Looking back… and forward – thoughts from 2021

As we head towards to end of the year, David Pugh our CEO-elect reflects on our experiences as a Group, and the impact of the past months on both our clients and our team, with a look ahead at what’s planned for next year and beyond.

Reporting on a successful year always feels a little uncomfortable to me – there’s a hard-to-avoid risk of smugness and complacency, and an even harder-to-avoid risk of rubbing salt in the wounds of anyone who may have been disappointed in any way in their dealings with us.

This year it feels even more uncomfortable than usual.  I’m aware that many people connected with our firm have been having a horrible time, in many cases (though not all) thanks to Covid.  It’s been particularly tough for a lot of clients and colleagues based in Asia, many of whom have been cut off from families and friends back here in the UK and by now are thoroughly fed up with communicating with loved ones by Zoom and Teams screens.

Covid has had its destructive effects on many people and in other ways too. The damage done to the businesses of some clients, in particularly hard-hit fields, has been serious.  The seemingly endless disruption of families’ lives and routines also takes a toll:  a close friend’s daughter’s wedding has now been postponed three times in two years.

But having said all that, there’s no denying that at The Fry Group – I say this as modestly as I can – we’ve had a successful year.

What do I mean by this?  Well, first and foremost, we’ve been able to provide tax, estate and financial planning advice to many clients both long-standing and new, helping them to achieve their version of financial freedom. In a world that’s even more complex and unsettling, there are all sorts of reasons why people feel the need for this type of support from a firm like ours.

Many of the most satisfying developments of 2021 have involved reinforcing The Fry Group’s foundations to help ensure continued success into the future, so that we can continue to provide each and every client with an excellent service which remains relevant and exceeds expectations.

The first is our introduction of CURO; a new technology ecosystem for the business. New technology is key to our future and we will continue to invest significantly to deliver the best possible experience to engage with our team and clients more effectively.

At the same time, as you may remember if you’ve read my previous blogs, we’ve invested heavily in the wellbeing of our team, and in helping everyone to move towards a better work/home balance. We have some work to do to make sure all the team have manageable workloads and we are absolutely committed to providing this. There are all sorts of reasons why that’s a good and right thing to do, but frankly one of them is that becoming an employer of choice makes it easier to recruit and retain the very best people in our field. Some 25 new people have joined us this year, and I’m sure recruitment will continue to be a key challenge.

For a combination of reasons, we were also very pleased to sign up to the government’s Women in Finance initiative this year, which commits us to aiming to achieve a significantly better gender balance by 2025.

And as I explained in a previous column, we also decided to begin the process of accrediting The Fry Group as a B-Corp – an international certification scheme that recognises businesses that are balancing purpose and profit, to build a diverse and sustainable future.

Every year, the FT (Financial Times) Group’s Financial Adviser magazine produces a ranking of the UK’s top 100 financial advice firms, and I’m very proud to say that this year, out of the many thousands of advice firms, we were ranked fifth.  I’d like to think that this reflects the fact that we’re good at what we do – wealth management – but also that we’re determined to behave well as a business, recognising our responsibilities to all our stakeholders.

Right now, we’re working on a strategic plan to shape the course of our next five years. Some would say that in today’s world this is a mug’s game, and I have to admit that you won’t find the word “pandemic” in the last plan, written five years ago.  Still, as I frequently say to clients with their own financial planning, just because a plan is sure to need revising over time, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to have one.  Growing as a business, and growing in the range of ways we want to, doesn’t happen by chance.  I look forward to sharing some highlights of the new plan with you in due course.

Meanwhile, I should close by wishing you Season’s Greetings and perhaps a rather less peculiar 2022.