Financial Planning Today: Why do you think now is a good time to be starting a firm focused on acquisitions?
Simon Cogman-Hellier: There is space in the market for a business that truly understands what a consolidator looks like; we are not an aggregator that just bolts on business, instead we integrate our businesses properly and train our staff well. Ultimately this means we can always put our clients first. We have found that if staff are taken care of, you retain more of the value of the acquisition, resulting in a well-integrated business that can deliver a seamless service to clients.
What is your three-year growth plan?
SCH: Radiant has been established with the intention of growing both organically and through the acquisition of IFA businesses, building a fully integrated group based on a shared culture and a high quality, holistic service offering. Radiant’s growth strategy will be based primarily on finding companies with a shared culture and vision to join the group – a culture of creativity, innovation, integrity and collaboration.
Any acquisitions that we make need to be staff focused and to increase the geographical reach of Radiant’s existing companies. I believe success is made by buying the right businesses, which in turn enable organic growth as we expand our offering and can provide more services to our existing client base.
Do you have many acquisitions in the pipeline? Has the latest lockdown slowed acquisitions down?
SCH: We have built a healthier pipeline than we expected in the short time scale since we launched and we look forward to updating the market when we acquire a business that shares our culture and vision.
I believe lockdown has shown that using technology enables lighter touch meetings at speed. This means that many more meetings can take place, with a broader range of people, and it is these conversations that stimulate M&A activity. The financial services market is certainly ripe for consolidation, as recent industry acquisition activity has shown.
What do you look for in an acquisition?
SCH: Radiant was established with a strong focus on culture and therefore we are looking for companies with a shared culture and vision to join the group. Whilst we look for potential acquisitions to have strong underlying business fundamentals, factors such as the size of assets under management is not restrictive. We want businesses that put their staff first and their client first, as well as businesses that demonstrates the potential for organic growth.
We are also looking for a business whose senior management team is embedded in the business and wants be part of their company’s growth journey. Ultimately, we are looking to work with nice people because it makes work that much more fun.
What do you think makes Financial Planners special?
SCH: Our business model is different to traditional IFAs. As Financial Planners we understand our clients’ needs and aspirations and deploy advice appropriately to them in a segmented way, which creates much greater affordability and means we can reach a greater pool of clients across the nation.
One example of this is the veterinary specialist part of our business. We attend universities and colleges and talk to students who could eventually work at a veterinary practice, and we also talk to the veterinary practices, and everybody in between. Our aim is not to be a tight part of traditional IFA that looks after people with wealth but instead have a diverse client bank that have appropriate service for different needs. We like to be on an entire journey with our client.
What has been the biggest change you have seen to Financial Planning/advice during your career?
SCH: Having been in this industry for 40 years, the whole regulatory structure has evolved significantly and I welcome the higher standards of compliance. For instance, when I first started out there wasn’t even a Financial Services Act - this was only introduced in 1987, with many iterations since then.
Increased regulation in the industry has improved the quality of the profession and for good firms it reinforces their best practice. We should remember that the FCA guidelines have been put in place to ensure that advisers truly understand their client, which is achieved through delivering advice appropriately and clearly and documenting the journey. In order to keep pace with the regulation, there has been increased emphasis on examinations in the training process for our industry. As a result of this, I feel that some understanding of the importance of strong client relationships has been side-lined. The industry realises it needs to develop staff more, creating a better balance between technical knowledge and client interaction.
One way in which we are bridging this ‘soft skills’ gap at Radiant is through our Academy, which is available to every member of staff so that they can develop their skills and even branch into new areas, if they wish to. There are also other Academies out there now, run by different organisations, which I find extremely heartening.
What is one thing people might not know about you?
SCH: I have a psychology background and I’m very interested in the power of self and mindfulness. I believe that if you understand yourself in the best way that you can, then you can give the best of yourself to others. In terms of relating this to the business, it means we have a very behavioural psychology-focused approach in how we manage staff and how we relate to our clients.