Firing Line: Nigel Stockton

Firing Line: Nigel Stockton

The continuing trend of consolidation in the market will lead to fewer adviser firms but this will not restrict customer choice, Bellpenny chief executive Nigel Stockton says.

Citing the mortgage market as an example, Mr Stockton said he had no concern about lack of customer choice, even though an average of nine out of 10 mortgage transactions are carried out by the top 11 firms.

He said: “There are enough firms in the market, if you want a small or large firm.  Nobody ever complains about customer choice in the mortgage market.”

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Mr Stockton was speaking to Financial Adviser on the phone from a busy street in Reading about market trends and the future plans for his newly combined Bellpenny and Ascot Lloyd business.

The merger, which took place on July 3, has seen the firm grow to a 100-man adviser business, looking after more than £40,000 fee-paying clients, with £6bn of funds under management. According to Mr Stockton, the company is close to acquiring more companies, as owner global alternative investment management firm Oaktree Capital Management’s appetite shows no sign of abating.


Looking at opportunities

Mr Stockton said: “We are already looking at one or two interesting opportunities and deciding if they are for us. We will do more acquisitions. This is not the end of our growth ambitions.

“The key is to make sure the funds under management grow and that things are in a good place. We want to make sure the advisers we have all have the tools they need to be able to serve their clients in the best way possible. We have some revenue numbers we need to achieve and profit numbers we need to move forward with.”

Following the deal, Bellpenny finance boss Matthew Moore is chief financial officer of the combined entity, while Mr Stockton is chief executive.

Mr Stockton described the deal as a merger not  a takeover and that both businesses have weapons in their armoury they can use to learn from each other. It will enable the company to take advantage of growth opportunities, while retaining the three brands: Bellpenny, Ascot Lloyd and BIA Financial Planning.

Richard Dunbabin and Pat O’Hara of Ascot Lloyd remain as founders and will assist the executive director leadership team.

Mr Stockton said key to the merger was ensuring that advisers and customers have not noticed anything different about the operations or the way service is provided. He does not plan to make any “rush decisions” about the business structure, but will explore ways the combined entities can enhance how they work together.

The company has the scale to absorb smaller companies, but Bellpenny plans to continue on the path it has been on for the past 18 months, which is to carry out fewer larger acquisitions.

Although the company has indicated a move away from acquiring smaller businesses, this does not mean consolidation at that end of the market is going to slow, Mr Stockton said.