James Roberts, Founder of Partners Wealth Management on financial relationships being empowered by technology

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In this episode of Good Money Guide TV we talk to James Roberts, founder and managing partner of Partners Wealth Management about when people should start looking for a wealth manager, the services they offer and how people can improve managing their wealth.

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Interview transcript:

Good morning. Welcome to Good Money Guide TV. We’re here with James Roberts from Partners Wealth Management. We’re going to have a quick chat about what Partners Wealth Management do, who they do it for, the services they offer, and find out a bit more about James, the founder and managing partner. So James, thank you for joining us, and I should say hosting us in your offices.

A pleasure, good morning.

So we’re just going to quickly run through Partners Wealth Management, what you do and who you do it for. So shall we just kick off with you telling us a little bit about PWM and what sort of clients you look after here?

Yeah, that’s been quite a journey for us actually, because we started out, our DNA was very much city professionals and partners of the major law firms. And as we’ve grown over the last 15 years, that’s widened very much to individuals across the south east who are either professionals or entrepreneurs or are now getting to retirement. So as we’ve built to being 35 different wealth managers and individuals, we now work with anyone who’s thinking in terms of the mindset that when they retire, they’re going to have a pot of money between half a million and £5 million in general that they’re going to then take their retirement income from. So it’s anyone with that mindset that we’re looking to work with.

And anybody approaching those sort of levels, do you think they should wait until they get to that level or do you think people should approach a wealth manager well before?

I think the important thing is that you approach a wealth manager when you have a discontinuity. That could be just you’re moving house. There is no wealth yet to manage but there’s going to be a significant increase in your debt. Get a mortgage advisor, get a wealth manager at the same time; have those conversations. So it could be that you’re classically changing career. So we have a suite of different advisors who specialise in taking on clients anywhere from sort of 200,000 onwards, and then we’ll have more senior advisors and partners of the firm who will look to work with people with one million to ten million. So that’s the typical range; different people suiting different needs.

And the most interesting thing is we’ve got a couple of advisors now who really specialise in at retirement. Individuals who want to plot out their retirement journey or actually are already in retirement. So key different niches.

And what do you think attracts your customers to Partners Wealth Management?

I think key concept is that we see the world of wealth management very differently. None of our clients are accumulating wealth for retirement in the old-fashioned way. To retire something means to take it out of use. No one we work with wants to be taken out of use. We have this concept that they’re accumulating wealth to achieve their own financial freedom. So people who want to work with us are people who have a consciousness that they want to accumulate wealth and then live their life in different ways. That can be retirement, it can be pursuing a career more aggressively, but free of the need to earn a living. It can mean more an intellectual pursuit. So they’re getting freedom of money to achieve freedom of purpose. And it’s a very different starting point to other people who start talking about pensions.

And what sort of services do you offer these clients?

So we try to reverse engineer the services that are usually used, where people are trying to sell a pension or sell investment. Actually, what we want to do is have an entire client-centric package of services. So we start with building a strategic plan, much like a consultant would; they’re working with a business for that individual. And that then brings in the tax, the investment side, the complete planning side from people’s deposits, their wills to their mortgages, to the powers of appointment. And then finally, a technology piece wrapped all around it so people have got complete control and oversight of all their assets in one place.

So the main service to all that is of course the investment underpin, but it has to come together as a package, otherwise the investment’s just a commodity, not doing what people need for in their lives.

And do you find many people who use your services use the technology platform, or is it still very much a relationship business with the individual wealth managers or with the firm as a whole?

So what we believe and that we’re seeing time and again is that human beings don’t want to interact purely with technology. So the businesses that are coming in like Nutmeg, like these so-called robo advisors are really struggling to gain traction within the industry. So the idea behind the technology, it is there to empower the client and the advisor jointly together on the journey. But the bottom line is, yes, clients are engaging with technology because it’s 2020, and the idea that you can’t see at the touch of a button the totality of your assets and the totality of your net worth is just absurd. The technology exists, and I think a lot of old school advisors are just not empowering their clients with access to this technology. So we’re trying to bring the two together.

It’s good to have visibility and transparency but it’s one of those things. Wealth management, it’s a relationship business more than a technology business, would you say?

It is absolutely first and foremost a relationship business, which must be empowered by technology to get the most out of that relationship.

