One of the most well-known and respected figures in the D2C investing market is stepping down from the firm that bears his name.

Andy Bell has somewhat unexpectedly decided to step down as CEO of AJ Bell, the business he co-founded in 1995, and which grew into one of the largest retail investment platforms in the UK.

Andy Bell will be replaced as CEO by Michael Summersgill, the firm’s current CFO and deputy CEO, with Peter Birch stepping up to take over Mr Summersgill’s former duties.

Though the timing of the announcement came as a surprise, and seemingly without warning, the market seems to have been anticipating that Mr Bell would step down at some point, following the promotion of Michael Summersgill to deputy CFO last year.

Analysts at Brokers Investec called the transition a sensible move and pointed to the fact that Mr Summersgill had been with the firm since 2007, and has been CFO since 2011.

Andy Bell is not disappearing entirely, however, and he will retain a seat on the board and will become the non-executive deputy chair, ensuring that the business continues to benefit from his long years of experience and contacts within financial services.

Twenty-seven years is a long time to lead a business and no one will begrudge Andy Bell the chance to take things a little easier.

AJ Bell grew rapidly under Andy Bell’s stewardship and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2018, with a market cap of around £675 million, That has now grown to stand at more than £1.10 billion.

Rates of growth at the firm have slowed, however, in the wake of the pandemic and the business has launched new initiatives, including the Dodl app, to attract and retain younger, tech-savvy clients.

The investment in new technology has hit margins at the firm and the stock has traded down by -27.73% year to date and by -36.23% over the last 52 weeks.

However, the market has reacted positively to the news of Mr Summersgill’s appointment as CEO, and AJ Bell’s stock traded up by +4.34% last week as a result. A move that compared very favourably to the -3.80% decline seen in the wider FTSE 250 index.

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