Leadership talks to Carrick Wealth’s Craig Featherby
Carrick Wealth was originally registered with the Financial Services Board (South Africa) (FSB) on the 8th October 2014, with its Head Office based in Cape Town, to provide international financial planning advice pertaining to retirement/pension planning, offshore investments and trust structures. Basically, the company advises high-net-worth individuals on their offshore investment strategies.
“Almost two years ago, when we were planning the future of what would become Carrick Wealth (Pty) Ltd, in a hired office that had such bright white walls that we felt as though we were in an asylum, we recognised that there is currently a complete paradigm shift occurring within the Financial Services sector,” says Featherby. “In the old way, the interests of the advisor came first. Now there has been a shift towards being more client-focused, and the best interests of the client remain Carrick’s top priority. The selling tactics of the large direct sales forces in the market are out of date. The market is changing because buyers do not want to be pushed anymore, and, furthermore, ‘they know all of the old tricks’”. Carrick, he says, is not at all interested in replicating the business tactics of the existing industry “giants” or, in fact, the industry’s general business model, but is pioneering a diametrically opposite way of doing business at each level within the Group. Current results and feedback lead the company to believe it is doing just that.
He says Carrick is fortunate to have select directors and senior manage- ment in place as well as the support systems, the structure, its carefully considered policies and strategic procedures. “Our daily drive is to provide good, solid, thoroughly considered and researched advice to our valued clients so that we may be the best that we can be at all times,” says Featherby.
He says Carrick’s true success, however, lies in trust and teamwork. “A team that cannot trust each other implicitly isn’t really a team: it’s just a group of individuals working together, often making disappointing progress or fumbling unnecessarily, much the way a rugby team, for its success, needs to function as a tightly knit, goal-driven force. A poorly functioning team may not share information; they might battle over rights and responsibilities; they may not cooperate with one another or they may act in a passive-aggressive manner, withholding information for certain personal reasons. It doesn’t matter how capable or talented our people are: they may never reach their full potential if trust isn’t present at all times and at all levels,” he says.
However, when trust is in place and proven, each individual in the team becomes stronger, because he or she is part of an effective, cohe- sive group. When people trust one another, the group can achieve truly meaningful goals and free one another up from constantly having to look over one’s shoulder.
He observes that when one has such a great start to a business it is hard to expect anything else going forward. “However, in true Carrick style, we are expanding our African options and have made an application to the Capital Markets Authority in Kenya. East Africa represents a great opportunity for Carrick, and setting up a base in Nairobi will assist us to expand strategically into the entire region,” he adds.
The company’s Mauritius operation is now going at full speed. There it has a full complement of qualified advisors providing virtual global pension advice, which its licenses allow it to do.
“The existing offices continue to expand,” says Featherby. “One of the achievements that I am most proud of is the launch of our Development Academy, called ‘Invictus’. Ten individuals have been carefully selected from 38 applicants to be trained in three aspects: 1) Personal Ability 2) Professional Development and 3) Product Knowledge. These individuals will graduate from this programme and be known as the Super Advisors. “We want to be the financial advisory of choice, the employee’s com- pany of choice: we want it all! I have learned that ‘bigger is definitely not always better’. We remain a boutique advisory service for a niche market. “We currently have offices in Cape Town (Head Office), Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa as well as in Zimbabwe (Harare) and in Mauritius. All offices, as well as all advisors, are fully regulated and compliant with local legislation,” he says.
Certification is key to choosing the right professionals to guide you in investment and financial planning choices, he says, but it goes further than that: by ensuring that an advisor is officially certified, investors are afforded much more protection and safety rather than making investment decisions based on the initial brochure or sales pitch.
“At Carrick we have a team of 142 full-time staff members comprising financial advisors, training advisors, Academy members and support staff. In fact, I believe we have the very best support staff in the business.”
The services that the company offers can be broken down into three categories: Grow Your Wealth, Protect Your Wealth and Preserve Your Wealth.
