Neil Martin talks to Colin Lambert, of CTL Wealth Management, about the joys of focusing on your home turf
It took Colin Lambert a fair few seconds to think of a good answer to my first question of the interview. As an IFA, what was his main resolution for the new year? His answer, which I’ll reveal at the end of this piece, said much about the fundamentally down-to-earth approach that Mr Lambert brings to so much of his business. No matter what you’re doing, it’s essential to be enjoying it.
CTL Wealth Management, which launched in late 2005, has spent the last ten years developing a practice which includes the Greater Manchester areas of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham. And that’s the way Mr Lambert likes it. Rather than pitching aggressively for high-fliers in the big city, his firm sees itself as a local business which has grown mainly through word-of-mouth-recommendation, and through a network of accountants and solicitors who recommend his services.
That’s not to say that Lambert’s ambitions aren’t high, of course – but he’s clear that he has no problem with the local tag, and that his client list has grown to include a select number of business owners and professionals who are keeping him more than busy.
“In fact,” he told us, “I’m one of the few who seem recently to have gone from the office in my house to a separate office. Many IFAs of my size have been going the other way, from the office back to home.”
For some indefinable reason or other, CTL’s ‘office’ does have a certain welcoming air. A former pub in the pleasant Manchester suburb of Heywood, Lambert says it became available at just the right moment for the firm – and now, renamed as Heritage House, it dispenses sound advice about money instead of merely accounting for its inevitable destination on a Saturday night.
As we’ve said, Lambert stresses that his growth model is not to aggressively seek new clients, but to make sure that the expansion of his client list keeps pace with his ability to provide that all-important personal service. Right now, he says, his primary objective is to achieve a good return for his small team, and for the network of advisers who between them can offer all the skill sets required for advising clients.
Asked how his ‘territory’ has fared during the economic crisis, and how it’s doing now, Lambert is upbeat. “For anyone who has had a regular job, or a mortgage, the past few years haven’t been exactly bad,” he says. “Money has been very cheap – in fact, it’s been a good time for many out there.”
Being local means that networking is crucial for Lambert. That means, among other things, chatting with business owners and other potential clients every second Wednesday of the month at a local curry restaurant. (Hmmm, we’re beginning to really take to this chap – Ed.) It’s this level of involvement in the local business community, Lambert says, that allows him to keep in touch with what’s going on around him.
It also gives him a head start when clients ask for the lifestyle planning that is the focus for most of his clients. He helps his clients recognise the value in their businesses and how they can plan for the future. That’s a holistic matter that takes in all aspects of family life as well as business activity. “It’s no point working those extra years just to qualify for the heart attack, you know.”
But in case you think CTL’s priorities are all about the local networking scene, the firm can show some of its contemporaries a thing or two about using the web. Lambert is currently working hard to develop a new side of the business that focuses on the growing potential within the auto-enrolment sector: its dedicated auto-enrolment site at http://www.auto-enrolment-rochdale.co.uk is a natural extension of the firm’s close links with local communities, but it just might bring in business from further afield.
The idea, Lambert says, is to provide a sound interpretation of the auto-enrolment legislation for companies, including consultancy and advice; existing pensions review; pensions design; initial data analysis and cost modelling; and, member communications and advice.
Regulation and the FCA
And so to the familiar territory of regulation and the emerging environment post-RDR. Lambert isn’t the only UK adviser who feels that IFAs are over-regulated, and that the box-ticking exercises which currently take up so much time work neither for the adviser nor for the client. But on the whole, he says, things are looking good.
Indeed, Lambert says he always saw RDR as a kind of vindication of the principles he’d been sticking to through most of his professional career. For him, he says, it’s always been about building long term relationships with clients and advising them with considered solutions. This model, he says, has always been supported by fees and retainers, so the banning of commissions hasn’t changed anything.
Forward Into 2015
What’s going to be the big issue for 2015? Pensions, of course, he says. How could it be anything different? The April rule changes will radically change the way people plan their retirement. But the Government’s latest pronouncements about allowing people to sell their annuities has all the hallmarks of election policy-making on the hoof, he says. “I’m still not sure what they are trying to achieve with it. I reckon politicians feel they have to say something over Christmas, without thinking through all the implications.”
On a personal level, Lambert is working hard towards Chartered Status and has taken part in a mentoring programme to enhance his business skills. But oh yes, we were going to give you his answer as to his new year’s resolution?
Golf, he says. Well, maybe not exactly. “Keeping my finances sufficiently in the black to spend more time on the green!” He sponsors the occasional match and has found that being on the fairway is still “one the best ways to meet new contacts and chat with existing clients.”
It was a good answer. Get the balance between business and personal life to the right point, and you’ve cracked the secret of satisfaction. Not a bad resolution for all of us to adopt for 2015.