Simplicate and lightness’ – Colin Chapman
I was born and grew up in North London (except for an 18 month sojourn in Switzerland in the early 1960’s). My parents moved to Suffolk when I was about 17 where I continued in education at what was then Ipswich Civic College. At the age of about 20 I moved to Sunderland to study to be a teacher, with geography as my core subject. Soon after starting the course I decided that teaching was not the career for me, and went off to drive vans – my hippy period, you might say. Having met a beautiful woman, who for reasons I still cannot fully understand agreed to marry me, I realised that I needed a proper job and embarked upon a career in Civil Engineering, which I qualified and worked in for about 15 years. Over that time it progressively dawned on me that what I really wanted, and what I was best suited to, was to run my own business. Luckily I was made redundant and was free to take up an opportunity in direct sales of home improvements that taught me a huge amount about people and life, but had no real prospect of becoming a ‘business’. At that time, in the late 1980’s, retail financial services was booming and after quite a bit of research and thinking it seemed to me that there was the opportunity to make an actual retail financial services business. After two and half years of basic training with L&G I joined a local IFA firm and developed their Ipswich office, which is where I met David (Williams) and Tyrone (Woodward). And in 1995 we set up WFW.
At the time the industry was predominantly commission based, with advisors receiving commission from products they sold as opposed to being paid fees for the advice they gave. We saw that a way to differentiate ourselves and to create a sustainable and accountable business was not just to be ‘independent’ but also to be absolutely transparent with our remuneration. And with the client as the centre of our advice, not as targets for sales. This is how we started and have continued to trade ever since. Although the industry has also changed to become increasingly fee based, we are proud to say that we were in the vanguard of that movement.
One of the greatest changes I have seen during my career is the huge development of technology. For adviser firms IT has revolutionised the efficiency of data management for much improved client relationships. IT has also changed the whole landscape of the retail FS industry. Properly equipped adviser firms can now do much of the work previously carried out by the insurance and investment provider’s front and back offices. Platform providers – essentially vast databases – now dominate the investment administration market. Portal systems enable secure data exchange. Digital underwriting has transformed life insurance. And all of these services can be easily networked with our in-house CRM system. At the same time quality has gone up and prices have gone down in every area, with one exception.
The exception being regulationism. Regulatory expansionism has added huge overhead costs to all areas of financial services and these costs always fall on one, or a combination of; employees, owners, (or mostly) clients and customers. Clients predominantly foot the bill for all this bureaucracy.
What I find to be most rewarding about what we do is the relationships that we build with our clients. Our clients are long term and we are pleased to support them with during their largest financial life events. This gives us a unique bond that we honour by ensuring that we do the very best for them, especially during times of need. A memorable example being a client that became tragically widowed almost immediately after her husband had retired. He had left her in a financially stable position, but she had no understanding of how best to organise her assets. And what they were and where they were. We helped to organise her affairs so that not only did she have clarity but she had the confidence to move forward and make decisions to reflect her changed circumstances. Among other things she downsized her home, reorganised (with our help) all her investments and can now enjoy a regular and sustainable income and therefore live a comfortable life. We have subsequently helped her daughter and will continue to support her for as long as she needs us too. This is the type of relationship that is unique to financial advisers and a privilege to be apart of.
When I am not at the office, I like to spend time with my wife, our four children and their ever-expanding families (including 6 grandchildren…and counting). We all love the countryside. We are all keen on walking. On non-work days my wife and I will take one or more walks with our dog. At the weekends you can find me in my shed, where my background in engineering and my interest in ‘fixing’ things means I can waste hours fettling whatever project is currently taking my fancy – currently a car I am building. But, where I am happiest (ex family) is motor racing. A good friend and I have been racing and maintaining historic racing cars for more than 35 years. We have raced all over the UK and quite a bit of the Continent.
Over the next year I will continuing to develop and grow Williams Farrall Woodward and support my staff with all the resources and training they need. Now more than ever we need to be a sound resource and I intend that WFW will deliver the best and most reliable service it can.