Berkeley Berry Birch group deputy chief executive Steve Ingledew has a lot on his plate. Not only is the firm planning to raise £20m to fund an ambitious acquisition programme but Ingledew has an urgent deadline – the birth of his new baby next month.
When Ingledew graduated from Sussex University in 1984 with a degree in law, he made a conscious decision to go into financial services and took his first job as a law graduate trainee at Friends Provident. It may not seem like the most obvious career path for an ambitious law graduate but Ingledew says he had his reasons.
“When I graduated, there were a lot of options open to me – the legal profession, banking, etc, – but around that time the Gower Report was published and Norman Fowler's portable pensions was the big debate in the newspapers. Financial services seemed like an area of such great change,” he says.
Nearty two decades have passed since Ingledew made his debut at Friends Provident and the industry is once again going through a period of flux and he finds himself at the cutting edge of change, which is exactly where he wants to be. “Regulation is my main interest. I would like to think that my experience will influence regulation in the future.”
Ingledew came into the industry on the grounds of intellectual interest, his passion for his work is far more personal.
He says: “When I was younger, I saw a lot of financial hardship and I wanted to try and make things better. It is important for the general public to become better educated. The competency of IFAs has improved a lot but the education of the public is often overlooked. We need to get people interested.”
One way in which Ingledew believes he can help educate and spark interest is through his growing media profile. In 1990, he wrote his first article for Money Marketing, which became a fortnightly column. He was then invited to write for national papers, appear on television and speak at numerous conferences and events. In 1995, he was elected to the Sofa board and then joined the PIA training and competence panel.
A feature of Ingledew's writing has long been his use of Reading Football Club to illustrate his point. A long-standing fan, Ingledew was thrilled when his interest in Reading came to the attention of the club's board.
He says: “The president of Reading saw that I had been using the club as an analogy in my articles and thanked me for helping to promote the club. I was already a season ticket holder and he invited me to become vice-president. Although I cannot help them out on the pitch, I support the club in every way I can.”
Ingledew has some lofty ambitions. While he plots to help Reading reach the Premiership, he is also busy positioning Berkeley Berry Birch to be a leading light in the rapidly changing financial advice sector. “We are creating a new kind of group that can evolve and we are motivated by the fact that we can create a group that can lead the way,” he says. The move back into advice following NPI and a brief stint at Schroders brought a visible surge in confidence, according to those who know him.
I ngledew's vision of the future is of a more educated general public which will give rise to a greater demand for financial advice in the broader sense. He believes that advice is about more than just selling products.
“Face-to-face advice will always have a big role to play. It is often a catalyst in life that gives rise to a need for financial advice. For example, buying a new house, a birth or a bereavement. At the highs and lows of life, that advice is important and at these times, words such as high-net-worth client lose their meaning,” he says.
This holistic approach to advice leads him to believe that the Government is taking the wrong line in its thinking on change. “The Government thinks that making products simple will help but life is not simple. People and their needs will always be different. It is a matter of respecting that diversity.”
How does Berkeley Berry Birch fit into Ingledew's vision? He believes the firm will flourish over the next few years and will be trusted and respected by clients. It will provide a highquality service to a new breed of super-confident consumers with clearer ideas about what they want.
“The ingredients of the successful firms will be financial strength and quality control. They will have a clear understanding of the changing needs of their clients. In terms of the financial standing required, big groups will do well. Increasingly, the small one-man bands will find costs difficult although some will certainly do well.”
Berkeley Berry Birch is going against thinking on the volatile markets with its acquisition project but Ingledew thinks it is a matter of now or never. Over the next 12-24 months, he foresees a period of rapid consolidation as the big players position themselves in relation to each other. When consolidation stabilises, he then predicts a shift in distribution groups.
Berkeley Berry Birch is focusing on finding the right fit. By the company's own admission, it cannot compete with the big chequebooks and it is not trying to. It is seeking out IFAs who want to stick with the industry and build their business with the group.
Ingledew says: “The whole dynamic of the sector is for consolidation. Some will go to providers, others will come to big groups like us. We are not looking to acquire everyone we can. What we want are IFAs who can add value and who fit our culture.”
Lives: Reading with wife Karen and twoyear-old daughter Grace. New baby expected next month
Born: Reading in 1962
Education: Law degree from Sussex University
Career to date: 1984-87 Law graduate trainee with Friends Provident; 1987-90 IFA with Parnell Fisher Child; 1990-97 joined Frizzell as development manager. Promoted to the board as development director in 1993; 1997-2000 Joined NPI, later AMP as head of market development and became head of pensions marketing; July-November 2000 headhunted by Schroders to become head or retail marketing; November 2000 to present Joined Berry Birch & Noble and Berkeley when they were separate as marketing director. Became deputy chief executive in February this year
Career Ambition: To play a major role in shaping the future of financial services and its regulation
Life Ambition: To help Reading Football Club get into the premiership
Likes: Professionalism, honesty and trust
Dislikes: Cynicism and negativity
Car: Virgin trains!