The financial services industry has lost one of its brightest lights in Paul Etheridge, founder of the Prestwood Group. What a star. The Sirius of the financial universe, now looking down upon us from his big office in the sky.
Paul was a financial giant of an individual. A transformer in so many ways – changing the financial lives of individuals for the better up and down the country, and arming the financial adviser community with the tools to do their work in an utterly professional way.
God, Sirius will be missed. Big time. For all time. Especially by his wonderful wife Judith who was a rock throughout their marriage. Loyal and devoted.
Although Paul didn't really need to give me the time of day (I’m just a pesky journalist after all), that wasn’t his way. He embraced every one. He was inquisitive and kind at the same time.
I first got to know Paul when I would rock up at the Cellar Club in Birmingham (he co-founded the club in 1974) and sing for my proverbial supper.
I was introduced to this merry (sometimes very merry) band of financial advisers by Joanna Coull, a financial planner who thought it would be a good idea if I gave a speech at one of the regular dinners they held.
I had first met Joanna at a financial adviser event in London organised by Fiona Price (celebrating successful women in the male-dominated world of financial advice) and we got on like a house on fire. She’s also persuasive. Hence my nerve-racking Cellar Club debut.
While my first speech at the club was rather aggressive and chippy, the members invited me back again, and again. A bond was formed and rather than preaching (how arrogant), I began to listen. I learnt more from them than they did from me.
Paul stood out amongst this very fine band of successful advisers. As a founding father of the club, he always took it upon himself to ask the first, and second, questions.
He was also genuinely interested in what I had to say about the industry. He was passionate about making financial advice universal – he didn’t like the consequences of RDR.
Enthusiasm coursed through Paul’s veins. I liked him. Indeed, I liked him a lot as did Joanna (last week, she stressed how supportive he had always been to her – something of a father figure). He was a loyal friend who would go out of his way to help people.
I am sure that the love for Paul from members of the Cellar Club was universal. You couldn’t help but fall under his spell.
Paul invited me one Monday to come and visit his Prestwood operation near Stourbridge in the West Midlands. We sat in his auditorium while he gave me a presentation on his services to advisers.