Firing Line: John Lang
John Lang, owner of Surrey-based Tower Hill Associates, talks to Kevin White about his fee-based, business model and the importance of developing a quality online ‘shop window’
Mr Lang did not wait until the proposals for the retail distribution review were announced before adopting a charging model, having utilised fees for advice instead of commission in a variety of roles for more than 20 years.
After leaving university with an accountancy degree, the Scot began his career in financial services as a trainee chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in 1983.
In 1985, he moved to AGB Financial Market Research as a marketing analyst, before spells as a life and pensions sales consultant and financial planning consultant at a variety of chartered accountancy firms through to the mid-1990s.
This is something I don’t think many IFAs really consider that much, but as I worked from home a virtual shop window was crucial
Mr Lang said: “I built up a good body of experience during the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, but I really cut my teeth where financial advice is concerned at the Smith & Williamson Pension Consultancy, where I became an associate director.
“We offered fee-based financial planning advice to high earners, high net-worth individuals and companies, including retirement, investment and inheritance tax planning.”
In 2002, Mr Lang was lured to a leading private bank, where he set up its financial planning arm, but after just over a year in his post felt that he wanted to return to a client-facing, advisory role.
Then in December 2003, he joined John Scott & Partners (which later rebranded as Towry) as a financial planning director.
He said: “At John Scott & Partners, I was assigned the high-net worth client portfolio of the founding director, prior to his retirement at their Marlow, Buckinghamshire office.
“I also worked closely with the chief executive to review certain aspects of the firm’s financial planning strategy and fee charging policy before moving to the City of London office to strengthen the team, and to increase its fee-based financial planning credibility among key clients and professional contacts.”
Mr Lang left John Scott & Partners in May 2005 to start planning and preparing to run his own business. An inheritance allowed him to pursue his long-held ambition later that year, with Tower Hill Associates authorised by the FSA and launched in January 2006.
He added: “I started with absolutely no clients. My client bank in previous roles had generally been blue chip organisations so I had to start from scratch. It took up to a year to really get up to speed, but I had a business model I thought would work and invested heavily early on in my website to ensure I had a good presence online.
“This is something I don’t think many IFAs really consider that much, but as I worked from home a virtual shop window was crucial. I spent a lot of time and resources getting it right, using search engine optimisation, Google AdWords and websites like Unbiased, which brought me many referrals at the beginning.