In Focus: Profitable advice business  

South African advice firm sets out growth plans in UK

South African advice firm sets out growth plans in UK
(Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

South African advice firm Alpha Wealth has set out its growth plans for the UK after buying a London-based firm in late 2021.

Alpha Wealth bought Wimbledon-based Holborn Financial in September 2021 for an undisclosed sum to establish its presence in the UK.

Scott Needham, director of Alpha UK Holdings, said the company is now talking to around 10 other advice firms in the UK with a view to acquiring them and integrating them into Holborn Financial.

He said the firm is also looking to apply for discretionary permissions and since arriving in the UK it has been rolling out plans to recruit a young cohort of financial planners - among them is Craig Meschede, a former professional cricket player.

Needham said Alpha Wealth had established a track record of recruiting and training former sportspeople to become financial planners.

He said: "You cannot teach charisma, attitude and passion but you can teach technical knowledge, and I think that lends itself to what we do. These are people who, at the age of 30 or 31, have already had a 10 or 15 year career."

Needham said Alpha Wealth was distinct to some of the large South African wealth management companies which had entered the UK in recent years - such as Old Mutual - because it is not a "big institional firm looking to scale".

He said: "Holborn is a very culturally aligned firm, very client-centric as opposed to just a cookie cutter mechanism that spits out services."

Emyr Blease, who founded Holborn in 1988 and remains its managing director, is working with Needham on growing the firm in the UK and is talking to several advice firms.

Blease said: "I have been running this business since 1988 and I have had clients that I have been looking after for that length of time. That was my reasoning behind selling to Alpha Wealth.

"We can sell ourselves down the road to the highest bidder but is it the right thing to do? Absolutely not."

Addressing the company's acquisition plans, Blease said: "If you want the biggest cheque, don't come to us. But if you want your clients to be looked after than we are the firm for you."

Blease said the firm had made one acquisiton since September 2021 - an advice firm in Kent with 179 clients where the principal has remained with the company on a consultancy basis.

Needham said Alpha Wealth is still considering whether to retain the Holborn Financial branding or to rebrand it as Alpha Wealth.

damian.fantato@ft.com