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Profile: Pros and cons of starting a boutique adviser firm

Lee Glennan, founder of Glennan Wealth Management, tells Adviser Business Review about starting a boutique firm, the value of business mentoring and why the second hand annuities market is a disaster waiting to happen

Adviser Business Review: What did you set out to achieve with Glennan Wealth Management?

Lee Glennan: I originally began in the financial services industry in 1987 and made the decision 17 years ago to go down the IFA route as I felt it was an area I would be suited to.

In 2004, seven of us decided to set up our own business, Paramount Group, which we eventually went on to sell to Towergate. I remained there after the sale, as part of the earn-out period, but doing so made me realise how much I wanted to set up my own business and be master of my own destiny rather than employed by someone else.

It had always been a dream of mine to create a small, boutique firm with my name above the door that would allow me to look after no more than 100 clients and offer the service and business model that I’m passionate about. I’m glad I made the decision, as it’s turned out very well for me and I have a great bank of clients.

ABR: What advice would you give to someone seeking to set up their own business?

LG: There are pros and cons to being in business alone, as there are to setting up a business with others. When you have a number of owners, there are more people to share the responsibility and burden of building the business and you create a melting pot of great ideas which is always good. However, it also means you end up owning a business that is a combination of different people’s desires and will never be exactly what you want.

As a sole business owner, I now have total control over the investment strategy, service, absolutely everything, which is fantastic – and, of course, if something goes wrong I have no-one but myself to blame.

It’s never been my intention to create a legacy, I simply wanted to run my own business so that I could work with and treat clients the way I felt was right.

My advice to anyone seeking to go it alone is do it. You need to be brave to take that leap but if you’re not brave you won’t get anywhere.

ABR: What do you look for in a typical client?

LG: Of course, they have to have a certain level of assets to make it worth their while. We set it at £250,000 but we do have clients with portfolios of less and we have clients with much more. I would say our average client sits around the £450,000 mark. It wasn’t an intentional move, but we traditionally deal with people who either own a business or are ex-business owners.

However, the biggest thing for me is that I have an affinity with my clients – if they’re going to trust me to help them on their financial journey then we really need to get along.

ABR: As a new business, how did you build your client base?

LG: I was fortunate that I started with 40 clients who drifted across from my previous roles. I’ve since built that number to 60 clients who have come to me through way of referral from existing clients and professional connections. I have to admit I’ve been very bad at marketing so I made the decision last year to employ a marketing company who now take care of my social media and raising the profile of the firm.

My goal is to increase the number of clients to 100 over the next couple of years. This summer I plan to do more work with professional connections, as I think it’s important they understand the journey we take clients on and what they will gain from being with Glennan Wealth Management.

ABR: What role has business mentoring played in your career?

LG: I very much believe in mentoring and my main influence has been Paul Etheridge, who I would say is the founder of financial planning. I attended his advanced planners group for many years, which was fantastic. I really don’t think there’s anyone better to learn from and his guidance has been invaluable.

As an industry, we’re very supportive of one another and willing to offer help. Whenever I have met someone I admired or I’ve seen something I would like to emulate, I have made contact and asked that person for their time so that I can pick their brain. Luckily, no-one has said no yet!

ABR: In addition to being chartered, why did you opt to become a CISI Accredited Financial Planning firm?

LG: We follow the CISI model of financial planning and accredited status was something I always knew I would apply for.

We are not your traditional IFA, seeking to sell a product; we are a financial planning firm extremely passionate about the process of financial planning and I feel this accreditation is testament to that. It’s not an easy process at all, it’s very stringent and there’s more work involved than I had anticipated but I’m extremely glad we did it.

ABR: What do you see as challenges / opportunities for the advice market?

LG: Much has been made of robo-advice but I don’t see it as a threat. Firms like mine offer a personalised, concierge service which a robot simply wouldn’t be able to recreate.

To be honest, all I ever see is a fantastic industry – we have an ageing population, more wealth than ever before all combined with a reduced number of advisers so it’s a great time to be a financial planner. There are so few of us, you rarely come across competition.

The only downside is the Regulator and the constant meddling. I do believe the government needs to stop interfering with the pensions industry as all the changes are confusing for consumers.

I also fail to see the benefit of the second hand annuities market, which I think is an absolute disaster waiting to happen. I can’t see how people are going to get a good deal so I’m really not in support of it. I simply think it will present an opportunity for marketing companies to cold call people.

Visit the Glennan Wealth Management website


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