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Clarion Wealth: ‘We want to grow from small firm to medium-sized business’

Clarion Wealth Planning’s head of Marketing and Communications Stuart Anderson tells Adviser Business Review how the company has evolved over the past 30 years and its ambitions now to grow from a small firm to medium-sized business 

Adviser Business Review: What’s the background to Clarion Wealth Planning?

Stuart Anderson: Our founder, Ron Walker, started the business by himself. He previously worked for a life insurance company but felt that clients wanted and needed more than the industry was able to offer. Clarion was and remains a financial planning firm, rather than a financial advice business and this is something Ron is extremely passionate about. He is a founding member of the Institute of Financial Planning and Clarion was one of the first firms to use Prestwood Financial planning software.

The growth of the firm over the years has been largely organic, with people coming on as and when needed. The company now has 12 staff, including three financial planners. At the start of 2013, Clarion restructured the business to provide financial planning and investment management services through two separate companies. As of January 2015, Clarion Investment Management Ltd had funds under discretionary investment management of £120 million.

ABR: What is your growth strategy going forward?

SA: The main aim is to accelerate growth. In the past, growth has been an organic process and just happened, but now the plan is to have a more structured approach, which will see us move from being a really good small business to a really good medium-sized business. We don’t have an ambition to be in every single town in the country but we do want to build our brand and client base. That said, we have a very defined high net-worth client base and, therefore, we are not looking to target the masses.

Professional connections have been and remain an important source of new business for us, and as such we have narrowed the number right down so that we can be more focused. The idea is to pay a lot of attention to a handful, rather than a little bit of attention to a lot of connections. We identified those who already had strong relationships in place with our advisers and whom we felt had clients best suited to us.

ABR: Who is your ideal client?

SA: At the moment our clients are a real mix, but our ideal client is a business owner with £1 million plus investable assets. We do have some clients approach us with a slightly lower figure and we take a judgment call on each individual case. If we feel we are not the best adviser for a particular individual, we do have another adviser locally with whom we have a great relationship and are therefore happy to refer clients on to.

While our clients come to us on a long-term basis, we do have a particular speciality in the period before, during and after selling a business. We prefer clients to come to us pre-deal, rather than post-deal, however, as there are so many options available to them.

ABR: What made Clarion create a specific communications role?

SA: I came on at the start of 2012, in what was a newly created role in the company. Clarion had reached a point where it needed someone specific to take control of the communications, both internal and external. It was the run-up to RDR, which was a huge job for us as we restructured the business, and there was a great deal of internal documentation and client communication to handle, and there still is today. This is an industry in which a lot of regulatory changes take place and Clarion felt it would benefit from having one person to spearhead client communications.

In addition, we want to raise the profile of Clarion. A lot of our clients have come through referrals and professional connections but you need to create a reputation for yourself within this industry. It certainly helps if someone mentions a name people have heard of already.

ABR: What tactics will you use to raise the company profile?

SA: The need for an online presence is growing. We registered with Unbiased, which allows us to reach a wider audience, and I’m also very active on social media. I focus on LinkedIn and Twitter and also write a weekly blog, which I post on social media outlets as well as send out to clients and journalists.

Another area I’m looking into is events. The target for this quarter is to plan a seminar later in the year for prospective clients. In the past, the seminars we have attended normally focused on professional connections. Meeting people in person helps to build relationships.

We’ve had success with events we’ve held in the past. Last summer we invited existing clients to the local RHS flower show and for our 30th anniversary we held a party for our clients, which was well attended. Going forwards, we will look into smaller corporate events to which we can invite professional connections.

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