We recently spoke to John Clifford, Founder and Managing Director of Conrad Family Office.
John and his Team provide bespoke services to meet the diverse financial and lifestyle requirements of their rapidly growing client base. They have a particular focus on providing unique investment opportunities.
How did you first get into the world of finance?
In 1980 I qualified to attend Imperial College in London, where I read mathematics. Consequently, at the age of eighteen in 1982, I packed my bags, left home in the Midlands and headed off to enjoy what I thought were the bright lights of London. Thankfully I managed to achieve the right balance between study, work (by my final year I was doing the weekly books for a small chain of petrol stations) and having fun at what was a vibrant period in the capital’s history and achieved a First-Class Honours degree at the age of twenty.
I think I have always had a fine eye for detail and my degree clearly demonstrated a head for figures. Whilst I had a graduate role lined up at British Aerospace, the summer months after leaving university saw me securing some temporary work in the financial sales arena. By the autumn this work was going so well I took a decision to decline BA and stay in the sector, much to my parent’s annoyance. The following year, having gained experience working in self-employed financial sales roles at which I excelled, the confidence of youth kicked in and I decided it was time to strike out on my own.
Since setting up my original brokerage company I have run many successful finance companies across a wide range of regulatory environments in the intervening thirty plus years.
Can you tell us a little more about your career to date?
For nearly twenty years I ran a very successful secured loan brokerage and packaging company that was at the core of my business group. Whilst at its peak it employed over fifty people. I never had aspirations to be the biggest, instead always striving to ensure we were simply the best in terms of our commitment to service standards, efficiency and speed of turnaround. To use an old analogy, I always preferred to be the ‘speedboat’ rather than the ‘ocean liner’ with a wide turning circle.
Unfortunately, we operated in a sector that was dominated by funding from securitising American banks and UK High Street Lenders and when the Credit Crunch hit in 2007/2008 liquidity pretty much disappeared overnight. As a broker with nothing to broker it was time for a pretty radical re-think. Fortunately, our offices were by then unencumbered and funds from the sale of these premises together with backing secured from three old business contacts saw me launch my first lending platform focussing on the short-term bridging sector.
Roughly ten years and 1,500 loans later our average loan size has grown from less that £50K to over £1M and specialist lending and investment opportunities are at the core of what we do. Our market leading lending platform Conrad Capital sits behind and supports our newly launched Conrad Family Office venture.
What are you looking to achieve with the launch of Conrad Family Office?
Together with a close core Team, all of whom have worked with me for over twenty years, we have set up an independent, multi-family office based in the West End offering personal and confidential services to High and Ultra High Net Worth national and international clients, some of whom we have represented continuously for the last nine years.
Our clients are busy people whose personal assets and family affairs are often complex and time-consuming. By providing them with expert advice and pro-active solutions we are able to help with the multiple issues that confront them every day, whilst keeping a longer-term focus on preserving and growing their wealth. The challenge is to balance the demands of now with the ambitions of the future.
Known for our integrity, as well as our professionalism, we work with professionals and trusted partners from across the globe to ensure that we fully understand our families and their overall objectives. We have a deep understanding of our markets, a long term and sustainable approach to investment and pride ourselves on knowing the precise dynamics that drive each of our clients.
Are there any specific challenges that face those working in the Family Office sector?
There is certainly much more to a Family Office strategy than simply managing financial risk. It is also about preserving each family’s reputation and protecting confidentiality and privacy.
The Conrad Family Office Team has over thirty years of experience working under a wide range of regulatory bodies. We remain permanently on top of all compliance, taxation and anti-money laundering regulation. Furthermore, we continually monitor all developments in the increasingly sophisticated world of cyber-crime and last, but by no means least, we keep a close watching brief on the pervasive and irresistible power of social media to safeguard against issues this can cause.
What exactly can Conrad Family Office offer HNW and UHNW clients?
Investments are at the core of our proposition. Our Team has more than fifty years of combined investment experience, an extensive network of contacts and an in-depth knowledge of global-financial markets. With a keen eye for detail and a refined process that has been honed and continuously improved for over twenty years we are able to access profitable opportunities across a diverse range of sectors, often with underlying security attached.
