Rathstones Financial Ltd

Achieving everything you set out to do on day one takes some beating but the longer-term impact was more important to Laurie Baugh; he was now in control of his finances . . . and his business.

He had his heart set on running his own broker business after leaving his banking job. The all-too-familiar lack of finance stood in his way but it was an unfamiliar source that delivered the instant payback and the lasting benefits that confirmed Laurie had made the right decision.

He had bought out his partner and his new business was paying interest on the finance back to his pension.

“It was about making your pension work for you and ultimately having that control,” the 38-year-old said. “On the day I bought the shares, I managed to declare a dividend and pay off all my finance agreements. The investment from my pension secured my long-term cashflow.”

A perfect result for the Commercial Finance Packager who turned to Pension-led funding initially to help a client finance a property deal but decided the best way to understand the business funding possibilities, and become his own boss, was to go through the process himself.

His Camberley-based business, Rathstones Financial Ltd, is ticking along nicely, focusing on the commercial property sector helping his select portfolio of clients access property developing finance, commercial mortgages, bridging loans and buy-to-let mortgages.

Rathstones has access to 40-50 property-specific lenders and a wider panel of 140 plus business loan and leasing companies to work with as part of the Synergy Commercial Finance network.

But it was Laurie’s pension scheme, a legacy of seven years with the Royal Bank of Scotland, which proved key to financing his dream.

“As a broker a pension is one asset you are likely to have. Commercial property deals can take up to 18 months to two years to write. Starting up you probably have to fund yourself for 18 months. That is a challenge.”

The business now has a healthy turnover, allowing Laurie to work at a level he is comfortable with.

He said: “I work with brokers from a broad spectrum and, as a property specialist, I support them in obtaining the best financial terms for their clients. Unless developers and investors have got 50 per cent to put into the deal the High Street banks are not interested. They need access to the Challenger banks and the specialist property funders.”

Laurie’s existing pension pot was transferred into a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) and 42 per cent used to make a preference share investment in his business with a 15 per cent coupon, the remainder placed in a low-risk investment profile with PLF sister company and pension provider Morgan Lloyd.

“I see PLF as low risk because I’m in control of the money and want my pension fund to have it. Paying back a preference share dividend free of tax is a very strong reason. It was by far the best option to do what I wanted,” he said.

“I’ve got the opportunity to make the money work. I would rather the interest goes back to my pension than to anyone else. The company is paying back into my pension fund at a 15 per cent interest rate.”

Investor Connected

Entrepreneurs with the “big idea” have a host of skills but pitching to investors is not always among them.

Thierry Clarke should know. He spent more than 15 years in investment management, working with central banks, pension funds and insurance companies with responsibility for 23 countries.

“I was pitching to investors so I have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to make a good pitch.” he said.

What he also recognised was a “disconnect” between the two sides.

“Entrepreneurs are passionate about their product but don’t necessarily know how to communicate effectively with investors. They are two very different skill sets.”

Five years ago, Thierry co-founded a company to bridge that divide with a cost-effective tech solution providing a comprehensive set of tools to showcase businesses to potential investors or lenders – and a punchy pitch of his own.

The InvestorConnected platform promises solutions for start-ups, scale-ups and investors.

“At the core of what we do is helping entrepreneurs get investment ready and helping investors on the other side get better data information on businesses allowing them to make better business decisions.”

Users register for free pitching services which include creating business plans and comprehensive financials. Two years ago, Thierry and his business partner Jeremy Hunt developed a business valuation tool to help standardise the data available, streamline the due diligence process and potentially speed up a match. Think of it as internet dating for entrepreneurs and investors.

Initial investment in InvestorConnected came from closer to home, Thierry’s pension. He had already pumped his savings into the project but wanted to get the business to a more advanced stage before looking to attract external investors.

An internet search to discover if he could access money from his pot pointed him in the direction of Pension-led funding.

“I was lucky enough to have a fairly substantial pension. I had an asset and I wanted to see if I could exploit it,” Thierry said.

Turning to his pension has provided Thierry with two rounds of funding. His existing pension was transferred into a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) and used to purchase ordinary shares in InvestorConnected to provide working capital. He returned to his pension pot two years later to purchase further ordinary shares and provide more working capital.

Thierry said: “The problem with small businesses is cash flow. The ability to use Pension-led funding to bridge that is really useful. It’s a great way of being able to access capital to be able to grow.

