Zane Hunter, Director of Private Clients Scotland, Private Client Team at 7IM, explains his firm’s proud commitment to doing the right thing for clients and the impressive growth this ethos has helped drive.
When David Scott [senior partner and founder] set up the firm in 2007, he had seen a lack of care by some of the large global wealth managers towards clients; in some institutions it was revenues at all costs, rather than putting the client’s interests first. He recognised the need to establish a wealth management firm that was different – a proposition which would align the interests of the clients with the adviser or wealth manager.
David was also looking at service standards generally. There was a trend where too many clients were looked after by a single adviser, which means the level of service could not be delivered. With some of the big wealth managers there’s the bias toward in-house investment products which means that you’re not really delivering a truly diversified service. It was really important for Vestra not to manufacture its own products as well as advise its clients in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Along with the fact that we intentionally don’t have in-house investment products, one of the first things which attracted me was the transparency on fees. We don’t charge dealing commissions; we charge an all-inclusive fee of 1% of assets because of our desire for transparency. We rebate all third-party fees and did this even prior to Retail Distribution Review coming into force. That was important to us.
Clients are very positive about this transparency. Even our name is Latin for “Your Wealth” as our ethos is “it is our client’s money and their interests come first”. When we set up I would say that the majority of institutions were taking trail commissions. We gave up a huge amount of revenue intentionally and voluntarily, so that we could be open and honest with our clients by rebating commissions.
Another aspect which attracts people is the diversity of the firm. We’ve grown our wealth management offering to cover Enterprise Investment Schemes and Venture Capital Trusts; foreign exchange and derivatives trading; financial planning, services for US-connected clients via our subsidiary, Vestra US Wealth Management Limited, and offshore services via Vestra Jersey.
When it comes to attracting staff, our flexibility and the fact that we’re open architecture has attracted people who desire to be in an advice-led business rather than focused on sales targets for in-house investment products.
Whilst there is no typical client, the client base falls broadly into three main categories in terms of their common attributes and approach to wealth. We have a lot of retired clients who are looking for income from their portfolios. The pensions/SIPP business is growing and growing. An additional benefit that we bring to these clients is that we have an in-house financial planning service to offer them too.
The majority of our clients are discretionary, where all investment decisions are delegated to us and we manage their money to provide them with the income they need. In addition, we have a lot of entrepreneurs and I think that is because we come from an entrepreneurial background ourselves, having set up the firm. We’ve got an understanding for them and they’ve got an understanding for us.
We also have a lot of financial services professionals. Many of them start as advisory clients as they like to be involved in the decision-making at the outset but gradually move over to the discretionary service over time. We also look after quite a few charities.
We started with two staff in 2007 and we’ve now got just under 200, so the number of staff has grown very significantly. We’ve got approximately 6,000 clients and £5.2bn of assets under management today. London is our main headquarters, but we’ve also got a Jersey office and representation through the intermediary/IFA sales team throughout the UK and in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
We’ve also gained more international clients as we’ve developed.
We have a fresh approach to servicing clients, where we take the time to discuss and establish what a client truly hopes to achieve, and the risks they are willing to take. We believe in a transparent fee structure and offering truly unbiased advice by not manufacturing and selling in-house products.
We have recently partnered with Alain de Botton’s The School of Life to create “A Portfolio of Thoughts”, a series of philosophical essays which explore 12 important life areas. The School of Life is dedicated to exploring life’s big questions and we see this as a conduit to developing a deeper understanding of the issues that drive attitudes to wealth. We see the relationship between clients and their investment manager as a partnership and these essays facilitate their understanding of each other.
We have a fresh approach to investments where we offer a tailored approach with institutional rigor to the asset allocation and security selection process. By not having any in-house products we can offer a whole of market approach in order to select the best funds and we focus on challenging perceptions on risk so that the client really understands what they are embarking on. Importantly, we understand that everyone is different, therefore we take the time to understand the non-financial drivers for each person so that we can better look after their wealth and investment portfolio.
We wanted to bridge the gap between the small boutique wealth managers and the big banks – that’s quite a limited space. We measure our success through clients’ feedback and we want to try to set a standard for the industry.
If you’d like to start a conversation with Vestra Wealth please contact the Find a Wealth Manager team HERE. They will ensure you get direct access to the investment professional who matches your profile.