands from Guinness Mahon Benefit Consultants to Abbey National Independent Advisers to Santander, a chain of events that resulted in the management buyout of the James Hay Investment Services Ssas division and its associated regulatory arm.
Hylands started her financial services career in private practice, moving on to a role in compliance at TSB in 1988. She says: “It was just as the Financial Services Act was coming into force, so I was slotted into a role interpreting new regulation for the business. That was not the job I had been offered at all but they must have thought it matched my skill set.”
In 1998, Hylands was offered a position as the compliance officer for James Hay Investment Services at Abbey National. When she was included in the management buyout for Rowanmoor in 2006 she breathed a sigh of relief. “It could have gone the other way for me, so I was delighted to be part of a team I respected.”
Matthews was also keen to work for Rowanmoor rather than remain with James Hay. She says: “I have only ever worked on the Ssas side. It grew up under different management from the Sipp and the two became quite different in their cultures. Although we have our own Sipp now we still work differently from James Hay. They have a process-based philosophy but I believe in a highquality personal service.”
Hylands believes it is this philosophy that allows Rowanmoor to navigate through the influx of legislation the pension industry is subject to. “For us, TCF was a positive because we were already doing it. Making it a requirement just put a stamp on it,” she says.
Both women have seen huge changes in regulation while they have been at Rowanmoor. Hylands says: “The volume of legislation now is enormous. The current Companies Act is the biggest piece of legislation there is.”
Matthews says: “When I started in 1986, there was no regulation dealing with Ssas and now we are dealing with a whole raft of it.”
Although the Ssas is Rowanmoor’s longest-standing product, Matthews says they remain a more specialist offering. “There is still a market for Ssas, especially because of the loanback facility in a recession where it is difficult to borrow money from banks. We will continue to offer Ssas but no one can pretend they grow at the same rate as Sipps.”
This is partly why Rowanmoor launched first its family pension trust in 2006 and then its Sipp in 2009. “It had always been part of the plan to do a Sipp,” says Hylands.
The firm’s family pension trust is more of a niche product now than when it launched in 2006 because of the removal of the requirement to annuitise at 75 but Matthews says it still has a definite place. “It may not have thousands of sales but the family Sipp is used by two substantial categories of people. One is families and the other is groups of individuals who may be connected through business.”
Rowanmoor’s Sipp has been its strongest product over recent years.
Hylands says: “We have seen a 55 per cent increase in volume up to October and 150 new contracts up to November. Part of the reason for this is that we work in a bespoke marketplace but we also try to be creative in finding solutions for clients.”
Shirley Hylands (above right)
Lives: Chilbolton, Hampshire, with husband and cat
Education: Maidstone Grammar School for Girls and University of Durham
Career: 2006-present: director and company secretary, Rowanmoor Group; 1998-2006: various senior compliance roles at Abbey National/James Hay; 1988-98: compliance/legal roles at Lloyds TSB; 1983-88: trainee solicitor, Marshall Hall and Levy, South Tyneside Borough Council
Likes: Loyalty, gardening and chocolate
Dislikes: Rudeness, laziness and arrogance
Drives: BMW convertible
Book: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Film: Regarding Henry
Album: Imagine by John Lennon
Career ambition: Add value in all I do
Life ambition: Make the most of every day
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… An interior designer, or dancing on Strictly!
Lucy Matthews (above left)
Born: Ringwood, Hampshire, 1963
Lives: Hampshire, with husband and two children
Education: Godolphin School, Salisbury
Career: 2006-present: admin director, Rowanmoor Group Plc; 1997-2006: associate director, James Hay Pension Trustees; 1994-97: admin manager, James Hay; 1986-94: administrator, James Hay
Likes: Enthusiasm, sense of humour and equestrian sports
Dislikes: Inefficiency, negativity and gooseberries
Drives: Mini Cooper
Book: Harry Potter
Album: Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd
Career ambition: To see Rowanmoor win an industry award for Sipp administration
Life ambition: Not to have regrets
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… Doing charity work