While some IFAs are planning to wind down their businesses as the retail distribution review approaches, Philippa Gee is just starting her own practice.
She says: “The RDR was the encouragement I needed to get back into business. I like everything about the RDR and I have always thought working on fees is the best approach and to have the FSA endorse that meant it was a big push forward for me. I think it is a major opportunity for all IFAs to refocus their efforts and push forward.”
Gee, with her husband Sean Hall, has set up Philippa Gee Wealth Management in the picturesque Shropshire hills. She hopes that her years in financial services, as well as training by her father, former Fimbra vice-chairman Ron Gee, will help her create a professional practice that offers fee-based financial planning services.
She joined her father’s practice from school and admits that being the boss’ daughter had its downside. “I was not given special treatment, far from it, but I learned a lot from my father. He was very professional and he instilled that sense of professionalism into me.”
In 1993, the business moved from commission to a fee structure,which was rare for stand-alone advisers at that time: “I went to an Institute of Financial Planning conference and came back convinced that fees were the way to go, so, after much investigation, myself and my father decided to switch.”
Gee says other advisers at that time thought the firm’s changes were a bigger jump than they were.
“Only when you work on fees can you see the value it brings. It stops being about product and it starts to be about long-term planning. It means not to be about selling a product at all, it means you can help people who just need their investments and pensions tweaked to fit their requirements.”
Gee & Company was featured in a Financial Times article entitled, The real independents, where it was picked out as a true independent adviser with its decision to charge fees. It was from this point that Gee began commentating on the investment advice industry for the national press, a role that she has continued to do ever since.
Her father retired and she eventually sold the firm in 2000. After a short spell of advising offshore private banks on their financial services businesses, she joined Torquil Clark. She spent eight years with the financial adviser, working closely with fund managers before moving to T Bailey.
“It was good to get experience of the asset management side. That has helped me in developing as a financial adviser in understanding the investment world better.”
She left the multi-manager this month to set up her firm and says establishing the new business has been hard work but is starting to pay off already. “I can walk my daughter to school and then walk down the road to my office. That is an amazing thing.”
Gee says she is not worried about completing her professional qualifications as 2012 approaches. “You cannot call yourself a professional unless you have the qualifications to go along with that. I am virtually there and will try and get chartered as soon as possible. It is important for me to get the chartered status.”
She says not too much has changed since she ran her last IFA practice in 2000 but one improvement has been the service offered by networks. Gee is an appointed rep of Paradigm and admits she is now a convert to the network model.
“Up until recently, I was not convinced by the network proposition but there are now a couple of networks that are very well organised and where the IFA owns the client and the levels of compliance are very high. It is funny how I have changed my mind but it is good to have someone looking over what you are doing and checking everything is correct.”
As well as both being practising IFAs, Gee and her husband are also practising Christians and she says they both try to talk to clients who share their faith about giving to charity and investing ethically when assessing their finances.
“The Christian principles are about managing money soundly and being responsible for what you have. That is not to say a non-Christian adviser cannot offer that advice but it is important to us and it does fit in comfortably to the fee-based service.
“We want to help clients in their lives but that does not mean we will be getting the guitars out and strumming hymns to them while we offer advice.”
Gee does not have any plans to expand her business beyond her locality. “We are just looking to work in our community, offer good advice to our clients and get the right balance between work and family.”
The decision to start a firm at such an uncertain time for the economy is also paying off and Gee says she has had no shortage of enquiries from new clients.
“We were getting calls from clients the day we moved our furniture into the office. There are a lot of people out there who do not know what to do with their money, they are concerned with what is happening and they want a decent income on their investments but do not know where to get it.
Born: Shrewsbury, 1971
Lives: Church Stretton
Education: Shrewsbury Girls School, FPC, AFPC, Cemap
Career: 2010-present: managing director, Philippa Gee Wealth Management; 2009-10: head of sales, marketing and commun-ications, T Bailey Asset Management; 2000-09: investment director, Torquil Clark; 2000: independent management consultant; 1990-2000: managing director, Gee &; Company
Likes: Work, family, faith and chocolate
Dislikes: People who say, ’etc’, liars, two-faced people
Drives: Nissan Qashqai
Book: Too many to mention
Film: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Career ambition: For Philippa Gee Wealth Management to be a great success
Life ambition: To have a healthy, happy family
If I wasn’t doing this…I would be an author or a vicar