The story of Stafford House Investments is a fascinating one. Originally set up by Jeremy Wake in 1983 as a joint venture with AC Mole & Sons, the firm achieved moderate success, before being bought out in 1996 by the Farlake Group for a fee in the region of £750,000.
Fifteen years later, Mr Wake reacquired an asset-stripped Stafford House Investments for a modest £2 to resume an adventure that started three decades ago. Since its official relaunch in 2012, the Somerset-based company has made headlines for its rapid development. First it merged with Rowan Dartington, the investment management and stockbroking company, and then just recently it acquired the financial services arm of AC Mole & Sons, the same firm that Stafford House Investments was originally set up in conjunction with.
As far as Mr Wake is concerned the sky is the limit, both in terms of how the advisory market is developing post-RDR, and for the ambitious expansion plans that Graham Coxell, Rowan Dartington’s executive chairman, is happy to finance.
“We have increased the number of advisers we have by 60 per cent in the past three months. Our long-term strategy is to build a 50-strong adviser team and Rowan Dartington is totally supportive of our growth plans,” said Mr Wake, Stafford House Investments’ chief executive.
“I am looking for good IFAs that have good client banks. Geographical issues don’t matter much. We are looking for additional businesses that we can develop using the same business ethos and we have a very supportive team in Rowan Dartington and specifically Graham Coxell, our chairman.
“It is our intention to build organically and acquire other firms if appropriate, and currently it is a good moment for takeovers and acquisitions. IFAs are finally realising the true value of their business and there is now a more realistic understanding of what these companies are worth.”
While Mr Wake is not willing to discuss any specific acquisition plans, he did confirm that he is currently in talks with several businesses. He also added that that he has recently been approached by several financial advisers who would like to work for the firm and that this could lead to setting up a separate office.
In short, the RDR has been a blessing in disguise for the firm. Because Stafford House Investments was relaunched just before the regulatory changes came into effect, Mr Wake, and his then team of three advisers, found it easy to adapt and did not have to worry about any legacy issues.
He said: “The RDR was extremely good for the industry. It has cleaned it up, removed people who perhaps were better out of the industry, and has improved the overall standard of advice.
“Though the industry was already very buoyant, I think there are now even more opportunities in the current marketplace, particularly as the banks and building societies withdrew from the provision of investment advice. The opportunities are also significant as the number of IFAs has shrunk. From our point of view it removes a chunk of competition, though it is not necessarily a great thing for the rest of the population.”