Wayne Audsley and Phillip Betts established their own financial advice business back in 2016, with the aim of championing something they believed was becoming increasingly rare in the marketplace – customer-centricity and true independence.
Now, five years on, they’re celebrating the fact that clients have endorsed that approach in their hundreds, to drive six-fold growth for the business.
The firm, which offers whole-of-market advice on pensions, investments, financial protection and tax planning, has now celebrated this important milestone with a complete rebrand, renaming itself as Lairgate Financial (previously James Financial), after the town centre street on which it now ‘lives’.
And the pair, who have almost half-a-century of experience in offering financial advice under their belts, along with fellow director Nyree Ceesay, have also recently agreed the purchase of the historic Georgian building they are based in, at 31 Lairgate, as a signal of their commitment to Beverley and the surrounding Yorkshire and the Humber region.
“When we first set out on this journey, it was just the two of us,” said Wayne. We had dozens of clients between us and no premises.
“After this relatively short amount of time, we now serve hundreds of people – predominantly within our region, but nationwide as well. We’ve also increased our employee base from two to eight people.
“We’d like to think this rapid growth is a reflection of our commitment to doing things differently, and the fact that we’re continuing to offer something which is increasingly rare on the high street.”
By this, Wayne means the firm’s independently-owned status in a market place increasingly characterised by the kind of consolidation which sees smaller firms swallowed up, limiting consumers’ options.
Wayne added: “We were motivated to set up our own firm because we wanted to provide something special which we feel is sadly lacking in today’s financial advice market.
“In our experience, being part of a larger group company often creates pressure to chase sales and commission, charge higher fees and push a smaller set of products, from providers that company might have built beneficial relationships with, rather than those that are best for the client.
“Whereas, Phil and I own our business outright, and that means we can genuinely guide our clients based on what’s out there in the whole of the market, that we think best suits their financial goals. We believe that’s increasingly special in today’s world and it’s something we will never compromise on.”
And Lairgate also passionately believe in offering access to financial advice for all – when most major banks and financial advice firms now have minimum asset requirements, often £50,000 or more.
Wayne added: “We never turn anyone away. These days, it’s increasingly difficult for ordinary people to get financial advice at a reasonable cost, because the minimum asset limits applied by banks and bigger financial advice players are out of most people’s reach.
“We’re much more open-minded, because we passionately believe everyone should be able to access the financial advice they need to be able to make the right choices – and often this means looking beyond what someone has now, to their future potential and how we can help them achieve it.
“I’m an ‘ordinary lad from Bransholme’ myself and I’ve seen, first-hand, how much people can potentially lose out on just because they don’t understand the complicated world of finance and what options are open to them. One of my personal motivations for doing what I do, is to play my part in helping to put that right.
“Sometimes, after an initial conversation, we’ll give people a toolkit they can go and action themselves, if that’s more appropriate for them than paying for ongoing, full-blown financial advice. However, importantly, we’re always prepared to have that initial conversation.
The purchase of their Lairgate offices is particularly symbolic for the team. “This is a really significant step for us. Because it’s a prominent site within our ‘hometown’, and a symbol of everything we want to stand for – including our commitment to our clients and the community we’re based in.
“Just to underline that even more, we’ll be commencing a significant refurbishment programme, later this year, to restore the building to its former glory – with a modern twist to ensure it reflects the comfortable, welcoming experience we want to be able to offer our clients.”
They have ambitious plans for the future, too – including looking to grow their advisor team.
“We’ve expanded our team, with the addition of Financial Planner Andrew Blissett and Compliance Director Nyree Ceesay, who ensures we not only meet regulatory requirements, but aim to exceed them by offering the very best possible customer experience.
“We intend to continue growing, at a pace which enables us to remain true to our company values, and are currently looking to recruit more qualified financial advisors to our expanding team,” continued Wayne
Championing the importance of investing in their futures among a younger audience is important to them, too.
“It’s important to us to be modern and dynamic in our approach and we’re continually looking over the horizon in order to innovate and offer the most current and rounded financial advice,” said Wayne.
“For example, we’ve recently added Environmental, Social and Governance, or ESG, investments to our suite of options, in response to the growing trend towards people wanting to benefit the world we live in through their investment choices, as well as themselves.
“And we are exploring the potential to develop an online advice offering, reflecting the COVID-induced trend towards decreased travel and contact time, and virtual alternatives. We believe this could also, potentially, enable us to help more people – over a wider geographical area – in the future, as well as encouraging people to start investing in their futures much earlier.
“We passionately believe it’s never too early to start saving for your future and we hope that, by offering a virtual advice solution, we can encourage more younger people – who are used to operating online but might not have the means to invest in full face-to-face advice yet – to get a foot on the ladder and improve their long-term financial prospects in today’s world where the pension freedoms are providing the opportunity to look at things like retirement very differently. It really is a case of watch this space.
“We’ll continue to watch, listen and learn, to ensure we remain one of the best and most relevant choices when it comes to helping people to achieve their financial goals.”