This week The Wealth Scene caught up with Colin Lawson, Founder of Cheshire based Equilibrium Asset Management. Colin shares the reasons behind setting up the company 23 years ago in his back bedroom, told us what service clients can expect and how Equilibrium help give clients future financial confidence. He also gave us a glimpse into what the future may look like for the firm.
What led you to launch Equilibrium Asset Management?
I started out as a broker consultant, working for an insurer, visiting financial advisers to promote products to them. I thought if they could do so many things badly, how hard could it be? So, I decided to take the leap and start a business in my bedroom.
I was very busy, so I decided to focus on what I actually wanted to achieve. I wanted to focus on wealthy clients, I wanted to see clients during the day, see them at a location of my choice, build a business and not be self-employed. This led me to focus on people who were retired.
To get to know these people I adopted event-based marketing and developed an investment proposition, tailor made for the needs of clientele. Over time I developed a new 10 year plan to get to £4bn in assets under management and build a business that is too established to be broken up.
What does Equilibrium Asset Management do for its clients and what are some of the most common issues they need help with?
We offer a seamless service that combines the three disciplines of financial planning, tax mitigation and access to investment management through our sister firm, Equilibrium Investment Management (EIM). We believe you cannot create an investment plan for a client until you know what their financial plan is. Many firms specialise in one of these areas, whereas we do all three.
Each client has access to the knowledge and experience of the EIM team and a dedicated financial planner creating their plan and answering their questions; in addition, clients have a dedicated team of client managers on hand to minimise admin burdens and ensure a seamless service. All clients are different, but overall we are looking to give our clients financial confidence and help them make better decisions with their money.
Describe a typical Equilibrium client – what’s their background and their main concerns?
We have a variety of different types of clients, but predominantly they’ll be nearing or at retirement age and reside in the North West area. The main concerns of these clients will predominantly be post-retirement income, inheritance mitigation and intergenerational planning – ensuring their family and loved ones are provided for.
Another main type of client we work with is the entrepreneurial client, those who own or run businesses. On the one hand they can be great clients because they’re decision makers by nature and can take on information quickly. However, many are time poor and don’t pay enough attention to their own financial future. So, the challenges with these clients can be very different.
What level of service can an Equilibrium Asset Management client expect to receive?
The first and most important step, is getting to know the client, we do this through a series of initial meetings. Our aim is to get to understand the client’s situation, their responsibilities and their hopes and fears for the future. From this we create a plan, which is complimented with the use of cashflow modelling software; we want to look at their financial health and analyse where improvements and changes can be made. No client is the same, so it is crucially important to tailor the plan to their own financial identity.
We follow this with an implementation meeting, where we present our plan and recommendations and field any questions the client may have. Once the admin is done and the papers are signed, we get to work making arrangements for our clients. Regular communication is key and at Equilibrium Asset Management we want to be fully transparent for the sake of our clients. Money is an emotional thing for many people, no matter how much of it you have, so we arrange regular meetings with clients to keep them abreast of progress, update them with any changes we may need to make and to ensure the financial plan is still relevant for their circumstances should they change.
On top of these meetings we issue regular client communications, in the form of blogs, newsletters (from both Equilibrium investment Management and the Equilibrium Asset Management team) and hold client briefings throughout the year where clients can enjoy a full update on how our portfolios have performed with the opportunity to ask the team questions.
Clients are always encouraged to get in touch if they have any questions or want to enquire about a financial matter. We also like to shake things up with events such as track days for the clients who car enthusiasts, Investment Dinners, Christmas dinner for clients and even host topical debates on issues that could impact portfolio’s, like Brexit.
What does the future hold for Equilibrium Asset Management?
We have grown significantly since we launched in 1995, we now have over 75 staff members and over £800 million of assets under management, but we want to continue to service more clients throughout the North West. We work out of Wilmslow and Chester, but as we grow and recruit more staff we may need to look elsewhere and broaden our footprint. We want to grow our assets to £4bn and that is our 10-year plan, but first and foremost we want to ensure our clients continue to receive the best service possible so that they can achieve financial confidence. It’s as simple as that.