Standard Life slows acquisition growth to focus on existing firms

1825 Financial Planners were reported by Money Marketing to have announced a move away from acquisition based growth and is instead focusing themselves on growing the number of advisers at existing firms.

Standard life first announced its re-enter into the financial advice market with the 1825 brand in February 2015. It acquired Leeds-based advice firm Pearson Jones, and has said they planned on expanding the business through buying out other firms which will be ‘regional hubs’.

Since its launch, 1825 has bought firms across Britain, including London, Cheshire and Scotland. They halted progress on a deal for Almaty Green, which would have established them in Norwich.

One stakeholder of the company, when speaking to Money Marketing, claimed the 1825 headcount dedicated to acquisitions had fallen from around 10 to as low as two at one stage.

The source says: “1825 have completely changed their focus and are trying to grow their business organically. They will make acquisitions, just when opportunities present that are an easy fit.

“They’re still in the market, but aren’t going to rush into anything. It’s only going to be if it’s absolutely right for them.”

Another source close to the firm says Standard Life only had a singular full-time staff member out in the market looking at the corporate finance side of 1825 acquisitions, and that 1825 were looking to reduce numbers of other staff, not just on the acquisitions side”.

They say: “Fundamentally they just struggled to get the right number of people. The strategy is still to go out and buy firms if they can find them, but frankly, they are running out of firms to go and buy.”

“They are busy trying to desperately recruit to fill the advisers [that have left]. It’s not so much a change of strategy, but a tactical thing they are having to do.”

The source added while Standard Life may be holding talks with more firms, none were currently in the due diligence stage.

An 1825 spokeswoman was reported to have said: “Our strategy has always looked at growth across a variety of areas – acquisition where we continue to see a very strong pipeline, recruitment where we have recently launched a national campaign and bringing additional talent through our academy.

“Acquisitions remain an important part of our potential growth – we continue to have a fully resourced commercial team to support this activity which we can also scale up further depending on pipeline opportunities.”

The spokeswoman says headcount had been up and down, ‘like any other company’ but was never as low as sources suggested.

She says: “When we first set up 1825, our commercial and finance team had 10 people at head office level – the headcount stands at nine people today following a recent internal promotion from the team.”