Featherby says, “Previously, interests of the advisor superseded those of the client. The selling tactics of the large direct sales forces out in the market are out of date. Clients simply just do not want to be sold to anymore! And, therefore, the advisor really needs to step back and truly assess what exactly clients are wanting.
“Sound, researched advice from qualified financial advisors, coupled with great ongoing service from the company, makes Carrick the company that it is. I guess it sounds quite simple, but rarely do we see clients whom we have just commenced a relationship with speak highly of their existing or previous advisors.
“Technological and other changes will affect the wealth management industry and, therefore, Carrick has invested a considerable sum of money in technology in order for the client’s experience to become more efficient and more enjoyable. In fact, we have just purchased a technology company here in Cape Town to assist in the growing demand of techno- logical advancement.”
He says the bold step that Carrick has taken in setting up a truly virtual advisory business, providing pension transfer advice globally, is evidence that it will be on the right side of these momentous technological advances as they evolve.
He describes Carrick as a respected and service-driven firm of wealth and asset management specialists that prides itself on the high calibre of its professional team and which is matched seamlessly to the equally high expectations of its high-net-worth clients. “Therefore, at all times we have to be mindful of such expectations. These are important decisions which sometimes involve strong emotions and therefore we just cannot afford to get our processes wrong.
“Adhering to the legislation is of paramount importance to us, and working hand in hand with the regulators assists in our core objective of providing quality advice that will stand the test of time.
We have also been very fortunate in partnering with some very well- established, solid-trust companies, with life assurance companies as well as with global investment houses. These companies have been operating for years and have willingly shared their knowledge, experience and market foresight.”
Carrick had already attracted more than R2.5-billion worth of assets under management from 579 new clients and R390-million from clients who have come over from other brokerages.
Looking back at the company’s beginnings, Featherby says initially there were many naysayers “who took delight in saying that what we were setting out to achieve couldn’t be done. It took quite some determi- nation and self-belief to ignore these negative voices and challenges to our vision. As arrogant as it sounds, we set high expectations and then worked assiduously on achieving them.
“We worked so hard from the get-go, focusing on large issues and on minutiae too. We believed that everything mattered, and often found our- selves too exhausted or preoccupied to celebrate what we had achieved. “At a personal level I have learnt that those whom I once trusted turned out not to have had my best interests at heart, and so now I make a conscious effort to value those who have stood by me and who continue to support me. In business, it’s never ‘just business’: it’s always personal!”
He says, in business at Carrick, “We try to be innovative leaders in our field, maintaining high standards, fostering respect, integrity and profes- sionalism. Our creed is that none of us is as great as all of us. As such, we believe that the defining attribute of a true leader is the propensity to leverage influence and available resources to effect positive change for the greater good.”
Carrick’s top management, says Featherby, has always invested in philanthropic endeavours and engaged its staff, clients and the general public in these where possible. “We believe that our creating and sup- porting the Signature of Hope Trust is one endeavour that is making a difference at a local level.
“Partners are not added for the sake of simply expanding the offering. We take on partners when we have a desire to meet a specific need in our client’s investment portfolios. Once we have selected a potential partner, we undertake extensive due diligence before proceeding to terms of business with them. This will include detailed information regarding the ownership and management of the company, a thorough understanding of the entire product offering, details of their regulatory licences, financials, and references from third parties and banking institutions. Once we have obtained this information, we cross-reference it with other third parties in order to confirm the information.”
Carrick has agency agreements with many large reputable companies who are fully regulated in the countries in which they operate. Asked what is at the heart of the Carrick brand, he says, “Given that we are captains of industry, ‘integrity’ at Carrick features more prominently than any other quality. It is the cornerstone of our business. Events in recent times have been a strong reminder of the importance of demonstrating honesty, transparency and fairness in business activities.
Transparency, in all matters of business, is non-negotiable, says Featherby. “The expectation of transparency has extended beyond our personal interactions – it is now a reality in business. Carrick embraces transparency as it gives us a chance to improve ourselves and to increase client loyalty. Transparency improves our productivity, employee morale and our company culture. We use the same transparency in decision-making within our business.”