Cotswold Life talks big business: St James' Place

PUBLISHED: 17:14 26 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:03 20 February 2013

Cotswold Life talks big business: St James' Place

Cotswold Life talks big business: St James' Place

Nicky Godding talks to Tony Dunk, Marketing Director of St. James's Place.

St. Jamess Place, the wealth management company with headquarters in Cirencester will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. The FTSE 250 company, which is 60 per cent owned by Lloyds Banking Group after the banking giant took over HBoS in 2009, specialises in the provision of face-to-face financial advice to individuals, trustees and businesses. Its latest 2011 half yearly results show a hugely successful business as more people seek to invest their money profitably in light of poor savings interest rates and a less certain financial future.

In 2010, growth in new business was 32 per cent. By June 2011, total funds under management were 29.1 billion 30 per cent higher than the same period in 2010 and 8 per cent higher than the start of 2011, and the companys profits are up substantially.

The company remains as ambitious as ever, seeking to double funds under management over the next five years. So where will the growth come from? According to St. Jamess Place Marketing Director, Tony Dunk, who has been with the company since its inception, the continued growth in the size and quality of the companys advisory capacity (the Partnership) and the ongoing broadening of the investment proposition are the two key factors.

The Partnership now has over 1,600 advisers a number which is growing due to the firm successfully attracting advisers from both the top end of the IFA community and the banking sector. In addition, the company intends to relaunch its Academy programme in the New Year to train selected individuals to become Partners and consequently increase support for clients. The company also runs a strong internship programme for younger people considering careers as well as a mentoring programme for students at the local Cirencester College.

So the future is as rosy as its past for St. Jamess Place, and for the 400 individuals who work in its Cirencester head office, but the company did notice concern amongst some clients who were shaken by the economic upheavals of recent years.

For the first time in our history, people were phoning us and asking us Is my bank safe? says Tony. They knew their funds were safe with us, but what they didnt know was whether their bank was safe weve never encountered anything like that before.

Forthcoming tightening of regulations means that investment advice is more transparent than its ever been and advisers will need to be better qualified.

In the 1980s, there were around 500,000 advisers, explains Tony. Many of these were unqualified and lacked knowledge. In 1997 the FSA was born. Investment Advisers could no longer offer advice without passing a stringent set of exams. As a result, the number of advisers dropped from 500,000 down to around 35,000 and one could argue that there is now effectively an undersupply of qualified advisers for the size of the market.

St. Jamess Place Partners have an average of 17 years experience. The Investment Committee takes responsibility for the selection, monitoring and changing of our fund managers and the investment funds that are offered to our clients, which enables Partners to focus on ongoing advice and service, says Tony.

Were very proud that over 95 per cent of the funds under management at the start of 2010 were still with us at the end of the year. I think that demonstrates that clients are satisfied. However, were not complacent and continue to develop our service were planning to introduce a quite unique, new Global Equity fund later this month.

Financial analysts like St. Jamess Place and respect our views. Financial advice deep in the Cotswolds Cirencester may be the capital of the Cotswolds, but its not the financial capital of the UK, so why is this hugely profitable company located in a town with no train station, no motorway access or major airport close by? Tony Dunk laughs.

Our Chief Executive had a house ten minutes down the road, he says. That was Mike Wilson, who is now Chairman of the company (and sinced moved to London). However, while that may have been a factor, the more practical reason was thanks to other, similar wealth management businesses located close by, the area has always had a rich vein of experience and the company has successfully tapped into that.

The first building the company bought and moved into in 1992 was Dollar Street House. As the company grew it began to occupy a number of buildings around the town and around ten years ago it struck a deal with Cirencester Rugby Club to build a new headquarters on The Whiteway. That plan failed, but the need to have one large building to house the company grew and St.Jamess Place was finally able to purchase the site of the former Cirencester Leisure Centre, which was moving to brand new accommodation next door, and the company moved into smart new headquarters in 2008.

The St. Jamess Place Foundation Like all good businesses, St. Jamess Place has always aimed to give back to the community and over 80% of its Partners and employees make regular monthly covenants to the St. Jamess Place Foundation, in fact it was recently singled out for this in a Government White Paper Giving in the Workplace.

Last year, the company raised 2.7 million for a range of charities focussing mainly on children and hospices. In this area, the National Star College in Cheltenham received a massive 656,000 donation, which went towards a new student residence at the colleges Ullenwood campus, for students with severe and complex disabilities. The new residence will officially open this month. At a recent polo day held at Beaufort Polo Club, the Foundation raised 57,000 in just one afternoon. Tony added: The world has faced a difficult few years and markets continue to be volatile. During this time, weve seen both existing and new clients rely on St. Jamess Place to protect their investments. I feel proud that clients value our service so highly.

St James Place Review

The St. Jamess Place Wealth Management Group was established in 1991, under the name of the J. Rothschild Assurance Group, by Mike Wilson, Sir Mark Weinberg and Lord Jacob Rothschild.

St. Jamess Place was floated on the stock market in 1997 and its market capitalisation places it within the FTSE 250 Index. In June 2000, HBoS took a 60 per cent shareholding in St. Jamess Place.

When The Lloyds Banking Group took it over in 2009, that shareholding passed to the new company, which is 41 cer cent owned by the British Taxpayer.

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