Chris Woodhouse, chief executive of Tilney Group, did his due diligence on the company when the job was in the offing last year.
“I got some Tilney guys to come in and pitch to me, and they did a really good job. There were things I thought they could do better,” he said.
Mr Woodhouse, a trained accountant whose background is essentially retail, before becoming chief executive of the RAC – “an insurance product” – had used financial advisers in the past, something he describes as a “mixed” experience.
He said: “It’s not so much I’ve had a bad experience. This combination of investment and financial planning [at Tilney] makes you feel as a client they’ve got your interests at heart, rather than trying to get your assets on the books. My experience elsewhere is a counterpoint to that.”
Mr Woodhouse has in the past held finance director jobs at Superdrug, Debenhams and Halfords, becoming deputy chief executive of Debenhams and Homebase and then taking the top role at the RAC.
So what skills does he bring to Tilney, a job he took on in October last year?
“What I bring is quite significant experience in terms of thinking about clients in a retail environment, and how you talk to them, and how you deal with products. When you combine that with sector-specific knowledge in this market – which is massive – and bring them together it can be quite a powerful combination,” he explained.
His plan for Tilney is to grow it both organically and by acquisition.
“It’s a competitive market but I don’t feel as though there’s a lack of demand out there. [It’s about] doing the best job you can for existing clients so they want to use us more. You have to get to the point where you’re doing such a good job the clients are talking about us to their friends and family.
"For what is essentially a financial and monetary product, the decision as to which firm of advisers you use is highly emotionally driven. The reason for that is someone is going to trust you to look after their life’s worth. They’re going to need to trust you.”
Tilney gets many of its referrals through professional connections – accountants and solicitors – and has two branches to its business: investment management and financial planning. Mr Woodhouse said they played an equal part – there are 220 financial planners and 120 investment professionals who work “hand in glove”.
He said: “It’s goal-based investment for the client. If you have them working closely together rather than [as] independent units, your ability to cover off and fulfil what the client is looking for is better. We have further to go with this in terms of them working together.”