A WEALTH manager targeting further Scottish expansion has shrugged off the oil downturn that has struck Aberdeen, claiming “life events” such as redundancy can trigger new business that is best served by a local presence.
Tilney Bestinvest, which has more than £9 billion under management and about 400 staff in the UK, including nearly 50 at two offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, flagged its intentions in 2014 to look for an office in Aberdeen or Inverness rather than continuing to serve its strong customer base in Perthshire and the Scottish islands from the Central Belt.
Since then, the oil price downturn has led to thousands of redundancies in Aberdeen and the surrounding areas, leading businesses across many sectors to pull in their horns as regards acquisitions.
But Paul Frame, head of Tilney Bestinvest’s Scottish arm, said the group had not abandoned its favoured route for expansion in the region, through buying a business together with an established financial planning or investment management team.
“It’s not through lack of trying. We have spoken to about four Scottish businesses, mainly in financial planning but one in financial investment,” Frame said. “The difficulty we find is that it is not just about acquiring a business, but getting the culture right, finding people of like-minds.”
However, he added that the knock-on impact on the north- eastern Scottish economy from the massive cutbacks in the North Sea energy industry amid declining oil prices could be a blessing in disguise.
“Generally the economic cycle does not really impact us,” he said. “But the opportunity [in the likes of Aberdeen] has not changed, quite the opposite.
“It sounds slightly perverse, but you need advice when there are life events. This could be marriage, other family events, business deals, points of extreme challenge.
“Unfortunately, redundancy also qualifies as a life event. There have been tens of thousands of redundancies in the oil industry and it has had a major impact. But our business is around life cycles, and absolutely does not change our plans.
“When people have a big change of circumstances regarding their job, that’s when the need for good financial advice is most necessary.”
Other Scottish cities Tilney Bestinvest has targeted for expansion despite the current depressed North Sea climate include Dundee and Perth, Frame said.
Less advantageous for the company, he said, was the downturn in the Aberdeen property market in the wake of the energy malaise.
He said people often downsized residential property to release capital for things like inheritance tax planning, and “sitting on their hands” until confidence returned was a positive for the financial services sector.