On one of his regular visits to the UK offices in Reigate, Surrey, I caught up with Simon Youlton, Group CEO of Total Wealth Planning (TWP) to get to know him and the company a bit better.
Between making and taking calls to Australia and the Far East Simon made an hour for us to chat about the future of the company and Simon’s thoughts on the industry in which TWP is carving its way, the pressures it is facing and his aspirations for the future.
To begin with I asked Simon when and how TWP had started out. “TWP came about from a mutual belief shared with trusted colleagues spanning more than a decade, that clients can benefit greatly from a really well run and sustainable business. In other words, TWP is a business that can balance both the needs to compete in a competitive business environment at the same time as serving clients in a way that all too many organisations fail to recognise. It’s these challenges and resulting opportunities that encouraged the birth of TWP.”
TWP was co-founded in 2015 with a shared vision for a financial planning company with a difference. It has gone from strength to strength in the last 3 years and has a clear vision for the future. I asked Simon about his aspirations for the future of the company. “The TWP business is pushing well beyond the normal boundaries of the past, a strong sense of greater collaboration across multiple business units and even those in alternative sectors are going to be all the more common. We have seen the impact of Globalisation and to an extent our industry has in my view progressed at a slower pace than others, such as manufacturing, which has created an opportunity to work across borders and in ways that previously were not possible without technology. TWP is all about working with partners that share the view the world has changed; the industry has shifted and no-longer is a business restricted when looking at where it can compete. The pool of future candidates and clients is huge now when you realise you can operate globally.”
It is noticeable from visiting the UK offices in Surrey that there really is a global approach to work. A small office with dedicated desks, many screens and a buzzy feel, a third of the staff live on different continents and work remotely, and the most common intercompany communication tool is Skype. Indeed, Simon himself lives in Perth, Western Australia. Although I figured he saw it as a positive, I asked Simon about his views on remote and flexible working. “I’m a big big supporter of flexible and remote working, we have a fantastic team that probably choose to work with us partly for these reasons. Trust plays a big part in being able to run these types of business models, and communication is key to keep everyone aligned to organisational goals and this is always a challenge when everyone is based in different places. You hear it often and it certainly remains true, if you keep a happy team through initiatives like flexible and remote working then you are practically guaranteed to have a happy client. Certainly, that has been our experience to date, and we are considering many more extensions to what we already offer. We don’t resist emerging changes.”
As Simon brought up the C word, I wanted to explore the idea of change with him in a bit more depth. I asked him what he felt was the most worrying financial change of the last decade. “If I’m honest, I believe it is the protest votes we have seen disrupting the political world. This has created much volatility, in particular within the currency markets. I suspect that people can draw their own conclusions as to the rest. From my experience, the financial advisory profession is uniquely placed to provide advice in times of worry, and this is where clients benefit most. That said, we see cycles of disruption more frequently now, so I suspect it will remain busy times for long to come.”
I can tell that Simon is a man with a wide sphere of influence and so I was curious about his thoughts on whether he feels there is a conflict between the government and private commerce? “Well that’s an interesting question, we operate across two continents and now several countries. I could give you a different answer for each comparison. That said, we choose to operate in countries that would be regarded as having strong economic stability in order to mitigate conflict. However, take the UK for example, how one could argue Brexit has created some instability and we can clearly see tension between government and private commerce in ways now that we never did before. I think that each decision a client or a business makes, clearly needs an awareness of these pressures and the fact they shift frequently in the context of the times we face. This makes our industry so exciting as no day is the same as yesterday and you can bet tomorrow will throw something new up altogether.
Talking of altogether new things being thrown up, I asked Simon whether he had invested in BitCoin. His answer was immediate “Absolutely not, I’m not convinced enough is known about this yet and personally I believe there are many other options with more certainty if you’re looking to achieve a return. I may end up being a late entrant to this market, but I sleep well during this time.”
As our time was drawing to an end, I wanted to get a couple of nuggets of advice from him, so I asked Simon If he could implement one thing to mitigate against the risk of financial loss, what would it be? Again, the answer came with little hesitation “Communication – it really is as simple as that. If information is shared accurately and timely many more rational decisions will be made. Lack of communication leads to all sorts of decisions that otherwise wouldn’t be made. The rest of risk mitigation is more about technique and expertise, but seldom this is not typically enough. Many people focus on the latter and neglect the power of communication.” This useful insight certainly helped to vindicate my choice of career, so I figured that I would quit while I was ahead.
We went on to chat about The World Cup, although Simon, a self-confessed workaholic, isn’t following the progress like the rest of the country. Maybe another indication of his relinquishing the ways of his British heritage? Does he follow Aussie Rules? “No, I don’t really have time to watch television, I’d much rather spend what little free time I have camping in the National Parks and snorkelling off the beaches in Western Australia with my family.”
Although his denial of television watching rang true, I couldn’t resist slipping in another critical question, who did Simon think would win Love Island? There was some hesitation to his answer that I hadn’t seen before. “Haha, I surely can’t admit to watching Love Island, so I must pass comment on this I’m afraid.” I wonder if he has invested in Dani Dyer if not in BitCoin?
I can’t ever leave a conversation with someone without asking about their favourite cheese, (it’s a hangover from my days as a fan of Chris Moyles on the Radio1 breakfast show) With a wistful expression Simon answered, “Blue Vein (Australian) – but only when with a bottle of Red whilst sat in a Margaret River Vineyard!” I think that when the time comes to catch up with Simon again I shall take him up on that offer!