Fairstone, one of the UK’s largest Chartered Financial Planning firms, has seen its client base rise to 51,000 – a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.
The strong growth in client numbers is bolstered by the company’s Trustpilot score, which shows an overall client satisfaction rate of 97 per cent.
New figures from Fairstone, released at its annual conference in Newcastle, also show 11 per cent outperformance across its entire portfolio of acquired businesses, with these firms delivering more revenue, profits and growth than either their own forecasts, or those upon which the buy-out agreements are based.
This means that business owners who have chosen to go through the firm’s unique Downstream Buy Out (DBO) process, which ensures companies are fully-integrated with Fairstone prior to acquisition to provide a seamless transition for clients and staff, are realising greater overall sale values than expected upon final acquisition.
Through this DBO process, a further two businesses have recently moved to full acquisition, with Darlington-based Belasis IFA, alongside Allensons in Wokingham, bringing in a combined gross fee income of GBP1.2 million, FUM of GBP50 million and a total of 20 staff. Moving forward Fairstone expect to make a number of further acquisitions within the first half of this year.
This solid performance is bolstered by a further three businesses joining Fairstone’s DBO programme in recent months, marking another significant step forward in its growth plan for 2019:
• Norfolk-based Hamlyn Financial Services Ltd, which specialises in pensions and investment advice and has GBP100m funds under management, bring total fee income of GBP800k and 1500 clients to the company as well as 12 staff. Commenting, Stephen Grass, company principal at Hamlyn Financial Services said: “This was an opportunity to join a national Chartered IFA which would support the company’s growth whilst ensuring compliance standards are maintained to the highest level.”
• Dundee-based Findlay & Company Financial Services, specialists in investment and pensions planning, bring nine staff and more than GBP120m AUM to Fairstone, with fee income of over GBP1m. Steve Race, company principal, said: “Moving to Fairstone will enable our firm to grow and improve our business proposition for our customers, advisers and administration staff.”
• Andrew Cohen Associates Ltd, based in Ashdon, Essex, bring GBP1m in fee income and GBP145m AUM to Fairstone, as well as eight staff and 750 active clients. Company principal, Frank Banks-Seeney said: “I spent a long time looking for a partner firm to grow with. Fairstone ticked a lot of boxes – independent, a good reputation, no vertical integration and well resourced. I felt that as companies, we were like-minded in our approach and priorities – clients must come first.”
Lee Hartley (pictured), CEO of Fairstone, says: ““The needs of our clients always come first and to that end we implemented an extensive feedback programme on Trustpilot, which shows an overall client satisfaction rating of 97 per cent, which is testament to our commitment that our client relationships should underpin all aspects of our business.”
“Fairstone has also seen impressive growth through all of our business streams. Revenue and EBITDA performance has been substantially ahead of the prior year in each channel and importantly this is being delivered without any cross-subsidisation between our financial planning and investment management businesses.”
“Our DBO programme is yielding exceptional results with a significant number of business being onboarded and coming through to full acquisition. These firms are showing consistent growth performance as they take advantage of the regulatory, technical and operational support that Fairstone provides.”
Meanwhile Fairstone’s Individual Buy Out programme, a unique structure in the market which enables individual advisers to build a long term, tax-efficient retirement fund and ensure continuity of service for their clients, has brought two further Chartered Financial Planners to the business. London-based Paul Miller and Surrey-based Andy Smith together bring an additional 222 clients and GBP46m AUM into the group.
Miller says: “The IBO agreement provides a meaningful opportunity as an exit strategy that de-risks my business whilst protecting the interests of my clients.”
Smith adds: “Joining Fairstone and entering into the IBO works well for me as I benefit from a high level of regulatory and operational support to enable me to grow my business in a safe environment and a structured succession plan at the point when I choose to retire.”
Supporting the firm’s impressive growth, Fairstone has recruited 45 new members of staff over the past year across the primary support functions of the business, largely in compliance, training, para-planning and IT. As a result, Fairstone now has 320 regulated advisers and 165 staff operating across 48 locations countrywide.
Fairstone has also announced that they have secured a further acquisition facility to supplement their existing capital commitment from their lead investor, Synova. This additional line of funding, which is a joint facility from HSBC and Lloyds, will support Fairstone’s ongoing DBO acquisition programme.
The banks can initially provide up to GBP30m into this structure with Fairstone deciding to take a 50 per cent hold from each institution in the first stage of the facility.
Hartley says: “Having the support of Lloyds and HSBC increases our financial flexibility going forward and as the Group continues to grow our available facilities will grow alongside. The initial commitment into the acquisition facility alone takes the total funding we have raised for business development purposes to GBP70m from inception.”