Is there a magic formula when selling an advice business?

Is there a magic formula when selling an advice business?

In terms of major life events, besides having a child, moving house or arranging a wedding, the process of selling your business may be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life.

Ensuring that you get the right buyer for your business, one which can offer the correct value, ethos and plan for the future is difficult enough. To do so whilst keeping the business running on a day-to-day basis is nearly impossible.

That’s where an M&A specialist like Wealth Holdings can provide such value for those advisers who are either looking to sell their business or expand through making suitable acquisitions or mergers. Brokers will offer the ability to do the leg work for sellers and buyers by working hard to identify their individual needs and then obtain the most suitable solutions for them that are available on the market.

Wealth Holdings is a specialist M&A business that has built its expertise through years of experience both within and outside Financial Services. Their latest appointment, Acquisition Manager, Kayleigh Fox, has already made an impression on the sector despite only being with the company for a few months. In that time, she has contributed to numerous deals. She has delivered her expert analysis on the market as whole during IFA Magazine’s Merger and Acquisitions webinar which took place recently.

Kayleigh’s career is an interesting one. It has seen her begin as an apprentice, become a licenced mortgage broker, take a detour to the Middle East and finally find herself working with Wealth Holdings.

As Kayleigh explains: “I have been working in financial services for around 10 years in a variety of roles. I first came into the industry as an apprentice in business and admin. Following the end of my apprenticeship, I stayed on with the company and moved to their compliance department. It was there that I did a lot of work with the advisers on their training and competence.

“At the time, I had thought of becoming an IFA myself, but soon realised that, at the age of 18, I didn’t feel qualified enough to advise. Instead, I went and got my mortgage broking license and was a mortgage & protection advisor in the UK for about three years.

“Then, I was lucky enough that the opportunity presented itself for me to move to Dubai and for me to work as a mortgage broker over in the UAE. That was brilliant because it’s a completely different place to work. It’s such a different market. The whole process is different and it’s a lot more manual. It really helped me understand how to do the job without relying on all the technology. Whilst I loved it over there, I soon realised I missed the home comforts and the normality that the UK has to offer.

“At the end of 2022, I moved back to the UK and took a year out from working in finance. Despite having worked in the mortgage market for a while, I knew that it wasn’t really where my passion lay. That is when I got back in touch with Keith Brown, Wealth Holdings’ CEO, in September last year. I asked him if he knew anyone that could help me get back into working within the finance industry. Fortunately for both of us, he was about to open a new position and it was one that I was very interested in taking.”

Making the right connections

The role of a broker seems a simple one at face value. It’s about finding a suitable buyer for a particular seller of a business. However, Wealth Holdings refuse to force square pegs into round holes. They realise that transactions such as this are emotional as well as financial. This means they will attempt to appease a whole range of criteria during the matchmaking process between buyers and sellers to ensure that the resulting connections really do work for both parties.

Kayleigh’s role is key to the success of this. She prides herself on building a solid relationship with each seller of a business who she works with and thus understands exactly what they would like to achieve from the sale.

Kayleigh said: “In my role as a broker with Wealth Holdings, I believe that I have a similar role to that which IFAs carry out with their clients. IFAs will work closely with their clients, identify their objectives, understand their needs, and suggest appropriate solutions to satisfy those objectives and needs.

“At Wealth Holdings, we work with buyers, and we also work with sellers. Either can approach us and typically they will say, ‘I’ve been running my business for 20 years, this is where I’m at. This is what I want to do. Can you help?’ What we do then is utilise our very established network of acquirers, that we have access to, through many years of experience and of working in this industry. We will have meetings with them and develop a checklist that will specify the type of firms that they are interested in.

“We will then go through a matchmaking process that will consider a whole host of factors and variables. We don’t force any deals. It’s very much not fitting a square peg into a round hole. We don’t try and make it work just to get the deal done. We understand that this is an important financial transaction for people but also that it is very emotional. A lot of these people have spent their careers building up this business and feel personally responsible for clients and staff alike. Ultimately it isn’t just them in the business, it’s the people that work for them and it’s their clients. As a broker, it’s my job to make sure that the buyer’s ethos matches the seller’s ethos and that everything’s symbiotic.”

Finding a happy medium

Kayleigh attempts to merge a formulaic approach with a personal touch to help achieve the greatest satisfaction for all those involved in each and every deal she works on.

This ethos has already led Wealth Holdings to be party to countless successful deals and it is a method that Kayleigh has taken with her from her mortgage broking into her new role.

However, despite the successes of Kayleigh’s opening months, the role of the brokers does not come without its challenges.

Kayleigh said: “The biggest challenge that I come across is the current outliers in the market who are offering particularly high multiples in terms of valuation. A lot of people get drawn in by the massive number this typically means. However, after a few conversations with the acquirers it sometimes comes to a point where the proposition isn’t what is best for them, their company and their clients.

“The money looks fantastic, but on a personal level, it’s not matching what they want. The issue then is when they come back to us, they’ve got this figure in their head that may not be matched by other acquirers in the market. Trying to control such expectations and find a happy medium can often be tricky but it is ultimately our job to do so and ensure we reach a good outcome for everyone involved.”

Despite the challenges that Kayleigh’s new role presents, Wealth Holdings’ newest appointment has been allowed to thrive, thanks to her own ability to build relationships and broker deals as well as the structure built around her in the specialist financial advice sector.

Kayleigh understands that being a broker is more than just being a salesperson. It’s a multi-faceted role that will involve the bringing together of knowledge, skills and experience.

However, this must all be done whilst maintain a client-centric approach in order to provide an outcome that satisfies the demanding criteria for both the buyer and the seller.

Sharing her perspective about the role of a broker and what really works in practice, Kayleigh said: “The role of the broker is to be that middle person. It’s to provide the support and maintain that open communication so that the process moves as smoothly as possible for both parties. Sometimes, our most important role is to just be consistent and be the person that can be relied upon when the stressful parts of the process are in motion.

“In the same way that an individual looking for financial advice or mortgage advice does so to minimise time and effort trying to do the research by themselves, IFAs who work with us have the running around done for them and are presented with appropriate solutions that are closely matched to their needs. We’ve worked with firms of all different sizes, whether they be national companies or one-man bands. One thing that always stays the same is that we tailor our approach to match what they want. It’s our recipe for success and one we’re determined to maintain for the future.”

About Kayleigh Fox

Kayleigh is Acquisition Manager at Wealth Holdings. She has over 10 years’ experience in financial services having worked in the UK and abroad. With a combination of excellent communication skills, organisation and a background that covers administration, compliance and as a mortgage broker she is well placed to support firms through the sale of their business.

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