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Making the jump together

17 November 2017

Gary Hall and Stuart Ward made the leap from restricted advising at a high street building society to starting their own independent advice firm last June. Their old colleagues, Bharat Chudasama and Richard Meats, soon followed in their footsteps and the two firms have mentored each other ever since.

my mentor and me
MY MENTOR AND ME

TRAILBLAZING


If two heads are better than one, then four must be better than two, as this quartet of former restricted advisers have discovered

Gary Hall, 42, and Stuart Ward, 39, started with a blank sheet of paper when they launched Hall-Ward in Mansfield, near Nottingham, and have been glad to help a couple of former colleagues follow in their footsteps – Richard Meats, 39 and Bharat Chudasama (Baz), 38

WE WORKED AT A HIGH STREET BUILDING SOCIETY for 20-plus years and had known each other for 12 when we decided the time was right to build something for ourselves. We were restricted in the products we could recommend at Nationwide, which is tied to Legal & General, and fancied doing things ourselves and being independent. Being able to advise on more things was a better opportunity for us.

WE HAD A CLEAR BUSINESS PLAN EARLY ON – what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. We left the high street building society in June of last year and became authorised in September. You’ve got to have a solid plan in place way in advance; think about what you’re going to do, where clients might come from and how you’re going to run a business.

IT’S BEEN A MASSIVE LEARNING CURVE for us. Being truly independent we’ve had to do a lot more research – work which we didn’t have to do previously. Dealing with more than one product provider, making connections with BDMs [business development managers] and talking to people like Zurich, such as our Business Account Manager, Mo Hussain, has been hugely important in figuring out what we should do.

RICHARD AND BAZ HEARD what we had done. We’ve helped them out as much as we can – on how to overcome barriers to market and build a customer base. Our first ports of call were social media, friends and family and referrals, and we’ve built our client bank from there.

WE’VE MADE A LOT OF INTRODUCTIONS – to our network [Financial Advice Network] and certain BDMs. We’ve told them how we work from a compliance point of view and helped with case writing and software. They’ve gone through everything we went through last year.

YOU THINK YOU KNOW A LOT but nobody can know everything. Pensions and drawdown can be complex – that wasn’t an area we did a lot in before. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to contact technical experts through people like Zurich. It’s crucial to make sure you’re doing the right thing by the client.

IT HELPS GOING INTO PARTNERSHIP with somebody else – to be able to run things past one another. Stuart has got certain strengths and vice versa. He is super organised and has great technical knowledge; my main strength is in developing client relationships.

THE MOST REFRESHING THING has been to be able to truly focus on the client – to advise on the whole of the market and what best suits each client’s needs. It’s also been nice to get away from the big corporate culture and concentrate on us and our businesses.

WE’VE GONE FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH. We have had a very strong first year building up assets under management and look to build on that, ideally doubling it in our second year in business. It’s been a great adventure; we’re thoroughly enjoying it.

WE HAD A STANDING START so it’s been great to help Richard and Baz get going. We’ve known them a long time – six years or so – and will definitely have an ongoing relationship with them and continue to share best practice.

Richard Meats had always dreamed of setting up his own independent financial advice practice, and being mentored by Hall-Ward gave him and business partner Bharat Chudasama, the confidence to launch Leicestershire-based Tudor Franklin

I ALWAYS THOUGHT ABOUT starting my own company. I like working 9-5 and have a young family, so was worried about the time commitment and where the leads would come from. I never thought I’d take the plunge.

WHEN I FIRST STARTED TO THINK SERIOUSLY
about it, I picked up the phone to see how Gary and Stuart were getting on. They were very open and invited me in for a chat. I’d spoken to lots of people who had set up on their own. They told me how great it was, but I didn’t always believe them.

I HAD WORKED WITH GARY AND STUART
and trusted what they were saying – that was the big difference. They’d been through it and had met success. I started to believe it was a real possibility. Once that was ticking through my head, I ran with it.

I WAS PART OF THE MANAGEMENT TEAM  at the high street building society. Baz made a throw-away comment about wanting a change. We’d never been that close – we both worked hard and kept our heads down. Baz was employee of the year in 2016 and I was most trusted adviser in 2015. I respected the way he went about his job and he felt the same.

WE SPOKE ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY of doing something together. In January, we decided having two of us on board was better than being one-man-bands. We started trading in September as Tudor Franklin – a play on Baz’s nickname and my middle name – in Anstey, which is equidistant from where we live in Leicestershire.

I STILL DON’T KNOW if we’d have done it if it hadn’t been for Gary and Stuart. It never seems like we’re bothering them when we pick up the phone. They put us in touch with a lot of BDMs and companies worth getting to know. They’ve shared a lot with us about their business – the successes, the challenges, the negatives – far more than they needed to.

WE DID A LOT OF MARKET RESEARCH
before we left our previous company by approaching family and friends. The response was great so we knew we would have some clients to see. We chose an accountant who didn’t have any existing IFA ties and an office above a real estate agent – and already have business referrals from both of them.

THE DIFFICULTY HAS BEEN
managing time early on. We have both done the day job for a long time but never experienced the running of a business, let alone starting one from scratch. As we’re no longer working to a restricted model, we have been taking the time out to meet different platforms and fund management groups, and research areas we’ve not had to consider in the past. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but really rewarding now we can see the value we can add to our clients being fully independent going forwards.

WE USE THE SAME NETWORK
as Hall-Ward, so there’s a natural link there. We still speak to them at least once a week. We’re planning to take them out for dinner as a thank-you and hopefully we can help them in return in future. It would be nice to give something back.

THE BIGGEST THING THEY HAVE GIVEN US is reassurance. They know us as people as well as advisers and told us not to worry – that business would come, that we would make it work. The most difficult bit was making the jump and handing in our notice.