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The dawn of Aurora

It is the dawn of a new era for Robert Rackliffe and David Taplin. Friends for over 10 years, the pair have just launched Aurora financial group and will be the firm&#39s joint chief executives.

Jackson Batten, whose turnover reached £2m last year, has merged with AFPS, which had a £3.6m turnover. The deal ranks Aurora in the top 30 independent financial groups in the UK and as the biggest independent provider of financial advice in Kent. The firm is expecting a turnover of £6m by the end of the year.

The group will be based on three sites split between Sidcup, Canterbury and London. There are no plans to move operations to one centralised location as staff are spread right across the area but they are looking at expanding the London office.

The two first met at a Pims Conference on the QE2 10 years ago and have been discussing working together ever since.

Joint chief executive Taplin says: “It has all gone exceptionally smoothly so far but I am not really surprised at that. We started working on this in April and have been working day and night with Stephen to put it together.”

The joint chief executives have chosen Stephen Greenstreet as managing director. Greenstreet was MD at AFPS and is a former executive director at Hogg Robinson. He has worked in financial services for 22 years.

Rackliffe will be putting most of his energies into press, public relations, and “getting business in”. He started out at Clerical Medical “&#39just making the tea” and stayed for five and a half years. He says he learned the value of good training and developed a sound technical knowledge.

Jackson Batten was one of the first IFA firms to win an Investors in People award and one of Rackliffe&#39s main aims for the new firm will be to retain happy, effective staff.

According to the duo, both the firms and their bosses complement each other in many ways. They are looking towards more acquisitions in the future and further expansion into the professional connections business area which is where Taplin will be concentrating his efforts.

Rackcliffe says Jackson Batten pioneered the concept of joint ventures, helping accountancy and solicitor firms to set up and run their own financial services departments. This is the area they are hoping to expand in over the next year.

Taplin says: “At present, we have six firms on the books and are talking to around 12 more clients. We are looking towards eventually building this up to around 30. We are thinking widely beyond the South-east region and are looking towards being a key regional player in the future.”

There are many similarities in the way the two firms are run, including the same back-office system. This has meant that IT integration between the two has gone smoothly even though one was significantly stronger on the technology side than the other. But there have been overlaps in accounting.

Rackliffe says staff at the two firms they have taken the new move well. “We had an away day for all the employees where we explained any changes and they got to ask any questions about the merge. We are already getting very good vibes,” he says.

The firm now has 110 staff and 40 R1s. No jobs were lost in the deal and none are forecast to go. Rackliffe says there will be some changes but the teams work well so radical reshuffles have not been necessary.

Rackliffe and Taplin share many business values and personal interests, including a love of travelling and an adventurous nature. Rackliffe is possibly the more adventurous. His next expedition is off to Costa Rica to trek across volcanoes.

Taplin, the younger of the pair by a few months – in his late 30s – is off to Thailand for some scuba diving in the next few months.

Rackliffe says one of his remaining ambitions is to visit Antarctica but thinks the stamina training needed to cross the ice shelf would be a full-time job that at the moment he does not have time for.

They will both be doing a sponsored bike ride early next month across the South Downs, near Brighton, cycling 90 miles in a day.

The group&#39s name was sparked by another of Rackliffe&#39s interests – astronomy. He says: “Aurora means a brand new dawn. Hence the &#39leading light&#39 in financial services slogan, it just seemed to be perfect for what we wanted the firm to represent.”


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