“Pension-led funding is a great way of being able to self-fund your business.”

InvestorConnected now has more than 1,200 users, an investors’ portfolio of £170 million ready to invest in eligible business and 130 pitches created.

In next five years Thierry is confidently predicting user numbers upwards of 125,000 and 5,000 businesses with finance secured with help from the platform.

InvestorConnected is already looking to expand into Europe and the US challenging rivals who provide business plan and valuation services.

Thierry said: “There is no one that does both together – that provides a lot of power. Very few provide the holistic experience you get on InvestorConnected.”

fdu

Finding a perfect match is never easy but when you are searching for someone to guide the financial fortunes of a major international company the stakes are high.

Add to the mix a commitment to growth and the ability to navigate through the potential minefield of change, and the pool of talent suddenly looks a lot smaller.

FTSE, AIM and Nasdaq-listed companies are turning to a team of executive search specialists with a proven track record of finding the cream of the executive crop.

“We are dedicated to providing finance professionals to companies that are committed to growth,” said fdu joint Managing Partner David Bloom.

“The challenge is finding the right culture fit and the right people for the organisation in question.”

That is something that fdu has proven particularly good at since they were launched by David and his business partner, Adam Bloch, in 2009, with over 300 projects successfully completed since then.

David, the former European finance director for Glu Mobile (NASDAQ: GLUU), a mobile gaming business and Adam, who worked for search specialists CTPartners after building two successful search practices, said they had the entrepreneurial bug.

Which is just as well as launching fdu was, as David admits, “quite a bold move in hindsight seeing as it was right in the heart of the crash”.

But fdu hit the ground running and soon needed working capital to recruit a team and for marketing. The head hunters were on the hunt again, this time for funding to expand their business.

“The challenge in our business is sourcing good quality recruiters and search practitioners to the standard we expect,” said David, highlighting the need to persuade the talented ones who are secure in larger firms to join a smaller, albeit fast-growing business.

One form of alternative finance caught David’s eye on the Funding Options website and, after reading more about Pension-led funding, he contacted us.

“fdu already had a supportive bank manager and a flexible invoice discounting facility. This worked well for working capital needs but we wanted to be masters of our own destiny,” he said, which meant the partners didn’t want outside investment such as venture capital money.

David met with one of Clifton’s certified Financial Consultants, Alex Wheeler, and a financing proposal was produced.

At the next stage a Preference Share Purchase from fdu by a UK-registered Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) was recommended as the most appropriate solution. To confirm all was suitable, research into both David’s pensions and an independent third party valuation of the shares took place.

Once all had been checked and the directors confirmed they were happy to proceed, the deal was good to go.

David said of Pension-led funding: “If you have belief in your own ability and your partner, the returns are potentially very good. I went into it with an open mind and was very impressed by how I was treated by Alex Wheeler.”

With funding in place the focus is now on growing to “20 quality recruiters as quickly as possible” and on a move from their present central London base in Soho to Mayfair in the New Year, a sure sign they are “very much in growth mode and expanding rapidly”.

David said: “We have worked for clients as big as Boots and Compass. We deal with a lot of exciting clients including Infectious Media, No 1 in the Deloitte Fast 50 last year, and a whole range of private equity and venture capital-backed businesses.

“Our sector specialisms are technology, media, telecoms real estate, professional services and multi-site retail.”

Their reputation is also spreading. “We have a good track record with ‘US inbound’, ie helping US companies looking to grow in Europe with London as a launch pad. We know how to speak American English!”

Business

Finance and recruitment specialists David Bloom and business partner Adam Bloch set up fdu to find finance professionals for companies that are committed to growth with a pledge to deliver the “right culture fit”.

Funding needs

A supportive bank manager and flexible invoice discounting facility worked well for working capital but when it was time to fund the recruitment of a team and for marketing, the partners did not want outside investment. Wanting to remain “masters of their own destiny”, Pension-led funding caught David’s eye.

Result

With funding in place, the partners are looking to appoint 20 quality recruiters as quickly as possible and move from their present central London base in Soho to Mayfair.

Going forward

The business has successfully completed over 300 projects since launch. Clients have included Boots, Compass and Infectious Media, No 1 in the Deloitte Fast 50 last year. Their reputation is growing fast with a proven track record of helping US companies looking to grow in Europe using London as a launch pad.

