Your IndustryFeb 16 2023

First Wealth: ‘We plant 30 trees for every client we take on’

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First Wealth: ‘We plant 30 trees for every client we take on’
Anthony Villis, managing director at First Wealth

First Wealth managing director Anthony Villis said as part of the firm’s B Corp initiative, it offsets carbon emissions for both the business and the team’s private lives as well.

The firm, which became B Corp certified in 2020, offsets holidays and other things for the team “because it feels like the right thing to do”.

A B Corp certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental impact.

Speaking to FTAdviser, Villis said: “We do that by offsetting with a tree planting project in Nicaragua, which is a certified project and there's probably about 3,500 trees so far.

“We plant 30 new trees for every new client we take on.”

The total of 3,500 trees also includes an offset for the company and team scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions, which it fully offsets each year.

However, Villis explained that the problem it grapples with as a wealth management business is understanding where client money is being invested.

“All of the companies we invest in for our clients all have their own impact and how do we get our heads around that data when the fund managers are struggling themselves to be able to articulate what that looks like,” he said. 

“We're probably ahead of most firms because we're committed to be net zero by 2030. However, I think the whole wealth management space is grappling with how we present that data.”

First Wealth began in 2009 after the financial crisis and two to three years ahead of RDR.

“It's good in a way because we knew what was coming, we were able to set ourselves up as an independent financial planning firm at that stage,” he said. “We were with another network but we joined Benchmark in 2012.”

The firm became a chartered financial planning firm in 2015 and started as 'three people in a room' type of business. 

“I think we've got seven or eight chartered financial planners in the team now and there's probably a few that are only a couple of exams away,” he said.

It's how we can use what we know to build some technology to maybe start automating some of the financial advice. 

After becoming certified B Corp, the process around the wider business changed, according to Villis.

Initially, the goal was to become a chartered financial planning firm and this then developed to become a certified B Corp. 

In 2021, the firm was awarded the Chartered Financial Planners award by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).