Following the collapse of The Money Portal in June, Monsoon founder and Honister Capital chief financial backer Peter Simon says he is more determined than ever to turn this new venture into a firm built on organic growth, no debt and strong IFA incentives.
The former non-executive director of TMP says he was the investor who lost the most money in the firm’s collapse. Despite this, Simon made the decision to invest enough money in Honister to acquire Sage Financial Services, Burns Anderson, Willis Owen and the principal assets of Bates Investment Services from TMP followed by a further multi-million-pound investment in working capital for Honister.
He says: “I am involved in Honister because I believe in the underlying businesses and the new management team led my Mark Lund.
“I was particularly impressed by the fact that they were putting in their own money, they were taking salary cuts and they pledged to make things happen properly.”
His decision followed late-night crisis talks with TMP’s liquidator Ernst & Young and lender HBOS, when E&Y upped the asking price at the last minute.
Simon says: “It was a very difficult decision to have to put huge sums of money into Honister Capital on top of the huge sums that had already been lost in TMP. Whatever anyone else says, I was the biggest loser of TMP. There are several people wandering round who have made money out of it, I am not one of them.”
With his money invested, Simon makes one thing clear – Honister Capital will operate under practices and principles that sit poles apart from the fallen financial advice group TMP.
He says: “It is different beast now and I would like to see Honister as the complete opposite of TMP. I would like it to have the attributes my businesses have, which the Honister team have already adopted – no debt, to grow it organically and incentivise IFAs and their teams.”
In similar fashion to Monsoon and Accessorize, Simon will take a back seat in the day-to-day running of Honister but he has put his stamp on certain areas of the business, including reducing the board to five members compared with TMP’s 10. It is now made up of executive directors Mark Lund and Bryan Levine, non-executive directors Mark Holloway and Anton Simon, who will oversee Simon’s investment, and non-executive chairman Mark Tennant.
He says: “TMP board had 10 people on its board at one time, Honister has five and that tight team is what it should be because before it was ridiculous, it was unwieldy. Monsoon has a small board, it has three main directors running a huge company.”
Rewinding the clock slightly, Simon says his suspicions over TMP were raised after he resigned as a non-executive director. He says: “I saw the business really was not sufficiently focused on the customer, I saw the board really struggling with zillions of skeletons coming out of the cupboard and there was too much debt and poor management decisions by the founders.
“But once there was an ability to deal with just the actual businesses themselves and not have all the liabilities and issues which TMP had, it was a sound business. I was happy to back the management and the executive directors. We are in it tog-ether, we are on the same side.”
Simon says the group will pay greater attention to its direct offering, Willis Owen, consider online opportunities and explore cross-selling opportunities with Simon’s other businesses, Monsoon and Accessorize.
He says: “We will explore online opportunities for our direct business. I also believe there maybe some cross-selling opportunities for Monsoon. I have seen how well online business is doing for Monsoon. It is growing by 30 to 40 per cent a year and is a very big growth area. I think that must be the future.”
Honister Partners’ employee benefits IFA business Opal looks after Monsoon’s staff pension schemes. Simon says: “I have got staff, including myself, who have got requirements to review. But for people who are not in the sector, it is a minefield so getting good advice is paramount and there may be something staring us in the face but we are only three months into this new company.”