St Georges Finance

Like entrepreneur Victor Kiam, who was so impressed with his electric razor he bought the company, commercial finance broker Adrian Dadds was so impressed with the concept of pension-led funding he used it to finance his own business.

After a career in banking and then commercial and property finance broking, Adrian decided turn his back on the corporate world and use his skills to develop his own commercial finance company.

Having quickly established a high net-worth client base that included everything from retailers to property developers and manufacturers, Adrian was constantly searching for ways to help his clients borrow money to improve or strengthen the financing of their businesses. “The market was, and still is, horrible and the banks are incredibly picky. Ironically, if the banks don’t lend to my clients then it’s difficult for my own business. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by Clifton Asset Management.”

Interested in the concept of pension-led funding, which links the Intellectual Property (IP) value held within a company with the owner’s pension fund to release capital, Adrian made a phone call. “I’d set up St Georges Finance three years previously, but wasn’t looking for finance for myself, I was just interested for my clients. But the more I talked to Clifton, the more I started thinking ‘this might work for me, too’”.

With his business starting to flourish, Adrian had already been considering expanding his team. But working from a small office, combined with the volatility of the market, meant space and cost made the next step difficult.

Once the seeds of the pension-led funding idea had been sown, Adrian used his own expertise to consider the alternatives. “I didn’t even approach the banks as I knew it was a non-starter because SGF is still a relatively young business”, Adrian explains.

Because pension-led funding is based on IP, Clifton discussed this option with Adrian. “I thought this was an interesting concept, but where do I get IP from a business like mine?” In fact, he was in for a surprise. The pensionledfunding.com team focused on Adrian’s client database, which was comprised mainly of high net-worth individuals or companies who were solely St Georges’ clients, and set up an independent IP valuation.

“When we first discussed it I was sceptical about the level of value and wondered if there would really be enough even to reach the minimum I felt I needed for the business. When I received the valuation, I was very, very pleasantly surprised,” says Adrian. “Because it was more than I’d anticipated, I was able to take my ‘bank head’ off and be honest rather than conservative; examine what was really achievable for my business over the next five years.”

Ironically, as discussions reached the detail stage, Adrian was offered a job back in corporate life. “It was a really good banking job, well paid and with all the perks. It was an enormous temptation. But, the opportunity pension-led funding presented made the decision for me in turning down the job offer and doing what I really wanted to do.”

The whole process, from first call to money in the bank, took less than eight weeks in total. “It was very smooth and painless,” Adrian claims. He has already moved into new offices, his new employee is soon to join him and he even has cash available to boost his marketing and enhance his website.

“It’s an easy option to leave the pension where it is and get a job. But now I have a growing business, more than half of my pension remains in place and the rest is completely under my control, so I can achieve my goals quicker than I thought and I’ve got control of my business.

“Pension-led funding is a truly innovative approach to finance and in the current market it’s great that there are these alternative funding routes to go down. Clifton has made it easy to achieve. Will I be recommending it to my clients? Absolutely!”

Intellectual Property value exists in a wide range of businesses through patents, trademarks, brands and even website domains. Click here to find out how pension-led funding can help fund your business using IP.

Business

Finance broker Adrian Dadds approached pensionledfunding.com on behalf of his clients, but found it provided a solution to his own expansion plans.

Funding needs

St Georges Finance had been in business for three years and Adrian wanted to expand, but felt the banks wouldn’t lend to such a new company.

Result

Adrian’s client database of high-worth individuals and companies provided an intellectual property asset with which he could access pension funds.

Going Forward

St Georges Finance has moved into new offices and money has also been used to boost marketing and enhance the company website.

Robinson Rice Associates

Business

Accountant Beverley Rice built up a business from home, starting with three clients. After 10 years she owned one office and rented two more, with a thriving accountancy practice specialising in taxation. She then had the opportunity to buy a second office.

Funding needs

Beverley wanted to expand and buy new premises. HSBC would fund the main investment, but she needed initial capital to secure the property she wanted. She had looked at pensionledfunding.com for a client and decided it suited her own requirements.

Result

Following an independent intellectual property valuation, funds were transferred from her newly established SIPP to her business bank account.

Going Forward

Beverley has purchased her second office and is planning 10 more years of business growth.