‘My long-term aim is to be national with hubs dotted around the country’
In 2012, Wayne Griffiths made the decision to leave HSBC where he had worked for 20 years and set up his own advisory business, servicing both personal and commercial clients. He talks to Adviser Business Review about his ambitions to grow One Financial Solutions into a national advisory company, the excitement of working with start-ups and why he believes the government needs to help bring fresh blood into the industry.
Adviser Business Review: What was the catalyst for leaving HSBC and starting your own business?
Wayne Griffiths: During my time at HSBC I built up an extensive portfolio of fabulous clients. However, the bank gradually started to reduce their involvement with employee benefits, SIPPs, SSASs and pension transfers; the things I felt my clients would benefit from.
With RDR approaching, I knew that staying at HSBC would prevent me from providing my clients with the same level of service I’d been giving them – and there was no way I was going to shoehorn a client into something that might not be the perfect fit for them.
Deciding to go my own way wasn’t a difficult decision to make and, having made the decision during the summer of 2012, I left HSBC at the end of the year and set up One Financial Solutions.
ABR: How did you go about setting up One Financial Solutions, and how have you grown over the past few years?
WG: I did think about becoming directly-authorised but, having come from a major bank with its strict compliance providing a comfortable blanket of security, I felt that doing so would be too great a step to make.
As I didn’t have the resource to hire a full-time compliance manager, the best solution was to join a network and I quickly decided on 2Plan Wealth Management. ‘2Plan’ has an incredible passion for total independence and that really attracted me – I’ve been extremely happy with the relationship that we’ve built up over the last three years.
My initial intention was to be a ‘one-man band’ but I was conscious that I wouldn’t be able to provide expert advice on every aspect of financial planning. Fortunately, this dilemma was solved quite quickly as, within three or four months of starting the business, I was contacted by several former colleagues asking if they could join me and this really helped map out the future.
As 2013 progressed, I was able to recruit three very successful and hugely experienced commercial advisers and start to build a team that really could offer comprehensive, expert advice.
In 2014 we recruited two additional advisers who not only specialised in the personal finance arena, but also brought a wealth of experience in trust and estate planning.
Today, we have six whole-of-market IFAs and also have a dedicated mortgage desk, which arranged over 120 mortgages during 2015; we’re expecting it to be nearer 200 this year.
I’d really like to increase the team to ten IFAs and two mortgage brokers during the remaining two years of our five-year business plan.
My long-term aim is to become national, with hubs dotted around the country. I’m actively looking for acquisitions, but it’s absolutely critical that the advisers are the right fit for the business – the business is much more than just clients and money.
ABR: Why have you chosen to service both commercial and personal clients?
WG: My focus at HSBC was on commercial advice, but I soon realised that everybody I dealt with also had personal advice requirements and quite often one affected the other.
At present our business is two-thirds commercial and one-third personal but my aim is to create more of a balance between the two so I’m looking to recruit two new IFAs who specialise in personal clients.
Commercial advice has always been a great passion of mine, my friends and family run their own businesses and I’ve grown up with a keen interest in business and how running a business affects an individual. I love working with people who have an idea and go on to turn that idea into a success.
Our business clients range from start-ups with turnovers of just tens-of-thousands to our largest with an annual turnover of over £100million – all are important and it’s a privilege to watch the figures grow and feel that you’re playing a part in their success.
I think a lot of IFA firms shy away from dealing with start-ups as they can’t see an immediate income stream, but over the years I’ve learnt that a tiny business started in someone’s back room can often grow into something extremely successful.
My experience means I understand and appreciate what my clients are going through. More often than not, I’ve encountered the same challenges or opportunities with previous clients so I can empathise and am on-hand to offer them practical advice and wisdom.
Of course, there will always be difficult times and, unfortunately, a few failures; that’s when clients often need you the most. I know it might sound like a cliché, but I really enjoy being part of their journey: good or bad, for better or worse.
ABR: As a relatively young business, what opportunities do you see in the market?
WG: A lot of our start-up clients are in their twenties and thirties: they’re young and incredibly dynamic. I think advisers in their thirties would be perfect for this type of client as they’d be of similar age and perhaps identify with them more easily – yet they’d have gained some life experience and that credibility is crucial when dealing with commercial clients.
Although there’s an ever-growing need for financial advice, the dramatic drop in the number of advisers over recent years means, I believe, that we’re facing a real problem as an industry.
I think there’s certainly a place for the banks in the advice market – they have the resources to provide a training ground for young advisers – but they must offer whole-of-market advice this time round.
I know a lot of IFAs are anti the banks coming back into the industry, but we have to remember that it’s generally not the institution that causes the problem, it’s the person – you get rubbish, average and fantastic people in every business.
It would be nice to see younger advisers come into the industry. I would like to see the government or the FCA intervene and promote the industry, helping it to become more appealing to school leavers as a professional career opportunity. College courses and university degrees in financial services would also help lift the profession and enhance its image so that it holds the same respect as careers like accountancy and law.
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