Whenever I am invited to either a financial services party or dinner, and the wine begins to flow like the river Thames, one name always invariably rears its ugly head: St James’s Place.
“Big, bad SJP” – and before SJP lawyers start reaching for their iPads, it is not me describing them as that – just financial planners who have overindulged a little on the Merlot, and who incidentally are not backward in coming forward with their views on the quality of financial journalism or lack of it.
There is no doubt that SJP is seen as the big, bad wolf by many financial advisers.
Not because of over-charging (a source of much press comment in recent months), but because the wealth manager is hugely successful. As slick as an oil slick. A hoover far more effective than anything Dyson has ever designed.
Sucking up people’s long-term savings on an industrial scale. A gatherer of wealth and then pretty successful at hanging onto it – through thick and thin. A result of excellent customer service.
Operating in the same space as financial planners and often competing for the same clients, it is usually the wolf that wins the spoils.
No wonder it is despised, even though I know of many financial advisers who – having polished off the Merlot and moved on to the Armagnac – concede they have been tempted on many an occasion to join the SJP pack.
Some indeed have walked the plank and joined the Cirencester-based wealth management group.
The latest results for the wealth manager tell you everything you need to know about SJP: Gross inflows of funds last year of £15.7bn – 8 per cent up on the year before; a 96 per cent retention of clients and a pack comprising nearly 4,000 advisers – all relentlessly searching for more wealth to manage; and close on £100bn of assets under management.
An impressive set of numbers whichever way you dissect and analyse them. Indeed, mightily, so given the difficult and challenging 2018 backdrop – stock markets treading water and continued market uncertainty.
Yet I am sure SJP will not be the only bête noire that will feature in the dinner table conversation of advisers at future industry soirées and gatherings.
It will soon be joined by another big, bad wolf in the shape of Schroders Personal Wealth, a new financial planning business that is aiming to be alive and kicking before the year is up.
Established by Schroders and Lloyds Banking Group, its aim is to offer financial planning services to ‘affluent’ UK customers.
First, to Lloyds Bank Private Banking and Bank of Scotland Private Banking customers. Then, unleashed on the country as a whole, with James Rainbow, chief executive, determined that Schroders Personal Wealth will play a “role in helping address the need for financial planning with a clear and transparent service”.