West Riding Personal Financial Solutions Ltd – A Short History

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 August 2002, I worked in a small IFA firm near Leeds before going it alone.  I incorporated West Riding on 2 June 2004, and started trading less than a month later on the fourth of July 2004, our Independence Day.

For 24 years I had worked almost exclusively in non-customer-facing roles and had no clients of my own. We literally started with nothing but 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, 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. That minimised clawback liabilities and started building up a recurring income. Investment business we 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 a “sell-it-and-forget-it” firm, that we’d look after clients properly and grow the business by making our clients so happy that they’d recommend their friends to us. It worked. We’ve been increasingly busy from day one and the pace has never slackened.

Having outgrown our home office, we moved into proper offices in Sagar Street, Castleford town centre, in January 2006. Our first non-family employees joined us that year, a mortgage consultant and my first PA, Rachel, who came straight from my old school, Brigshaw Comprehensive in July 2006 aged 16. We now have seven full-time staff, four of which are fully qualified advisers, plus two part-timers.  In 2018 we moved into West Riding House, bought using our own pension fund. We now manage around £100m for our clients and have grown into a nationally respected firm despite our relatively small size.