The value of experience: A Q&A with Wealth Holdings’ Debbie Dry

by | Nov 12, 2021

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In this Q&A, Debbie Dry, Head of Integration at Wealth Holdings talks to Sue Whitbread. They discuss how Dry and the Wealth Holdings team support adviser businesses as they progress to the next stage of their development through an exit plan, acquisition or succession planning.

IFA Magazine: could you tell us about yourself and your background?

DD: I’m Head of Integration at Wealth Holdings although this is actually my twenty sixth year of working in financial services. I’ve done a bit of everything in that time but the majority of my career has been spent working within the mergers and acquisitions space. I spent 20 years working for two national consolidators, an experience which has helped me to really understand the market and the types of deals that are out there. Following that, when the opportunity to work with such great people at Wealth Holdings came along it was the perfect next step for me. As part of our team here, I can use all my experience in order to support our clients as they go through periods of fundamental change.

IFA Magazine: what it is that you do to help IFA businesses with their development plans?

DD: We work with both buyers and sellers and with all sorts of people within the financial advice marketplace. On the buyer side, sometimes we work with the larger, more ‘seasoned’ consolidators whose activities and goals readers may or may not be familiar with. However, we might also be working with smaller firms which are looking to make acquisitions to boost their numbers of clients and maximise the capacity within their own firm.

When it comes to sellers, again, we work with all sorts of businesses and business owners. Sometimes they will be smaller businesses where the principals are looking for an exit, maybe to retire as maybe they’ve been run as lifestyle businesses. We take everything into account. We go right the way through the spectrum however, and also work with some larger businesses that have regional or national presence and are looking to capitalise on their growth to date.

IFA Magazine: how exactly do you go about the process of engagement?

DD: I think the biggest thing here is about education and knowledge of how things work in practice. There’s a natural assumption within the market we work in that because the people we deal with are IFAs and they deal with the financial plans and affairs of their clients, that they are necessarily experts when it comes to buying and selling businesses. In reality, that’s not the case. They need professional help and can really benefit from the greater knowledge that we can provide in supporting them through the process.

For both buyers and sellers who come to us, the first thing we do is challenge some of their own expectations of what they think they might be able to achieve. We spend a lot of time exploring all the detail in the early stages. This involves going through a detailed fact-finding process, if we use the IFA terminology, so that we can really get to know both the buyers and sellers to understand what they’re trying to achieve. It’s important for us to challenge their expectations all along the way, to challenge how they might think that these deals might be structured. There are numerous ways to structure deals and our specialist experience can really pay dividends here.

There are many ways to structure payment mechanisms in order to pay for these deals. And numerous ways to construct client transition plans to make sure that the clients become fully embedded within the acquiring firm. Because we’ve invested the time in gathering the details, this then allows us to do what we call our ‘matchmaking’ work. This is where we bring together a buyer and a seller who have similar goals and expectations. This background work is crucial in order to make sure that the deals can actually work for all parties and we aren’t wasting people’s valuable time.

IFA Magazine: how does what you do differ from other similar firms operating in this area of the market? what’s wealth holdings USP in other words?

DD: I’d say it’s about relationship building and thinking about the end result – which is about what happens to the firm’s clients. Through our process, we spend a lot of time focusing on securing the right outcomes for these underlying clients of the advisers involved. That may sound twee, but actually, if we do that and get it right, everybody’s going to win. The financial objectives of both the buyer and seller are of course, important. But if we follow that through and make sure that the underlying clients’ needs are supported in this journey the entire way through, then everybody is going to win in this process.

It means that we can have confidence that the clients are going to remain with the acquiring firm. We always make sure that we do a full transition plan. The seller is going to be happy because they get what they were expecting in terms of the commercial side of things and in the financial payments they receive for their business. And also the buyer is going to be happy because they’ve actually taken on the clients which they’ve expected to buy as part of the process.

IFA Magazine: is there much ‘handholding’ that you need to provide as the firms go through that process?

DD: Yes, there is – a lot of it. Wealth Holdings get involved in all aspects of this process right from the very beginning when we’re talking about structuring the deal. We discuss with our clients what might impact on the valuations as what’s good for one buyer might be less valuable to another. We support that process all the way through, from heads of terms, full due diligence, the client integration plan and operational integration plan and beyond. Typically, we will be supporting a transaction, anything up to 18 months post acquisition. It really is a long haul and certainly not a short term transaction. I think that’s where we differ from other businesses. It’s the detail which we go to so as to ensure a successful outcome for all parties involved.

IFA Magazine: could you summarise the value-add for those businesses that you do work with, and that you have worked with. what is it that makes a difference to them?

DD: I think it’s the quality of the introductions we facilitate. We’re not just doing a simple targeted approach necessarily based on geography. It’s based on a really in-depth understanding of the business and its’ needs which we have established through having carried out our thorough investigations. By the time we come to introduce a business we will understand that it is likely to be a very good fit with lots of common ground. There’s so much fact-finding and due diligence done up front that that’s really where we add the most value. We’re doing our best to make great use of everybody’s time by putting in the hard work up front and using our knowledge and experience to secure the best outcomes for all involved.

Click here for information about Wealth Holdings

About Debbie Dry

Debbie has spent her entire career in retail financial services with the last 10 years at senior management and board level.

Her experiences from running large operational teams over multiple locations have made her passionate about delivering excellent customer service, whilst focusing on delivering efficiencies to the business and added shareholder value.

As Group Integration Director at a national IFA, Debbie was responsible for overseeing the successful integration of over 50 firms, maintaining attention to detail and enthusiasm for bringing all parties on the journey.

She has been responsible for leading organisation-wide change programmes to deliver financial benefit through IT development and method improvement. Having spent the last 20 years working with consolidators in financial services, Debbie is well placed to support IFAs through this process whilst maintaining client focus and business continuity throughout.


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