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'We never expected this': My adviser and me

06 June 2019

When company director Doug Brown and his late business partner sought pension advice, they did not envisage the adviser becoming part of their lives...

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Doug Brown on adviser Doug Ryan...

I started a business in the IT sector 31 years ago with my business partner Moira Pollard. We came from the same employer before that and had a pension fund that we transferred using that company's existing pension adviser.

As a start-up, we didn't have much money, so didn't pay much into the pension, but our business became very successful and is still going today - managing the IT infrastructure for hedge funds and lawyers in the City of London.

The pension assets were not performing very well. The company was beginning to generate an income for us, but the pension fund wasn't giving us the growth that the market had experienced.

The advisory firm kept changing our adviser, and every time we got a new one we were switched into different funds. It didn't instil us with confidence. It was working for them; it wasn't working for us.

Mattioli Woods featured in a press article as a rising star in the wealth management sector. We met Doug and explained our woes to him. He was a breath of fresh air. Personality was the key - we clicked with him straight away.

We were quite old in the IT sector, having started the company in our late 30s and early 40s. Doug was in the same age group as our staff and that reassured us he'd be around for a while.

He was very pedantic in going through reams of paperwork to establish the composition of our existing investments and confirm the previous advisory firm hadn't mismanaged them.

In those days I was sceptical of investment advice, but Doug has proven he knows a lot more than me about investment! We quickly adopted the approach of 'what he says goes'.

He has kept us abreast of legislative changes, particularly the cap in pension savings [lifetime allowance], and has given us the confidence that we don't need to worry.

When we started the company Moira had already been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and she'd had breast cancer. We didn't know how quickly her illness would progress. She passed away last September. Doug is executor of her will and has done an amazing job.

He took the time to learn about us as individuals and has shown great ability in handling our individual situations. Moira was born at the end of the war and abandoned in a hospital. She was married but had no children or other relatives. She had plenty of good friends though - Doug among them. Her needs were based around her health and rapidly increasing care costs. I have two sons and six grandchildren and want to ensure my family has some financial security.

Doug has been very sensitive to Moira's needs. She insisted on dying at home - that's a promise I made to her. It was very expensive, but it didn't matter. Doug made sure the money was there at the drop of a hat. His caring approach sets him apart from any other adviser we've known.

I am still a director of the IT business - I retained 5% and now have Moira's 5% - but look on every day spent in the office as time I could be out in my woodland or on my boat. My wife and I have never been big spenders, but Doug insists on us spending more. We have a boat at Chichester harbour and bought 12 acres of woodland in the South Downs a few years ago. Forestry is my passion - I've been going on courses and making furniture. It gets me outside and keeps me fit.

Doug's advice is coming out in spades. But he's more than an adviser at this stage - he's a very close friend. We never expected a pension adviser to become part of our lives.

Doug Ryan on Doug Brown...

Two IT consultancy business owners contacted us in 2006 after reading about our company in a press article. They were looking for an advisory firm to run their pension assets better than they had been in the past.

We were one of three companies they asked to tender for the business. Their pensions were held in a variation of a SSAS [small self administered scheme]. It was incredibly convoluted and had a very complex fee structure that made no sense to man nor beast.

My proposition to them was that I wanted to do things a great deal simpler. I suggested setting up a multi-member SIPP [self-invested personal pension] with a clear and straightforward fee structure. They would both be trustees of the pension fund alongside us, enabling them to retain ownership of the pension. Our approach seemed to create real traction with them.

I was young at the time - I'd just turned 30 - but they were never prejudiced. As good business people, they focused on the solution. That's undoubtedly why they picked me in the first place.

The next step was to decide upon a diversified investment strategy. Unfortunate timing - coming just before the credit crunch - meant their investments were quite severely affected in the next few years. I got myself straight in front of them to ensure they knew what was going on. That helped to give them confidence. Their investments have since recovered substantially.

Our relationship developed over time and evolved from a purely professional to a personal one. We met every six months and spoke on the phone intermittently. We often discussed our personal lives and how they were going. It was clear to me that they were very nice people.

Every time we met we discussed other areas of their personal finances. Since the initial work on their corporate pension assets, our remit has extended to personal investments and consolidation of other investment strategies. Our overriding aim was to take care of them.

Moira sadly passed away last year, but I had immense respect for her as a businesswoman. I always appreciated it when she imparted a bit of her knowledge. She provided me with some great guidance in terms of my career.

I have seen young people rising through the ranks of their business and I have been interested to learn how they advanced their careers. A number of these people have subsequently bought most of the share capital in the business.

I have a really close relationship with Doug. We have an awful lot of trust in each other.