Applewood Wealth Management has outlined plans to acquire six adviser businesses over the next 12 months.
Building on the momentum of last year, which saw the Shropshire-based firm increase turnover by 10%, managing director Karl Hartey says he has big plans for 2010.
"We have six acquisition targets for the year," he says. "We are looking to take on two in the first six months."
Hartey reveals he is on the verge of acquiring an IFA firm with £15m under management.
"I am having conversations with the company now and I'm hoping the guy will say yes because the firm does fit," he says. "We're not trying to buy big firms, but bring in smaller firms and bring new staff into our existing offices rather than take on new offices and the additional expense."
The targeted acquisition drive follows a letter Applewood sent to local IFAs at the end of last year to "put the firm in the market".
Hartey thinks the RDR is creating the ideal launch pad for firms to expand.
"IFAs are not getting younger, many are daunted by the qualification requirements and over the next three years many will be looking to get out and this gives firms like ourselves excellent growth prospects," he says.
According to Applewood's managing director, the industry is dividing into three groups of advisers: those who want to get out of the industry, those not knowing where to go and a third group of "focused" people knowing what their businesses will look like in three years time.
"We are looking to target groups one and two who are suffering a crisis of confidence. These groups are like ships without rudders, getting blown about in stormy seas."
Applewood's expansion plans will be mirrored through the industry at large, says Hartey, predicting 2010 to be a year of industry consolidation. He thinks the process of mergers and acquisitions will speed up in the third and fourth quarters.
Although Hartey has ambitious plans for the year, he thinks 2010 will bring difficult trading conditions and believes Government policy will be crucial in shaping developments. In particular, he points to the dangers of the Government withdrawing stimulus measures.
Describing the economy as a "critically ill patient" with quantitative easing and low interest rates acting as "life-supporting drugs", he questions what will happen once these measures are withdrawn.
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