Business Leader recently spoke to Rob Salisbury, Director and Head of Arbuthnot Latham’s office in Exeter, to discuss how the company has adapted during COVID-19 and how they support entrepreneurs on their business journey.
Can you tell us about your role at Arbuthnot Latham and the company’s position in the market?
I have lived and worked in the South West all my life and feel blessed to now be leading the Exeter team at Arbuthnot Latham – which is the company’s second-largest office. When I joined four years ago, I came in to set up the commercial banking part of the business in the South West. Now, I am responsible for private banking here too. I am a player/manager and the part I really love is helping our high net worth clients achieve their financial goals. During my time with Arbuthnot Latham, some of our competitors have retrenched to Bristol and London. We are one of the only private banks with an office here – and we have plans to expand our presence across the region. This makes us uniquely positioned within the market.
Can you talk about how you support entrepreneurs?
At Arbuthnot Latham, we are all about relationships. Whether commercial or private, we adopt a very collaborative approach. First of all, we seek to understand a client’s needs. Often with entrepreneurs, it is not the pure banking advice they need – it might be a bit of networking or a sounding board for ideas from someone who has already grown their own business. Through this, we have created a bit of a ‘club’ feel about the bank. We enable clients with owner-managed businesses to meet like-minded people and create relationships that would otherwise be more difficult to nurture.
We also work with many entrepreneurs on the exit part of their journey. We find that it is the holistic wealth planning that really helps these clients. It is not just about bringing in a wealth planner when – in reality – there is a need for more than that. This is why the relationship part is so important; because we offer a full-service proposition, we can match solutions to the needs of the client.
Can you expand a bit more about the ‘club’ element of the bank?
We can host exclusive events and dinners for clients in our offices. Often, we have guest speakers and always make sure there is time for networking. Sometimes, it will just be entrepreneurs having dinner, where we discuss what is happening in the local business community. Either myself, our Co-Chief Investment Officer or our Chief Economist will host discussions on topics relevant to business owners. The magic happens when one business leader meets another – because they often create a connection and end up doing business together. We basically just facilitate the opportunity. Our entrepreneurs are often more relaxed in a private and secure environment where they will not be pitched to and can just discuss issues with those who are going through that same journey.
Clearly, these events have been curtailed in recent months, although the bank has been hosting seminars and roundtables online and some of our own speakers have been active participants in roundtables with members of our network.
What do you think separates yourselves from others within your market?
Are we the best kept secret in the industry for entrepreneurs? We might be. But more so, we have the kudos of being able to offer clients the opportunity to be in the ‘Arbuthnot club’ and help facilitate discussions between like-minded folk. Meeting these high net worth individuals and business people – and along the way helping them with their banking and wealth planning needs – is very gratifying.
Also, in today’s market, being relationship-led means a lot to people. Our first aim is to listen to and understand our clients. It’s only through a deep understanding that we can truly offer a client what they need.
Can you give an insight into how you support high-net worth individuals with their wealth planning and what type of customer suits Arbuthnot Latham?
We introduce our wealth planner to our clients early on in the relationship. We have a highly experienced wealth planner, Carl Tremlin, based here in Exeter. He is a key member of the team who discusses financial goals and aspirations with the entrepreneur. This is different from others in our market who often wheel in a salesperson to deliver a ‘solution’. We try to do less talking and more listening.
We also deal with inherited wealth and can help families considerably. For example, we have a lot of experience helping younger people who have inherited a large amount of money. One of the ways we have successfully helped is by educating them on the best ways to deal with that wealth.
You cover the South West – what does this region mean for you and how do you see the business landscape here?
I wouldn’t call it a business landscape, I would call it a business community. They are a relatively small group of people who know each other and each other’s businesses. In Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, we are on a peninsula where people make the effort to connect and keep updated about what is going on.
We also cover more than just the South West. Our colleagues in our Bristol office also work with clients in South Wales, Gloucestershire and the Thames Valley.
It is your 25th anniversary in Exeter coming up – how have you seen the region change in this time?
What we are seeing is increasing wealth migration to the South West. Do business owners really want to own and run their companies in highly populated areas? Good connectivity and technology make it more possible than ever to run a successful business right here. In years gone by, it was all about the speed of the train going to London and taking a flight, but today it is all about broadband connectivity and the lifestyle you can have by moving here. It is a highly desirable place to live – a fact brought sharply into focus over the past few months. Sales and interest in high value properties – especially on the coast – have dramatically increased. We are seeing a lot of business owners moving their companies to the South West – and we are there to help them on that journey – there is always room in the club for more!
Can you talk about the journey an entrepreneur goes through prior to exiting their business and how can you support them?
It is tough – I have been a corporate banker in the past and supported clients growing their businesses, and I know the pitfalls – the highs and the lows – every deal is different. A lot of people exiting their business don’t realise how long it takes. You really do need good, professional advice. You do not want to be changing advisors in the run-up to or during a deal; trusted relationships are of the upmost importance. The exit of a business is often bumpy and a friend once told me that when you exit, things take twice as long as expected and cost twice as much – and I believe that is the general experience of someone exiting. It takes a long time and there are a lot of hidden costs if you are not careful. We are very experienced in supporting business owners as they exit their business, and we will guide them throughout that process.
How has COVID-19 impacted your clients?
No two people have had the same COVID-19 experience, so what we have done at Arbuthnot Latham is ensure we maintain constant contact with our clients. We have seen many of them using this time to reanalyse their finances and do some wealth and estate planning. Many have been delighted to hear from us during this time, to help guide them – so I would say our relationships with our clients have deepened during COVID-19, where others might have struggled to provide the service needed. Being proactive rather than reactive with our clients is a great relationship builder.
And can you talk about how you have responded yourself as a leader of an office of around 30 people?
This really is a time when leaders need to step up. My team already had the capability to work flexibly, because Arbuthnot Latham has been heavily investing in our technological capability over the past few years. When coronavirus hit, many were caught on the back foot, but fortunately our transition to remote working was seamless. Of course, it’s not the same as being in the office and meeting clients face-to-face, but we are coping well. In times like these, you have to take your team through the ‘change’ stages and communicate constantly with each other. We initially had to adapt to working in a new way, happily and safely. We also had to make sure we were delivering the same high level of service for our clients. I am proud of how my team reacted.
What are the future plans for the Exeter office?
Our aim is to provide the best possible private banking service in the South West and continue to grow organically. I have a dedicated and loyal team – and I feel very fortunate. The sense of community we have in the team and client-base is lovely, welcoming and rewarding. We are in a great place, but there is definitely room to grow.