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How this small adviser firm is upscaling and going national

How do you take a small advisory business, scale it and go national? The answer is to get support, rebrand, relaunch and set ambitious targets, Lesley Mackintosh, founder of Independent Women, tells Fiona Bond

Lesley founded Independent Women in 1997 and through recent acquisition by Succession Group, has the backing to relaunch the business as a national brand in January 2017. She has set herself an ambitious target to grow the number of advisers from three to 20 in just five years.

She says: “We are the longest running provider of independent financial advice for women by women, and it’s important that we bring new, vibrant people to the business so that we can engage with a larger audience and ensure people who need access to the type of advice we offer, receive it.”

Lesley’s plans for expansion will see the business move beyond the realms of Edinburgh to penetrate hubs up and down the UK with a fresh logo, new website and the backing of wealth management advisory brand Succession Group.

“I’m hugely passionate about what I do and have been since day one,” says Lesley. “I really believe that positive financial advice brings extensive benefits for clients in the long-term and I want our brand to highlight and achieve that.”

“Being part of Succession Group has created massive opportunities to develop the Independent Women proposition further, giving us the framework to continue providing a tailored, structured process and fantastic delivery,” she explains. “Being acquired by Succession took away the responsibilities you carry as a business owner, such as compliance and regulation, allowing Independent Women’s specialist advisers to focus more closely on clients and in turn, continue our fantastic service standards. Succession Group has also provided the framework to grow Independent Women nationally and the flexibility to capitalise on the opportunities out there.”

Ambition born of experience

Lesley originally set up Independent Women in 1997, borne out of Lesley’s experience of founding her own business. Having made the decision at the end of 1992 to go it alone, Lesley sought the help of her bank manager but was surprised at the lack of support and encouragement she received.

She says: “I never had a burning desire to set up my own business, it was really what you might call a ‘eureka’ moment one morning, but as I went along I realised just how passionate I was about running my own firm and wanted to help women like me. I could see the shift among women towards financial freedom and empowerment; the desire to break through the glass ceiling and achieve greater things. That inspired me to set up Independent Women.”

Unsurprisingly, Lesley’s decision to offer independent financial advice for women polarised opinion.

“There were those who were really supportive of the prospect and then there were those who labeled me sexist and questioned why I was shutting out 50% of the population. Quite frankly, if I could attract 50% of the population through my doors I would be pretty excited,” says Lesley.

Lesley believes female advisers bring an element of empathy and nurturing to their role; an understanding of the responsibilities and influences that go into shaping a woman’s financial decisions. She says many clients have sought advice at a torrid time in their lives; be it a bitter divorce or bereavement, and have been grateful for the ‘softer approach’.

“Over the years, the feedback has been that clients have appreciated being able to come to us and be open with their feelings and fears. It’s very rewarding being able to guide someone through a difficult time in their life, knowing that you’re helping relieve the burden,” she says.

Lesley believes that by taking the brand nationally, Independent Women will continue to attract clients who desire an empathic approach from an adviser as well as offer opportunities for all ranges of advisers and staff accordingly. This in an integral part of the business development and ensures longevity.

“I’ve always been keen to encourage young people to join this industry. Sadly we haven’t progressed as much as other sectors, and we don’t have an influx of graduates thinking ‘this is the career for me’, which is a real shame as it can be very flexible and rewarding. Being part of Succession will give us greater clout and influence among the younger generations I hope.”

Of course, continuity of the business is also an important consideration for Lesley’s exit strategy.

“Looking at my own future, it would be fantastic to have someone join independent Women and tell me they want my job. Right here and now, I’m massively passionate and excited about what I do and what I want to achieve so the next five years will be focused upon growing the business, but at some point I will have to hang up my shoes and it would be great to be able to mentor someone to eventually take my position,” she adds.

Visit the Independent Women website


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