Standard Life’s 1825 scales back acquisitions focus

Standard Life-owned national 1825 is moving its focus away from acquisitions as it looks to grow adviser numbers at existing firms, Fund Strategy’s sister title Money Marketing understands.

Standard Life first announced it would re-enter financial advice with the restricted 1825 brand in February 2015. It acquired Leeds-based advice firm Pearson Jones, and said it planned to expand the business through buying out other firms to act as “regional hubs”.

1825 has since completed acquisitions in London, Cheshire and Scotland, but pulled out of a deal to buy Almary Green in September, meaning there are still several regions without 1825 firms.

A source with knowledge of 1825 says headcount dedicated to acquisitions had fallen from around 10 to as low as two at one stage.

The source says: “1825 have completely changed their focus and are trying to grow their business organically. They will make acquisitions, just when opportunities present that are an easy fit.

“They’re still in the market, but aren’t going to rush into anything. It’s only going to be if it’s absolutely right for them.”

Another source close to the firm says Standard Life only had one full-time staff member out in the market looking at the corporate finance side of 1825 acquisitions, and that 1825 were looking to scale back other staff, “not just on the acquisitions side”.

They say: “Fundamentally they just struggled to get the right number of people. The strategy is still to go out and buy firms if they can find them, but frankly, they are running out of firms to go and buy.

“They are busy trying to desperately recruit to fill the advisers [that have left]. It’s not so much a change of strategy, but a tactical thing they are having to do.”

The source added while Standard Life may be holding informal talks with more firms, none were currently in the due diligence stage.

Another source close to the firm says Standard Life only had one full-time staff member out in the market looking at the corporate finance side of 1825 acquisitions, and that 1825 were looking to scale back other staff, “not just on the acquisitions side”.

They say: “Fundamentally they just struggled to get the right number of people. The strategy is still to go out and buy firms if they can find them, but frankly, they are running out of firms to go and buy.

“They are busy trying to desperately recruit to fill the advisers [that have left]. It’s not so much a change of strategy, but a tactical thing they are having to do.”

The source added while Standard Life may be holding informal talks with more firms, none were currently in the due diligence stage.

An 1825 spokeswoman says: “Our strategy has always looked at growth across a variety of areas – acquisition where we continue to see a very strong pipeline, recruitment where we have recently launched a national campaign and bringing additional talent through our academy.

“Acquisitions remain an important part of our potential growth – we continue to have a fully resourced commercial team to support this activity which we can also scale up further depending on pipeline opportunities.”

The spokeswoman says headcount had fluctuated like any other company, but was never as low as sources suggested.

She says: “When we first set up 1825, our commercial and finance team had 10 people at head office level – the headcount stands at nine people today following a recent internal promotion from the team.”

1825’s careers website currently lists vacancies for paraplanners in seven locations, financial planners in four, private client mangers in two, and a senior private client consultant in one of two regions.