Property acquisition is an area we know intimately. The London Property market continues to offer great investment opportunities, arguably more so now than it has for several years. This is particularly the case for overseas investors. Over many years we have forged close relationships with a diverse group of leading developers, brokers and marketing agents ensuring that we can offer the widest variety of purchase and development opportunities. Furthermore, we work with some of London’s leading law firms to ensure every transaction has high level legal support.
In tandem with investments we also offer a comprehensive first-class property management service that is individually tailored to each client’s needs.
Luxury Vehicles is another area where we have unparalleled contacts. Consequently, we have access to some of the finest and most exclusive luxury cars on the market, either for self-drive or chauffeur hire. Our stable includes one-of-a-kind vehicles such as the McLaren P1 and the Ferrari LaFerrari which are extremely difficult to access in the UK.
Hotels are another strongpoint. With executive level contacts at all of the best London hotels, along with a strong network in key destinations around the globe we can make reservations and tailor the ideal package to meet the most exacting requirements, right up to presidential suite status. We will ensure all aspects of a stay will be perfectly catered for.
Private Jet Hire is an area well known to our Team. Whether it is charter or sales, business or pleasure, we are passionate about delivering the ultimate private aviation experience. With access to the finest and most exclusive private jets we are uniquely placed to bring our clients and their contacts together right around the world.
Legal Representation is another area where we have a particular forte. With a detailed working knowledge of the UK legal marketplace, we can make introductions to the prestigious “Magic Circle” law firms and barrister’s chambers, as well as a wide range of other leading legal firms across London. We have close working relationships, at senior partner level, with both corporate and commercial firms, enabling our clients to access the best advice and most confidential service levels across a wide range of areas.
These six areas represent the core elements of the Conrad Family Office proposition but we will of course be expanding upon these in the weeks and months ahead.
What differentiates Conrad Family Office from others in an already crowded marketplace?
We believe the fact that Conrad Family Office has grown organically out of our investment and lending model at Conrad Capital truly sets it apart from others in the sector. We have been providing lucrative investment opportunities for many of our clients for nearly ten years and crucially, in all that time and across nearly 1,500 loans, we have never lost a penny for any of our backers. Our funders are regarded as ‘family’ and it would be fair to say that we work every day to maintain our record.
We are thankful that the success of Conrad Capital’s lending has allowed us to develop privileged relationships with HNW and UHNW individuals who not only utilise our Family Office proposition but, in some instances, actually provide the resources, by way of super cars and planes that underpin it.
These are uncertain times to have launched a new venture. Are you concerned by the domestic and global uncertainty, both political and economic?
Not unduly. Our original lending platform was born out of the worst recession in living memory so the current storms don’t worry us. Our lending arm is well capitalised and from the perspective of Conrad Family Office many of our clients see great opportunity in the current economic environment. We are seeing strong levels of activity in the high-end London property market and for every purchaser that is put off by the current Brexit chaos there seems to be at least another who is being encouraged to look for a “steal.” Bargain Hunters are most definitely out and about!
Against this backdrop we are delighted that Conrad Family Office services in the areas of investment, property acquisition and legal advice are performing above expectation whilst the other key areas such as jet and luxury vehicle hire are, in truth, fairly immune to any prevailing economic conditions.
Perhaps we should be grateful that our self-serving politicians have spent the last two years obsessing about Brexit? A near paralysis in the everyday business of government doesn’t seem to be impacting too badly on the economy where the marvellously diverse, diligent and resourceful Brits just shrug their shoulders and crack on with things!
John Clifford is the Founder of the Conrad Family Office proposition. He is also the Founder and Managing Director of sister company and principle lender, Conrad Capital. He is passionate about customer service believing that only by fully understanding each client’s circumstances can you tailor a successful solution that meets their needs. John and his Team offer a “direct client liaison service” where a client’s needs are addressed expeditiously and directly on a one to one basis by a company director.