Why Yellowtail is moving its admin unit to Devon
This week, Denis Hall chief executive of Yellowtail Financial Planning, is moving his firm’s back-office to Exeter. He explains to ABR the reasons for the move and how it will work
Rising costs and the need to keep fees competitive are forcing Denis Hall of Yellowtail Financial Planning to move his back-office operation from London to Exeter. The firm simply cannot afford to grow the business unless it makes this move, Hall says, and he expects that other firms will be feeling similar pressure on their operations.
“We are finding it difficult to expand because the premise costs and staff costs here in Central London are very high and unless you’ve hit a tipping point where you can achieve savings, I think it is very difficult for firms of our size to continue to be based in the capital,” Hall says.
“For people in our catchment group we’re already low cost and the only way I can keep our fees where they are is to move out.”
Hall has decided to use the move as an opportunity for a lifestyle change, moving home as well to the south west. He will split his working week between London and Exeter.
“I don’t see clients every day of the week so I expect to be here (in London) three days a week and helping to build the support function for the other two days.”
Bristol and Bath were alternative options for the relocation but Hall says with numerous financial services companies in both cities he felt the firm would face similar competition for staff from larger employers. “But in Exeter there is a terrific university (as a source of potential staff) and the local authority has been trying to attract firms to the city. It’s a huge growth area; half a million people come in to Exeter on a weekly basis. The Met Office have relocated there as have CrowdCube. Plus there is a terrific quality of life in Exeter,” he says.
Yellowtail currently has three staff and needs a minimum of five but with the move having been on the cards for nine months Hall says the firm hasn’t recruited into its vacancies. That will change as soon as the Exeter move completes.
“We need another two people. A paraplanner and an administrator. We currently use outsourced paraplanners but they are not the full answer to what we want and we’d like to have more of that function In-house if we can. And eventually we will build a research function down there. Anyone who is client facing will work out of the London office.”
For Yellowtail’s clients, Hall says, there will be no difference at all. “They will come to our London office for meetings, as usual. The technology infrastructure we have stores everything in the cloud – we can share documents wherever we are. And it costs us nothing to talk to somebody on the telephone.”
The firm uses Salesforce for its client relationship management (CRM) and it’s back-office and Netdocuments for secure storage of its files and other documents. “This used to be US-only firm but they are now in the UK. We’ve used them for the past eight years,” Hall says. The firm is able to use it’s CRM system plus an accounting package to efficiently run it’s back-office Hall explains, because the firm is entirely fee based. “We are not a traditional firm with a legacy of life company products to reconcile. We’ve never had to reconcile commissions. So we can use an accounting package for our fees which then links in to Salesforce.”
Hall adds that it is not Yellowtail’s intention to build a client bank in Exeter, certainly in the short term. “It may happen simply by us being in the area but there are already some well established award winning firms located there and I have my hands full up here. In fact we would like to meet with firms in the area and talk about best practices.”
Asked whether he thought others firms may well follow a similar route, he says: “I would think so. We don’t want to go down the robo-advice route. We work high end and we think that has to be done face-to-face. But there are going to be cost and fee challenges along the way for firms like ours, and with technology enabling people to pretty much work anywhere now, I can see other firms looking at where they might run their administration more cost effectively.”