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Curtis Banks’ fintech business ‘underperforms’

Curtis Banks’ fintech business ‘underperforms’

Curtis Banks’ fintech business Dunstan Thomas which it spent £27.5mn on in mid-2020 “underperformed” last year, posting a profit of just £3mn.

The self-invested personal pension provider’s group chief executive, Will Self, told FTAdviser the Covid-19-induced lack of face-to-face meetings “slowed down new contracts” with third parties for the business’ digital services. The firm did not reveal the exact projections it had for business upon request.

“We see it as a timing issue,” Self added. “We absolutely expect this to unwind in 2022.”

Today (March 31), the company posted its financial results for the year to December 31, 2021, in which Chris Macdonald, Curtis Banks’ chairperson, stressed: “The value that Dunstan Thomas delivered to the group is clearly evident and as the macro-economy recovers from Covid-19 we expect significant improvement in the next financial year.”

The Bristol-based group's adjusted profit before tax grew by just 4.7 per cent to £14mn, impacted by “an underperformance” in Dunstan Thomas.

Dunstan Thomas’ revenue totalled £11.3mn. As for the group, overall revenue climbed nearly £10mn last year, to £63mn.

Assets under administration increased by 15.4 per cent to £37.4bn, and the dividend to shareholders remained unchanged at 6.5p.

Between 2020 and 2021, the number of overall Sipps administered by Curtis Banks fell from 82,224 to 79,679. Though the number of organic new full and mid Sipps climbed from 3,700 to 4,329 - marking 8 per cent year-on-year growth.

In addition, the firm’s Sipp attrition rate went from 4.6 per cent in 2020 to 6.1 per cent in 2021, translating to 7,134 Sipps lost through attrition.

“2021 was a really interesting year in terms of attrition. We saw a peak in attrition rates in the first half of the year. It was really the impact of catching up from a very quiet transfer out market in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jane Ridgley, Curtis Banks’ chief operating officer.

“So that high attrition in the first half of the year was really a catch up on the year before. Then in quarter three, we saw a significant reduction and in quarter four just that normalisation of attrition rates, and we're still bubbling round those same numbers today.”

Staff costs for the year increased by 17 per cent to £30.5mn (2020: £26.1mn) and were influenced by salary inflation, referenced to average weekly earnings, and the full year impact from the acquisitions of Dunstan Thomas of £7.1mn (2020: £1.9mn) and Talbot and Muir of £2.7mn (2020: £0.4mn).

Average staff numbers increased to 828 (2020: 698), primarily as a result of the group's acquisition of Talbot and Muir and Dunstan Thomas in 2020.

Though Self was quick to highlight that operational costs in the core group have not changed.

‘We’re bringing forward customer benefits’

Back in July 2020, Curtis Banks acquired rival Sipp provider Talbot and Muir and fintech firm Dunstan Thomas in a deal worth close to £53mn. Dunstan Thomas was worth around half of that amount, selling for £27.5mn.