FOUR years ago Heswall-based property market funder Wilcocks Associates was staring into the abyss.
It suffered an almost immediate 80% loss in turnover as credit markets around the world failed overnight and within three months of the credit crunch its entire fee income stream had dried up – even though client activity had doubled.
However, the almost catastrophic blow resulted in a refocusing and today the revamped Wilcocks & Associates (W&A), now based in Liverpool’s St Paul’s Square business district, is a private client wealth management practice aiming to become a key player in the investment marketplace.
Martin Wilcocks founded the firm in 2005 and said: “We knew something was terribly wrong in late 2007. We were totally exposed to residential and commercial mortgage markets and when offers of lending started to dry up as early as October 2007 it was scary.
“Initially we just couldn’t work out what was going on.”
He admitted: “The biggest mistake I made was focusing solely on one market and it is tough to call what was more frustrating. Client instructions had doubled for both commercial and private funding facilities and we couldn’t do anything with them, so you go through your business plan looking for ways to at least double production and then when the opportunity arrives you can’t move anything forward. As deals started to dry up our actual workload tripled, placing us under increased pressure.”
Mr Wilcocks now heads a team of partners with a range of skills. His brother Robert joined in 2007 and later took over financial planning responsibilities and associated case work in 2010.
Roy Kenny followed in late 2010, providing a land and property development background, followed by Linda Curley, a fiduciary specialist from PWC in Gibraltar who relocated to her native Liverpool in 2011.
Mr Wilcocks said: “Roy had been in my plans for some time as he had been very active on Liverpool’s property development circuit and a marriage with his clients and contacts seemed a perfect fit for our new wealth management-led proposition.
“Linda gives us offshore expertise, offshore contacts and a tax perspective to assist with the offshore-based structures we arrange for clients to hold their assets.”
Andrew Saunders, an equities analyst for almost 20 years and latterly with Panmure Gordon, has also been appointed as a partner: “Andy possesses strong relationships with institutional investors, naturally opening up a pool of opportunity for us to promote our holistic private client proposition to our target market of high net worth individuals.”
And, using the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce Members’ Council, on which Mr Wilcocks sits, a new apprentice office manager will soon be appointed.
The newly-focused firm uses a web- based client financial management system which allows clients to manage their financial position, pensions, savings and investments.
Mr Wilcocks said: “We offer the UK’s first and truly unique client relationship management system that comes with its own multi award-winning inbuilt investment platform.”
The W&A product delivers an automated private website for each new client that is protected with the same five-layer security as online banking and allows users to manage, store and view their financial and investment data within their own site.
Mr Wilcocks said the system also offers clients a wide choice on their investments: “They can either make their own decisions and invest into the market themselves, selecting from over 5,000 investment funds, 1,000 exchange traded funds and over 5,000 individual equities, or they can opt for a direct passport to pre-designed investment strategies through one of the world’s biggest investment houses that held assets under management in excess of £274bn at last count.”
Mr Wilcocks said: “We know Liverpool is the second-largest region for wealth management outside London so there is plenty of space for us to implement our proposition.”
And he added: “What we have is something completely different to the usual set-up offered by discretionary managers and typical independent financial advisers.”