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The Big Interview: TJ&P’s Tim Whiting on becoming the ‘1 Ham Yard’ of London IFAs

“I literally founded Timothy James & Partners on my Natwest Gold card. I don’t own a house, I don’t own a car. I have never desired any particular sort of capital – I have always liked building things,” TJ&P’s Tim Whiting tells Investment Week.

The managing director and founder first launched the West End-based advisory firm in 1995 at the age of 27, having already owned an insurance company since the age of 21.

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“I started in financial services at age 17 in the field of ‘right to buy’ for council homes; I used to drop leaflets off near Parkside in Wimbledon and around Roehampton, then I would get invited in for coffee when I would be able to sell them their council flat,” he says.

“At the time I was earning £7,000 per year which was quite a lot of money. It meant I could pay the rent on my flat in Olympia, go to The White Horse each night followed by a trip to The Kebab King, and, alongside two or three other jobs that I held down, ultimately buy an insurance company at the age of 21.”

After becoming “the youngest financial services director in Teddington”, Whiting founded TJ&P which now looks after £1.4bn of assets for its clients.

The firm, which operates on a referral-only basis, insists on cultivating a relationship with its clients whereby the consultants “look after everything”, according to Whiting, including mortgages, debt, corporate finance, pensions and investments.

“We are either doing all of it or we aren’t, because every aspect of finance is interconnected,” he explains. “It therefore takes our consultants about seven years before they become truly qualified and have enough experience, because they are managing both debt and investment.”

Whiting says this makes it a “nightmare” for the firm – which now has a team of more than 100 people – to recruit the desired calibre of employees.

“When we started in the nineties it was terrible, because we were solely focused on doing the right thing morally and looking after people over the very long term and across every single life aspect,” he explains.

“I used to just walk around the West End thinking, ‘god, I hope they like me and send me some work’. We didn’t have websites, brochures, policy offices or lots of people behind us.”

Now, TJ&P takes on 50 new referrals per year, using the same accountants and lawyers it first hired more than 27 years ago.

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Proudly badging itself as “founded on old-fashioned values”, each consultant has a small number of clients each, with the business growing periodically to cater for new customers.

It also operates on a flat salary basis, with Whiting arguing that he “never understood why people are paid bonuses and commission” within the financial advice industry.

“Why should somebody get paid more for recommending A, B, C or D? Every client that walks out of our door is going to have A – the best option for them – so we just have a flat salary that is assessed once per year. That’s it,” he explains.

“I don’t like anything to do with sales – nobody is able to mention the word. We are independent advisers and we should be motivated to look after our clients over the long term, and take responsibility for the solutions we provide from day one.”

The vast majority of TJ&P’s clients are what the managing director describes as “self-employed creative entrepreneurs”, spanning sectors such as film, music, PR and advertising.

“The population of the UK is 66.7 million and 33 million of these people work full-time. Of these, three million are in the creative industry and 47% of these are self-employed. This makes it the biggest self-employed sector in the UK,” Whiting explains.

“These people are vital for the operation of our economy, but they are never going to read the Financial Times on a Saturday or the business section of the Sunday Times. We have become quite specialist in working with people in creative fields.”

Waverton

In 2019, Timothy James & Partners was acquired by asset management firm Waverton, following a five-year search by TJ&P to find “the most suitable home and future partner for our business”.

Now, the joint aim is for both businesses to provide high-quality investment management and financial planning advice, but in doing so together, Whiting says the firms can look after “bespoke, risk-adjusted and focused portfolios” for all clients.

“I ended up doing the Waverton deal because they were brilliant, pure fund managers who didn’t do anything else with people’s money,” he adds. “It also allowed me to keep my own branding. It made sense for us to do a deal where we could put our independent hat on and design what our clients should have, which is a better service at a more competitive price.”

Looking ahead, Whiting says the aim is to become “the best IFA in London” which is no mean feat, given there are now more than 1,300 firms in the capital.

“We are never going to be the Marriott or The Hilton – one of those sprawling five-star hotels with huge corridors where they don’t know who you are.

“We are going to be the Charlotte Street hotel, 1 Ham Yard – a boutique that is really well-known among creative industries, where people feel lucky they were referred to us.”

Further along the line, the CEO wants to buy “a couple of great independent financial adviser firms in London whose [management teams] are retiring”.

“But my ultimate aim is to be a brilliant, holistic, independent financial advisor, responsible for people’s happiness,” he says.

“I want to help the people who know nothing about money and to educate them on a subject they don’t like. That doesn’t happen by sending mountains of paperwork; it happens through nurturing long-term relationships and getting to know the clients by picking up the phone and talking to them about their life goals, because investing for the sake of it or working yourself into the ground when you don’t need to makes no sense when it comes to happiness.”

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