National IFA: Advice sector will ‘open up’ for sales in 2014

Like many advisory firms, Foster Denovo is seeking to expand in the post-Retail Distribution Review world and as such is talking to a number of potential acquisition targets.

Despite “looking constantly”, however, it is not doing much in the way of buying. A number of businesses and books of business were purchased in 2012, but the chequebook has yet to be opened in 2013.

Speaking to FTAdviser, chief executive Roger Brosch reveals that agreeing valuations has proved a major blocker in many cases. Of course, he also echoes the refrain of most would-be consolidators: many that are no over-priced are simply not the right stuff.

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“We are in the market and looking constantly and we do meet a lot of businesses, some of which are good but perhaps we can’t agree valuations and others are not really what we are looking for but our expectation is that the market will begin to open up again next year.”

Mr Brosch outlines that the firm has an ambitious plan to grow by 50 per cent over the next five years, with this coming in part through acquisition and also by bringing in new advisers. The firm is currently running recruitment seminars to increase its pool of “partners”, which currently number around 100.

“We have a very strong recruitment programme going on and our future is very much about growth. We have a very strong and deep platform to build from here as, financially, we are very secure and our results have been very successful over the last couple of years.

“We are are looking for manageable growth and that will be done through recruitment, attracting new partners to the business and also through acquisition. We have done two or three acquisitions in the last couple of years and we are looking to make some more.

The RDR model

The firm is made up of a mix of level four advisers and a number of chartered financial planners. Although Mr Brosch believes that chartered is the direction of travel the regulators are moving in, Foster Denovo is encouraging rather than forcing their advisers to become chartered.

“Although we are not forcing it, we do encourage this. We strongly support partner development here and chartered is one of those things that we do support very carefully and fully. Medium term I certainly see us working towards that.”

As for the status of the firm under the new defintions, Mr Brosch says the firm is mainly independent but that it offers a more cost-effective restricted offering for clients for whom a less expansive process that excludes particular investment types is “more than satisfactory”.

“We tend to start with the client and decide which one would be the most appropriate for the client. At the moment we still operate significantly on an independent basis, but there are some clients where a restricted offering is more than satisfactory for their needs.”