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Profile: From employee to adviser business owner

Paul Robinson, managing director of Moneyweb Limited, joined the firm in December 2000 and eventually went on to become sole owner of the business. Paul talks to Adviser Business Review about the transition from employee to owner, working with the farming community and what the future holds for the firm

Adviser Business Review: How did you go from employee to owner of Moneyweb?

Paul Robinson: I previously worked for various national insurance companies, but grew frustrated that I couldn’t provide my clients with independent financial advice, which is what prompted me to join Moneyweb in 2000.

Three local professional companies had set up the firm a year earlier, but market conditions weren’t necessarily what they had anticipated and there was a management buy-out in 2005. To some degree, the opportunity was very much handed to me to become a shareholding partner and it was a great step forward. I went on to become sole owner three years ago, which has been fantastic as it’s allowed me to implement the changes I felt would help the business grow and improve.

ABR: You service both retail and corporate clients, how have you built your client base?

PR: I would say around 90% of our clients are retail clients and the remaining 10% is corporate. While corporate work is quite a small proportion of what we do currently, it is certainly something we are looking to increase. I brought on an auto-enrolment specialist in 2015, as I saw an opportunity in the market to do work in that area but I didn’t have the time to devote to it. Elle is fantastic and while auto-enrolment work makes up part of the overall business, she’s very self-sufficient and it runs as its own division.

Our retail clients tend to be in their late 50s upwards, and a large proportion is of our client bank is from the farming community. A lot of the work we do is around pensions; we’ve noticed various clients had plans with NFU but because of changes to pension legislation they are looking elsewhere.

In terms of building our client base, we like to stick to tried and tested methods. Professional connections have been the biggest driver for us; in addition to the three founding companies we also have great relationships with five other legal firms and two accountancy firms so we’re very fortunate. We do a couple of the local agricultural shows every year, which helps us to maintain our presence among that community and we’re very much expected to be there now! I’ve also registered on VouchedFor, which has been great in attracting enquiries from slightly younger clients.

ABR: Is there a particular area of advice you would like to capitalise on going forward?

PR: I think defined benefit schemes will be huge. We don’t provide the initial advice on those, instead we outsource to another firm with whom we have a good relationship, but once that advice has been given the client returns to us. Those with defined benefit schemes tend to have large sums, and I believe the recurring income stream they will add to the business will be very beneficial.

ABR: Do you expect the Financial Advice Market Review to have an impact on firms?

PR: For us as a business, it won’t have a massive impact. There’s been a lot of talk around robo-advice and pared back solutions to help meet the advice gap, but our business is built upon looking people in the eye and offering that hand-holding comfort throughout the advice process. I can’t imagine any of our clients would be happy speaking to someone in a call centre, they like that they can call upon us as advisers whenever they have a question or concern.

ABR: How would you like to grow the business?

PR: We have around 500 individual clients, 274 households, but we are always looking at ways to grow and improve and that includes bringing on more clients. Profitability is key for us going forward, but more important is how that profitability is derived. Ideally, we would like our growth to come from an increase in recurring income, which is currently around 40% of our total income, so that’s our goal for the future.

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