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Partnership shape

The Millfield Partnership had somewhat unorthodox beginnings.

“Millfield was formed out of adversity, really,” says Roger Brosch,

sales director and one of the partnership&#39s creators.

The founding partners were employees of the French group, General

Assurance National, which had been working to build an IFA arm. When

Gan chose to withdraw from British operations and the plans were

shelved, a small group broke away to start a new company with 42

advisers, mostly culled from connections formed at Gan. Of the 10

founders, nine remain with the company, including its head, Paul

Tebbutt.

The Millfield Partnership is the principal operating company of the

Millfield Group, which provides services in a number of financial

sectors. Based in Croydon, Surrey, it was founded in March 1998 and

floated on the Stock Exchange in March 2001. Over the last two years,

it has seen rapid expansion and is one of the biggest IFAs in the

business.

The firm deals mainly with the corporate sector and high-net-worth

clients and its areas of specialisation include pension transfers,

employee benefits and long-term care cover.

It is seeking to build new business in wealth management, working

with Australian company AM Computing to develop software in this

area. This is set for launch in the next three to six months.

Brosch says part of the reason for this development is a belief that

pensions must be mass-managed in the long term. “While pension

services at the moment have improved, the Government has provided a

situation where there is no market in selling to the general public.

Eventually, we expect to see compulsory pensions, which will require

wealth management,” he says.

The firm will be responding to depolarisation by creating a group of

multi-tied advisers but does not expect the changes to affect it on a

large scale. Brosch says: “We are seeing a consolidation of providers

at the moment and, with a small number of large, effective companies,

the issue of multi-tied against independent becomes less important.”

The latest in a series of acquisitions for Millfield is RST

Accountants, which will further expand the IFA salesforce. Brosch

says this will bring the firm two advantages. “It will bring profit

in its own right and new skills and knowledge in the accountancy

sector, which will provide a necessary specialisation for our

corporate clients,” he says.

Millfield has pursued a rapid expansion plan over the past two years,

resulting in an increase in the number of advisory staff from 102 to

467 and the opening of 20 new centres around the country.

In addition to direct acquisitions, the firm has explored various

other avenues for increasing the size of the business. One of these

is Millfield Associated Partnerships, in which the company enters

into partnerships with smaller firms, handling most of their

compliance, IT and marketing requirements. Other matters are dealt

with internally by the smaller company, allowing it to continue

operating with a personal approach outside Millfield&#39s direct

control. While there is consultation between the partners, the

smaller business retains autonomy.

The service has received commendation from several of the associated

partners. Ashley Armstrong, of Millfield Armstrong Anderson, the

first firm to enter into partnership, says the advantages are easily

apparent for a small firm, citing the workload his company has shed.

“With this arrangement, you control compliance rather than compliance

controlling you,” he says.

Brosch says the aim when setting up the business was to make

Millfield a partnership in more than just name. He cites the

influence in particular of the John Lewis Partnership and its policy

of trying to involve the staff as much as possible in the running of

the organisation. “They have a good quality staff and very high

retention rates. All the staff have a good knowledge of the business.

That was something that we wanted to emulate.”

Brosch believes in good communication and a high level of staff

representation in management.

The company is a stakeholder business, with no shareholder holding

more than 2 per cent of the stock and all IFAs holding some shares

either on their own account or as part of a company scheme. The aim

is to ensure that each adviser has a personal stake in the company&#39s

success. Brosch says: “We have no client ownership or golden

handcuffs. We want people to be at Millfield because it is where they

want to be, not because they are trapped. That tends to be very

demotivating.”

Millfield arranges its people into small business units, aiming to

put together groups whose strengths complement one another, rather

than expecting every IFA to be a generalist, proficient in

technology, knowledgeable in the fine details of finance and the law,

and an excellent communicator.

The eventual aim, according to Brosch, is to create a two-tier

system, where initial contact is made with a generalist who has a

good understanding of the market as a whole and who can identify

particular needs and refer the client on to an expert in the

particular type of advice needed.

Millfield likes to see itself as a unique player, different in its

style of management and business emphasis to other big companies.

Brosch makes it clear that it is still a very young company. The hope

is to break into profit this year and he is confident that, when the

market turns around, his firm will be well placed to take advantage.

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