As long as certain financial services and products are targeted solely at institutions, there will always be some individuals working hard to establish a retail equivalent. Twenty years ago, Anthony Yadgaroff was one such person.Part adviser, part performance analyst, Allenbridge Group was founded by Yadgaroff in 1985 to help find the best fund managers for its wealthy clients. Allenbridge has since diversified into Isa and Pep management, venture capital trusts, enterprise investment schemes and hedge funds. Despite its high-net-worth origins, its services are now offered to a broader base. On the Isa and Pep management side alone, it has around 24,000 clients. Before founding Allenbridge, Yadgaroff, who is the firm’s managing director, had noticed there was no retail equivalent of the investment performance services offered to trustees and institutions. This was a gap he was keen to fill for his high-net-worth clients. At that time, Yadgaroff was looking after eight small pension funds. These became Allenbridge shareholders and helped the firm get off the ground. With financial backing in place, the task of finding clients began. The company brought in clients through accountants and law firms. Yadgaroff recalls: “It was difficult because there were no introducers who had time to go and introduce us to new clients. We relied on accountancy and law firms to put us in touch with clients. We organised beauty parades, taking clients to see up and coming managers.” Tax efficiency is a major concern for an affluent client base and this led to the development of Allenbridge’s tax shelter Report, a subscription-only publication providing independent comment on VCTs, EISs and other tax-efficient investments. The tax shelter research is conducted by a team of analysts headed by director David Knight. Yadgaroff says: “We list the money flows into VCTs on the tax shelter website. Once a VCT gets half the amount it is trying to raise, a lot of money flows in because IFAs wait to see whether it will reach its minimum to proceed but the danger is that it could close before they invest.” In Yadgaroff’s view, the temporary enhancement of income tax relief up to 40 per cent has rejuvenated the VCT market even though Chancellor Gordon Brown removed the ability to defer capital gains tax through a VCT. He says: “The VCT market was dying but it has been revived. We think there will be more demand for VCTs than Isas this year and more IFAs will start looking at VCTs for their clients.” By the mid-1990s, Allenbridge was facing competition from accountancy firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG, which were setting up their own wealth management services. Yadgaroff says: “We decided this was not the area we wanted to be in and that we needed to find another group of clients so we analysed the Pep market and started a Pep advisory service. Now we look at Isas and funds of funds.” Allenbridge did not abandon its wealthier clients and now offers them a service with a difference – Affluenza & Wealth. The company employs a psychologist, Dr Ronit Lami, to counsel people on how to handle their wealth. Yadgaroff says: “Too many young people coming from very wealthy families become drug addicts or lose all their money. Our service helps people deal with their wealth. We show them how fortunate they are by getting them involved in voluntary work with charities.” The final phase in the development of Allenbridge – the hedge funds rating service – was a response to enquiries in the late 1990s from tax shelter report subscribers. Yadgaroff says: “Jacob Schmidt runs that side of the business. Our clients are mainly pension funds and private banks wanting research on hedge funds and funds of hedge funds.” He believes hedge funds will become more mainstream in future. “I do not see why individuals are allowed to put 100 per cent in technology and could lose their money while they cannot invest in hedge funds which are there to protect capital,” he says. Another string to the Allenbridge bow is in legal work. It provides expert witnesses on behalf of law firms whose clients are suing fund managers or trustees. Allenbridge states a preference for clients to go through internal compliance rather than the courts but this part of its business could get busier as the UK becomes increasingly litigious.
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