And to those who are just stepping into the wealth management world, say somebody in their mid-20s who’s starting to earn money, who’s potentially looking at some of these digital wealth management platforms, what would you say to them? You know, what should they be mindful of if they’re starting out with a new provider, because essentially, you’re entering into a 20, 30, 40, 50-year relationship with someone if they’re going to be managing your money from your 20s. 

You have to know yourself. If you are financially aware and engaged in enjoying investment and finance, then by all means, look to a technology platform and go and self-diagnose. If you’re not, if you’re someone and you know in yourself that these things don’t excite you, get a relationship. Shop around for that relationship. Base it on someone who you form trust with.

And the second thing is, ask yourself the question, is this person employed to sell me the product of an organisation, or are they my advisor, representing my interests independently to get me the best of whatever is on the market. There’s a huge distinction in the wealth management industry between people who are the agent of the client and people who are an agent of the organisation they work for. Independence is just crucial because one is a salesman, the other is your advisor.

And what do you think makes Partners Wealth stand out within the wealth management landscape?

The key is the freedom that the advisor still has to represent the best interests of the client. We don’t manufacture our own product. Therefore, what we’re interested in is meeting that individual, understanding their needs, and bringing all the things that they need for themselves to the table, rather than starting with a pre-defined product that we have to sell to them. And that freedom of the advisor to represent the client manifests itself in leading technology solutions, manifests itself in the trust that the clients then have in the advisor, and we can see the evidence for that in the way that we retail clients over year after year after year. That’s the key.

So you founded the business in 2004. Let’s just talk about you and the business for a moment. Since 2004, what’s been the best part of running the business?

That’s easy. Just working with advisors and clients who we’re liberating from very narrow-minded, increasingly commoditised institutions, and the sense of joy they get when they’re liberated to do the job properly. Particularly advisors coming out of some of the retail banks, who then become free to act in the interests in their client again, having acted in the interest of the bank. And clients who perhaps understand that they’re not getting a service; they’re being treated by a number, and then that idea of just looking after them and seeing their growth and their gratitude for that. Those are the two things that bring us the most joy.

I think I’ve got to add a third caveat to that though, a third point, which is it’s phenomenal to see what technology is empowering in this industry, and we’re just really, really enjoying what technology has enabled us to bring, because now, we’re not a small organisation anymore – we’re two billion of assets under management – but we’re relatively small, but through technology, we can deliver the service that a £50 million asset under management group can do, because technology is a great equaliser. So we’re enjoying that.

And of course, we must balance; what’s been the worst part of most challenging aspect of running a wealth management business these days?

The challenges out there are just hurdles to get through to do things better. The biggest challenges have been those discontinuities and events that cause fear for clients. So whether it was 2008 or latterly, the huge challenge of the last three years has been Brexit. Not the decision or the non-decision or anything else. Just the divisiveness and the fear and the uncertainty it’s caused in clients’ minds, in businesses’ minds. It’s been a very negative environment to help people positively and proactively planning. And we’re delighted that environment is now being put behind us hopefully.

And one final question, we ask this of everybody who have been in various industries for a long time; are there any three resources that you can recommend to either potential clients of yours or anybody who’s out there looking for a wealth manager, where they can learn a bit more about the wealth management industry? Perhaps a service or a book or a website that can help them manage their money better. Or just anything you can recommend from your personal experience that you think can help people manage their finances better.

Yeah. That’s a great question. I do an awful lot of thinking and reading. It’s not necessarily about so much the money side but on the personal side. The first book I would recommend to anyone on finance is called Happy Money. It’s got nothing to do with financial services. It’s how to get the maximum return in terms of happiness from every pound you have to deploy. It’s a scientific book but written with a lot of humour. But it’s little bits of wisdom. Make everything a treat, rather than having treats the entire time, [by] experiences, not money.

So enjoy money.

But how to enjoy money. It’s a brilliantly clever book and it’s the first place to start with.

The second one, and you’ve probably heard this answer a number of times, but actually, the bible for any career ought to be Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We actually have posters in the back up here because these are the principles we want to live to as a business, and I just think that’s a fantastic place for anyone.

In terms of money, I often find there’s no one book that really does it because books go out of date, and it’s almost something you can’t teach yourself from a book. So I’m afraid I haven’t got a book or a website to go to.

That’s a fairly recurring answer actually. People tend to say the best thing to do is just actually be informed. Just keep on top of what’s going on in the world.

Well James, thank you very much for your time and thank you very much for watching this episode of Good Money Guide TV.

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