I reluctantly sold my company in February 2015. As a directly regulated, unincorporated sole trader I was not infrequently asked by clients who, seeing my advancing years, wondered what would happen if and when I retired.
Although I had no particular intention of retiring, I thought that I really ought to have a succession plan. Advertisements to find a suitable candidate to work with me and take over the business proved to be entirely fruitless.
Placing the ads put blood in the water and there was no shortage of sharks smelling an opportunity. I was perhaps somewhat naïve and uninformed of what went on in the wider adviser world.
I was soon to be disabused and was both amazed and horrified by the standards and practices that I came across.
In today’s market there are many men of straw who want to buy adviser practices on the higher purchase and don’t really have the wherewithal to make a proper acquisition. To those who looked for this sort of deal, I pointed out that I was not in the higher purchase business; if you can’t afford the price then I am not interested in selling.
However, by pure happenstance I was courted by a very appropriate suitor and terms that were fair were fairly quickly agreed. I was both flattered and pleased to be asked to work as a self-employed freelance consultant to the firm and to sit on their investment committee.
This has also been a learning curve to see how large companies operate. It was not the first company sale that I had gone through, having sold a manufacturing business before I entered financial services, but one truism remains; you automatically have the quite understandable mind-set that no-one can run your business as well as you.
Of course nobody is trying to do that, because everybody runs businesses differently. Being directly employed by the acquirer does not lead, in my view, to a particularly happy outcome.
At the same time, I have kept a very active interest in all things advisory since February, but the first two months of the year involved some very hard work.
Obviously all the clients had to be contacted, everybody had to have up to date valuations. All this at the same time as providing the necessary information to the acquiring firm to enable them to complete due diligence, as well as doing as much due diligence on them as I possibly could.
Later in 2015 we had the merger of the IFP with Cisi, which I thought was an excellent move and every credit, not only to those who are on the IFP board, but also all the Bristol employees for being so selfless in helping to conclude the deal, even though they knew it meant the end of employment.
I was rather bemused at the irony of finally achieving chartered status after passing their ethical test, in spite of the fact that I now no longer practice.
I have also made a presentation to a local branch of the IFP which, judging by the fact that nobody threw anything or fell asleep, I think was reasonably successful.
Obviously running my own firm for 25 years and being in the industry for 30 probably does make me of historical interest to some.
From time to time I provide generic advice, or as I would prefer to call it, guidance, to selected referrals.
I cannot provide regulated advice, but it has been a very enjoyable new avenue and the novelty of being unregulated, without the need to jump through all the regulatory hoops, has been an extremely refreshing and invigorating new experience.
Not being one to enjoy the golf course or daytime television, I have also started to learn Italian and take my advanced motorist course. Depending on what the next year brings there are additional projects in mind.
For me, retirement is the opportunity for a portfolio career.
Harry Katz is a consultant at HA7 Consulting