After spending 40 years in the world of financial advice, Richard Beal tells all about his career...
Richard Beal, 65, started working in finance aged 25 with Prudential and spent seven years as one of Barclays bank's top performing advisers in the early 2000s.
During the last 13 years of his career he worked for IFA LighthouseCarrwood, part of the Lighthouse group, which was acquired by advice giant Quilter in June last year.
After giving independent advice for the past two decades, Beal admits he found the takeover problematic - Quilter is a restricted firm.
"If I wasn't retiring I probably wouldn't have stayed with Quilter," he says. "That isn't the reason I retired - it has been three years in the planning - it's just pure coincidence the timing is now, but I personally would have found it difficult to stay."
When Beal joined LighthouseCarrwood in 2017, the independent firm had 25 advisers, out of about 700 in the Lighthouse Group. Although a beast in and of itself, it is dwarfed by the Quilter Group, which has about 4,000 advisers.
In LighthouseCarrwood, the truly independent nature of the smaller firm was what attracted him.
"They didn't force you to use their investment strategies - they were there but you were allowed to go outside them quite easily," he explains. "And that's the difference with Quilter, their desire is that you use their strategies first."
A Quilter Financial Planning spokesperson says LighthouseCarrwood maintained its independence after the takeover.
"The working assumption for acquired businesses is that where they are invested already is the most appropriate," the spokesperson says.
"When a business is acquired by Quilter we undertake detailed planning to decide what proposition is the best fit. For LighthouseCarrwood we retained their independent proposition."
For firms with thousands of advisers under their network, Beal struggles to see how they could term themselves independent.
"I understand that with a larger company you've got more difficult things to consider, making sure the staff are all compliant… can they afford to have wildly differing outcomes for clients? But it is all about protecting the company rather than doing the best for the client.
"I think the companies that are truly independent, are actually far and few between."
Beal fell into a career in advice after he was headhunted by Prudential aged 25 while working at an electronics store in Surrey. But after high school, he initially set out to be a farmer.
"There were two things that happened early in my career that changed my life quite substantially. The first was I was due to go to agricultural college when I was 19. I was working for one particular farmer and I actually fell out with the boss - I just walked off," he says.
"I needed a job for about six or eight weeks and I just took one in a TV rental shop just to get some money. I found really liked it, you know, meeting people and talking to them and sort of the process of getting them to agree to buy from you. I really enjoyed it and stayed there for five years in the end."
As shop manager for TV rental and sales store Rediffusion, Beal was approached to become a Prudential door to door insurance and pensions salesman.
"I was the archetypal 'man from the Pru', walking the streets, knocking on doors, collecting the money… I loved it.
"A lot of people said: ‘What would you be an insurance man for? It's a bit like being a milkman'. But I never saw it like that, the way you can help people and look after their families and savings. I've always felt a real satisfaction in doing that, and it ended up giving me a lifestyle that I would never ever have been able to contemplate if I stayed on the farm or if I stayed on at Rediffusion - it's been phenomenal."
At Prudential, Beal had sales targets to meet - mainly in industrial assurance, life insurance, pension and savings plans - and says it was fairly easy to meet those because people placed a lot of trust in the life company.
"There was an awful lot of trust and community about it because you were like the postman at the time in that you have actually had regular contact with people of all ages. When people left school their parents used to say ‘you need to see Richard' because you've got start saving.
"It was already ingrained in the population generally, that saving was a good thing. And Prudential, Pearl, Co-op and other companies were good companies - they wouldn't rip you off and they gave you some money to fall back on."
Beal said the savings culture was completely different now after the introduction of digital banking and increased reliance on credit, which has led people to desire instant gratification instead of squirrelling money away.
Read more about Beal's career on page 2
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