I launched West Riding in 2004 with my wife, Linda, as my PA / Company Secretary and fellow Director. I’d started in financial services in 1980 after dropping out of a sixth form college in December 1979. I decided to get a job while there were still some to be had. My first job was at Hill Samuel Life Assurance where I started at the bottom as a quotations clerk on £2300pa. In July 1985 I moved to Northern Investments in Harrogate as Assistant MD, saw the crash through in 1987 and stayed until December 1988. I then had a break from financial services, during which time I variously worked as a motorcycle despatch rider, an industrial insulation sales rep, head of installations for a fitted furniture maker and finally as a private detective working criminal and commercial cases, skip-tracing and process serving. In May 1991 I resumed my financial services career with Knight Williams, staying until the firm’s closure and moving to the DBS network in 1995. Made redundant from DBS in 2002 I went to a small firm near Leeds for just short of two years. Made redundant again I decided to go it alone and incorporated West Riding, starting trading on 4th July 2004 – our Independence Day.
For 24 years I had worked almost exclusively in non-customer-facing roles and so had absolutely no clients of my own. West Riding literally started with nothing except for a £10,000 family loan to cover the regulator’s capital adequacy requirements and £7,000 in usable capital. Our first office was the attic of our then home in the village of Allerton Bywater near Castleford. There I worked surrounded by a printer and four filing cabinets while my wife Linda typed reports for me from our front room downstairs. The rush to get up and running hadn’t left much time for niceties. Our computers were networked by throwing an Ethernet cable out of the attic window, taking it into the front room via an airbrick and then up through the floor under Linda’s desk. We were fully authorised by the Financial Services Authority to transact investment business from 6th September 2004.
Having no clients to start with, we had to get some fast. We bought in 20 term assurance leads every month from moneysupermarket.com at a cost of £35 per lead, typically turning a monthly investment of £700pm into £5000pm of income. Six months in we moved our commissions onto a full non-indemnity basis with effect from 1 January 2005 to minimise clawback liabilities and to start building up a recurring income. Investment business was transacted on a similar basis, taking a small up-front fee with ongoing annual fees to fund regular ongoing client servicing. I was determined from the start that we would not be the “sell-it-and-forget-it” variety of firm, that we’d look after clients properly and grow the business by keeping our clients so happy as they’d recommend their friends to us. It seems to have worked because we’ve been busy from day one and the pace has never slackened.
Having outgrown out home office, we moved into proper offices at 17a Sagar Street in Castleford town centre in January 2006. Our first non-family employees joined us that year, a self-employed mortgage consultant and my first PA, Rachel, who joined us straight from my old school, Brigshaw Comprehensive in July 2006 aged 16. We now only have employed advisers and don’t see ourselves taking on self-employed consultants again. We currently have four full-time staff including me and two part-time and in 2017 we bought our new office, West Riding House, using our pension fund, moving into it on 1 August 2018. We now manage some £80m for 250 clients and even if we say so ourselves, have grown into a nationally well-respected firm despite our relatively small size.