Anyone who has started a successful business never forgets the early days. When I launched Carrick Wealth, with a handful of colleagues in 2014 we operated out of a one-room office in Cape Town. We all knew we were entering a tough market place, that we would be swimming with big and voracious fish, and that we had to succeed. Of course, knowing all that was no guarantee we would.
But we did. Within two and a half years, in 2017, we were recognised as a respected, full-fledged boutique financial institution, with more than 180 employees. We had established five additional, fully operational advisory offices in Johannesburg, Durban, Gaborone, and Port Louis in Mauritius. Our client base had grown by 135% from 525 in 2015, to 1 235 in 2017.
There were setbacks. In that year, we only achieved an annual 10% growth in assets under management (AUM) compared to the 50% growth between 2015 and 2016.
Yet this was also the year we set our selves a bigger target, not just in terms of AUM and numbers of clients, but geographically. In 2017, we launched Carrick 20/20: Opportunity Africa, a business strategy to spread our footprint into the rest of Africa.
Again, questions were asked. From the euphoric praise-singing of Africa’s future in 2010, the dream, five years later, seemed to be fading. Africa’s average GDP went from 4.9% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2015. Some alarmists said the decline was irreversible.
Our long-term projections, however, were positive for several reasons. We looked at the figures and realised that the decline in GDP in the continent’s largest economies — including Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Angola — had dragged down the average. But others — Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe — had all showed an increase in GDP. Also, these countries were experiencing the fastest urbanisation of any region in the world. It wasn’t rocket science to realise cities are key to capturing Africa’s consumer opportunity.
By 2019, Carrick Wealth was fully operational in 4 countries and we are about to launch both our USA and UK operations. We service 1 709 clients as compared with 525 in 2015 (a phenomenal 225% increase) and our AUM now sits at more than ₤300-million (with a projected 2019 end-of-year figure of ₤329m).
Talking about the growth in “client numbers”, however, glosses over the fact we are where we are because of those clients who trusted an enthusiastic start-up to help them make the most of their wealth. We owe it to them, and those who followed.
This is our brand identity. Carrick, from day one, instilled a culture that genuinely cared about the people we work with and whose financial value we enhance. We listen to our clients, to their differing needs and requirements to assess individual situations, and establish the care required for all aspects of their lives. And we have been rewarded for this. We thank each one of our clients for the trust they placed in us, and for their continuing support.
Carrick is entering its sixth year of operations. We have always understood that strategy is not something from which you see the results in the short term. Ours has always been about building momentum. It takes tremendous effort and progress is sometimes slow and difficult. The transformation from a start-up to a successful business rarely happens with the “first push” and there is seldom a defining moment along the way – it is about pushing continuously.
There are moments when you realise you are doing something right. For example, in 2018 we won, for the third consecutive year, the prestigious International Adviser Best Practice Adviser Award in the category for Excellence in Business Strategy. Or when, in 2017, we won in the categories Excellence in Client Service and Excellence in Marketing and Client Engagement, and the year before scooped honours in the categories for Excellence in Business Transformation and Excellence in Investment Planning.
When you take home annual awards, recognised as some of the international financial advisory industry’s most outstanding honours, you realise you have come a long way from that small office in Cape Town. When we were ranked second to veteran industry giant, Investec, in this year’s Wealthy Executives category of the Intellidex Top Private Banks & Wealth Managers Awards, it confirmed that we were effectively and efficiently implementing our business strategy.
Apart from the accolades, the numbers speak for themselves. But, above all, the sole purpose of our business is our clients. They trust Carrick to provide solutions to their problems. Yet, it is the harsh reality of the financial services sector that clients are only willing to pay for the level and complexity of the problem that you can solve today, and they are only willing to continue paying, based on your ability to continue doing so. Every financial services provider knows this. To simply address this, creates no real differential advantage between the competition and us.
So at Carrick, we approached the issue differently. We know all financial service providers face global political, economic, and market uncertainty and volatility. We all come up against governments that are looking to generate additional tax revenues and are specifically targeting high net worth individuals (HNWI), who are at the core of our businesses. These are two market factors over which we have no control.
What we do control — and what we have managed to do successfully — was to recognise what our clients wanted most of all, was an efficient, easy to understand, cost-effective, compliant, and performing solution to their financial strategy and wealth management.
This is the heart of our success. However, none of it would be possible without the disciplined and principled team that is Carrick Wealth. Carrick has built a core team of experts and wealth specialists who have been with the business from the beginning, and to which we are continually adding member through focused recruitment. Core team members have a stake in their personal as well as the firm’s success. This is done through tiered remuneration models and our Departure Enrichment Agreement (DEA), a “book-buy-back” model to create long-term annuity revenue for the advisor as well as the firm.
There will always be obstacles in this journey. But, we have the vision to set new standards in financial planning and advice. We believe Carrick must be part of the solution to the problems of transparency in the market place and distrust of financial institutions and be at the vanguard of establishing a viable and trustworthy equity culture in Africa.
To achieve this we must do three things. First, our clients’ investments must grow. Wealth needs to work hard simply to retain its value, so we must work harder to grow it. Second, we must protect our clients’ investments, and ensure their future financial stability. And, thirdly, we must preserve our clients’ financial legacy and integrity.
I can say with confidence we have achieved this. And I can say with equal confidence, we shall continue to grow, protect, and preserve our existing clients’ wealth as well as those in the future.