As a schoolboy, Steve Kelland would always win the prize for selling most choir programmes – the prize being a free programme. A career as a salesman beckoned. After years as the top seller at a Bristol broker consultant, Kelland went on to build Burns-Anderson, a network of 260 firms and 600 RIs.
Leaving grammar school in Tunbridge Wells with one O-level, Kelland signed up with the Royal Marines as soon as he was old enough, finding himself on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland by the time he was 18 and then later dodging bullets as a peacekeeper in Cyprus in the early 1970s.
In 1973, he entered civvy street, training as an insurance salesman with Sun Life of Canada, where he became the company's first broker consultant. He was moved to Bristol where he has remained ever since.
After 10 years with Sun Life of Canada, he joined University General & Medical, a 100-salesman Bristol brokerage run by entrepreneur Sir John Harvey-Jones and Alan Moore – who would go on to found Burns-Anderson. After five years topping the firm's salesman tables he left in 1988 to set up Kelland & Partners.
Kelland says: “The most memorable, buzzing time I had was dealing with the receivers of Burns-Anderson plc in 1992. Trying to get two businesses back from the brink and keep everybody happy was incredibly stressful but exhilarating – and a huge learning curve at a very young age.”
Burns-Anderson plc was the holding company for the Burns-Anderson network and Kelland & Partners. When the holding company got into financial difficulty, Kelland was instrumental in the deal that saw the members buy back the network – and him buy back Kelland & Partners.
Last February Kelland handed over the reins as chief executive of Burns-Anderson to high-profile IFA figure Jim Gaskin, with Kelland staying on as chairman.
But he prefers to keep the reasons for the sudden departure of the former Misys IFA Services chairman and The Exchange managing director to himself. Kelland says: “We left on good terms. It was a personal thing, so it is unfair to say why he left.”
Kelland insists that his departure from Burns-Anderson, where he still has a “substantial” shareholding, was not connected to the injection of £500,000 of Norwich Union's cash into the network.
Kelland says: “My departure was not a condition of that money going in. My new business is 100 per cent funded by me and my brother and needs 100 per cent of my time.”
Having left the board of Burns-Anderson, Kelland says he is unable to say too much about the situation that saw management having to negotiate with the FSA over the capital adequacy of the network. He says: “The biggest problem is that the pension review costs are massive. Every year we have been putting money aside and that has been a drain on the business for years – but hopefully this is the last year.”
He scotches any suggestion that, at 46, having built one of the biggest networks in the UK, he might prefer to sell up and make for the beach rather than start again.
His new venture, Akumulus, is an IFA service provider that aims to offer IFAs a way to increase and realise value in their businesses. Akumulus will provide its directly regulated members with lead generation, product and service development, recruitment and compliance support as well as the option to plan for practice buyouts.
Joining members are offered equity in 50 per cent of Akumulus. Kelland wants the group to grow to about 30 firms nationwide, with each firm retaining its own identity. Although launched earlier this month, Kelland sees most movement towards consolidation in the industry coming once the FSA has made clear how the new depolarised world will look.
He has broken up his 60 RI firm Kelland & Partners, currently with a total turnover of £7m, into eight branches and devolved power down to the managers. He now only runs one of those branches, the rest of which come under the Akumulus umbrella.
Experience of pension misselling review liabilities has taught him that he wants to keep liability with those who are responsible for it. “This is a litigious business with very small margins. Most IFAs want to retain their independence but be part of a group. I don't see building a huge distribution arm as a profitable way to do business in the future.
“It is hard to motivate a large IFA so we have changed the model and devolved ownership of the Kellands branches down to the branch managers.”
That is not to say that he does not have big plans for Akumulus – he describes his career ambition as being at the head of the first IFA group that has £1bn under management, which reveals his strategy as creating a wrap account proposition in the style of those common in both the US and Australia.
Although at its embryonic stage, Kelland is looking at software to give clients an online aggregated view of all of their financial interests in what he sees as the next logical step in providing an holistic service.
“I want to head the first group that handles £1bn of clients' money. There may be IFAs that invest £1bn at present but they don't control it. Wrap accounts are the future for the sector.”
Born: October 31, 1955
Lives: Clifton, Bristol, with fiancee Carole-Ann Rowley. Two children from former marriage.
Education: Grammar school in Tunbridge Wells
Career to date: Soldier in Royal Marines 1973-79, Broker consultant Sun Life of Canada 1979-83, broker consultant University General & Medical 1983-88, 1988-2002 chairman & chief executive of Burns-Anderson and managing director Kelland & partners, October 2002 managing director Akumulus.
Career ambition: “To head up the first IFA group to control £1bn of clients' money.”
Life ambition: “To transfer the skills I have learned in the IFA sector to a totally different business – like running a chain of sandwich shops.”
Likes: Expensive wine, conversation, competition.
Dislikes: Poor-quality restaurant food, TV soaps, people who complain about people who smoke in smoking restaurants.
Peers say: “He has IFA professionalism at his heart and recognises the big steps the IFA community needs to take.”
Car: Taxis. I don't need one, I live 10 minutes walk from my office.