When Stuart Dyer stepped down as chief executive of Cofunds, his plans for retirement were on his mind.
But those plans took were put on hold when he went on to establish Soprano Consulting in 2012, a company that provides support to financial advisers engaging in mergers and acquisitions.
He set up Soprano Consulting because he had noticed a gap in the market for buying and selling adviser companies during his six-year tenure at Close Brothers, where he was involved in acquiring large IFA businesses.
Mr Dyer, chairman at Soprano Consulting, says: “What was noticeable was that when I was buying businesses for Close [Brothers] the sellers very rarely had the necessary resource to make transactions happen easily and efficiently.”
He adds: “We also found that buyers were not well supported by firms that were identifying potential purchases for them.
“The market is populated by brokers who will introduce a business to a buyer, but once they introduce the business, that’s where that function ends.”
Soprano Consulting was established to end that problem, Mr Dyer notes.
“I thought when I set up Soprano that it would be something that would be very episodic. We thought we would complete a transaction, have some down time, before we set off on the next transaction,” he says.
He adds: “I now find myself working five days a week, plus part of the weekend – not quite the episodic retirement plan I thought I would be setting up.”
Mr Dyer says he left Cofunds because it had reached the point where the initial phase of its development was over.
“I think it needed a different type of individual, [like] somebody that was probably more sales and marketing-focused, whereas I was probably more operationally focused. That point seemed a natural time to leave that business.”
Mr Dyer says the proudest moment of his career was completing the first large deal at Soprano Consulting.
The deal involved Ascot Lloyd (then Bellpenny) buying the wealth management business of EFG Private Bank.
He declines to disclose the value of the deal.
“It was a time when it was a tiny business. We were dealing with quite a sizeable transaction in IFA market terms and we were up against quite a well-known corporate finance firm on the other side.”
He adds: “To execute that transaction successfully wasn’t a simple transaction. I think with the resource we had on board at that time, it was a pretty special thing to do.”
Mr Dyer always wanted to become a commercial pilot, but being partially colour blind put a stop to this career path.
He says: “I trained as an accountant and fell into offshore finance. It wasn’t planned, it just happened.”
He explains how he became the operations director of the unit trust business of Schroders, which was sold to an Australian company. This was then sold to Friends Provident and Mr Dyer became the managing director of the Friends Provident Unit Trust.