Firing line  

Nigel Speirs: My latest deal in the advice sector

Nigel Speirs: My latest deal in the advice sector

Nigel Speirs, founder of Buckles and until recently managing director of Quilter Private Client Advisers, loves the advice business so much he has taken to ringing up clients who make a complaint.

"If ever there was a complaint from the client, I would phone as MD and say: 'I'm sorry you felt the need to complain but we'll sort it out'."

Unfortunately, his bosses at Quilter said he had to back off. "I was told, 'You can't keep doing that', because the clients withdraw their complaint when the MD phones up to apologise. 

"It would be seen I was unduly influencing the client to withdraw their complaint."

Speirs says he gets "a great deal of joy" out of dealing directly with clients and bringing them the best advice, but confesses to preferring life in smaller, early-stage businesses to bigger corporates.

"I spent nearly 30 years building businesses and spent six years in corporate – that probably tells you [where I feel most comfortable]. It's where you can serve the client the best."

Speirs has just started another business, with the former regional and strategy and acquisitions director at Quilter Private Client Advisers, Dominic Rose is buying a company with the backing of private equity - MKC Wealth, which he intends to build organically – and has the intention of buying other businesses.

However, unlike many businesses backed by private equity, the pair are intentionally focusing on small firms.

He says: "Most of the people whose business we acquire will be exiting the industry, and they're retiring." He says this is a far more bankable way to go than the big £1bn asset-based businesses the private equity companies are largely pursuing.

"I think that's very dangerous; you're coming in, you've got to replace the existing manager and you have a high number of advisers.

"In the advice world, the value is often going to one or two owners, but the relationship is held by a number of advisers. Unless you really have won the hearts and souls of these advisers, it's quite a process to make sure they stay.

"You take a much bigger risk with buying a £1bn business; it's a good five or six advisers with £200m of assets under management each – you only need to to lose a couple of these and you destroy a lot of value."

Speirs met Rose at Quilter, and together they built Quilter Private Client Advisers, through acquisitions. Rose has spent much  of his career in financial advice acquisitions, working for both Bellpenny and Towergate. 

It was through Rose's work at Bellpenny, and that company's backer Oaktree Capital Management, that the pair came across Cabot Square Capital, a UK-based private equity business.

"They understood us, so when most of the people in finance wanted to buy a business with a minimum of £1bn of assets we explained why we wanted to start small and grow. 

"Already they've been very supportive."