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Home > Opinion > Jeff Prestridge

Birmingham example shows way for IFA sector

Addressing the Cellar Club as a guest speaker is a memorable affair – and not just because of the fine food and wine to be enjoyed.

By Jeff Prestridge | Published Apr 26, 2012 | Your Industry | comments

Although it is only April, and the bluebells are not quite out, I am sure I have already just experienced my finest personal finance moment of the year – an evening spent in the wonderful company of the men and women that make up the long-standing Cellar Club. I am still smiling from the experience more than a week on.

The Cellar Club is one of the best things to come out of Birmingham in a long time. In recent times, only Jasper Carrot, the effervescent Digby Jones and the long standing Evening Mail newspaper give it a run for the City’s money.

Formed 38 years ago by two smart financial advisers, Alan Smith (long retired but still going strong and one of the sharpest brains you will ever encounter) and Paul Etheridge (of Prestwood software fame and still working his socks off) the Cellar Club goes from strength to strength.

Its rude good health may be a surprise to some given it comprises an eclectic mix of independent financial advisers drawn from Birmingham and its suburbs. As we all know too well, independent financial advisers are currently being dragged screaming and shouting to the retail distribution review party at the end of the year by the FSA. Some advisers are leaving the business as a result rather than battle on.

Yet, unlike other regional independent financial adviser groups such as Thames Valley Life and Pensions Society that has died a sad death, the Cellar Club thrives. Indeed it seems to have gained a new lease of life under the young chairmanship of Mark Rogers, managing director of Birmingham based adviser Clay Rogers & Partners.

The Cellar Club meets some six to eight times a year. There are some traditions that it strictly observes. First, membership is restricted to no more than 30 professionals which gives it somewhat of an exclusive tag – speak to any West Midlands adviser and they will confirm that it is a badge of honour to be granted membership to the club. It’s a bit like being a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lords. It gives you street credibility, a big chunk of kudos.

Current members include most of the Midlands’ adviser heavyweights. To be found on the membership list is Peter London of Wolverhampton-based Ashby London, David Hutt of Hutt Professional Financial Planning and Anita Gatehouse, a passionate adviser on issues surrounding widows and a principal of cre8 Financial & Business Planners.

Secondly, meetings are always a black tie affair. Thirdly, apart from an occasional foray to Worcester to dine at the splendid Inn at Stonehall (run by multi-talented Cellar Club member Joanna Coull) the club always dines at Simpson’s in Edgbaston, Birmingham. The food is always sumptuous and the wine always flows. For a few hours at least, you can forget the fact that we are living in such difficult economic times.

The other tradition of the Cellar Club, which is where I fit in, is that it always invites a guest speaker to sing for their proverbial supper. The speaker’s deal is quite simple: pitch up in your black tie, enjoy the wine and food (paid for by club members) and in return stand up after the coffee has been served and stimulate a debate. Over the years, regulators, economists, politicians and journalists have all spoken at the Cellar Club table. Most have lived to fight another day.

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