Meet the Man powering the New Wave of Advice – illuminate profile
July 27, 2018 - 5 minutes read
Posted by Claire Parker
In another life, in a parallel universe, Adam Carolan could have been a professional cricketer. Or an investment banker. Or an actuary. He could have even turned his back on financial advice altogether.
Luckily for the profession, none of those things came to pass. Together with Postcard Planning director Rohan Sivajoti, Adam is spearheading a movement to bring together the brightest and the best younger financial planners. Through NextGen Planners, a growing community of like-minded professionals has been built to share best practice, develop and grow.
Adam’s route into advice was a long and winding one. His prowess at cricket helped get him into Durham University, but he decided early on that he would enjoy the student lifestyle far too much to take cricket seriously. Instead, following a long-held interest in all things money related, Adam chose to study business finance.
When he was 21 his father passed away. This led to Adam cutting short his degree to come home and help run the family business – a network of sandwich shops in and around Manchester, as well as some property interests. He then returned to university to finish the final year of his degree.
He says: “I then went to do investment banking in London, and hated it. I hated the whole environment; it was really greed-orientated, really aggressive. So I came back and lived with my mum. I went to so many interviews and they all said I was far too overqualified, that my degree was ‘too good’. I laugh with my wife about this now – I got down to the final two at Mercers for an actuarial role. I’m so grateful I didn’t get that job.”
Moving to Xentum
Adam’s first job was in sales support at Aegon, before moving into a trainee adviser role at Manchester-based firm Dewhurst Torevell. After being made redundant during the financial crisis, he was taken on by Xentum founder and managing director Dominic Baldwin.
“What was great was I hit every area of the business, from marketing to HR. We did everything together and there was no hierarchy, it was very much team-based. As the business has grown, it’s benefited from all our different skill sets. From the small team that was there when I joined, we’re all still together 10 years on.”
Adam’s career path at Xentum has gone from a graduate role to paraplanning, to becoming an adviser, and two years ago becoming a director and shareholder. The business is now looking at its succession plan, with the management team set to buy more equity in the company.
“If you don’t engage the next generation, they just leave, because there’s no relationship there. We’ve since learned from that and have attracted young accumulators with good wealth.”
He has also played a key role in helping to evolve Xentum into a more future-proof advice firm. Adam explains there are now two sides of the business. There is the more traditional client book made of public sector workers, widows and older clients, and Xentum also specialises in divorce planning. Then there is the side that Adam focuses on of looking after younger business owners, particularly in the creative and digital sectors. He says the twin-track approach works well, with the traditional side of the business continuing to attract referrals, while the entrepreneur specialism benefits from the burgeoning Manchester technology scene.
“The issue we had was when we sat down and did the statistics about four or five years ago, we had quite an elderly client bank. We had quite a bad year where, to put it bluntly, clients were either dying or were making a power of attorney, and we hadn’t seen it coming. If you don’t engage the next generation [of clients’ children], they just leave, because there’s no relationship there.
“We’ve since learned from that and have attracted young accumulators with good wealth. There’s some really exciting entrepreneurs we’re working with which has brought the average age of clients down dramatically. We just think from an outside perspective it also makes our business more valuable.”
The birth of NextGen Planners
Even before NextGen Planners was founded, it’s clear Adam was driven. He is a fellow of the Personal Finance Society, and at the time was one of the youngest to achieve this. He admits he has an “addictive personality”, which saw him complete around 14 exams over a five-year period.
But around the same time, being an adviser started to lose its lustre. Adam says as a young adviser he felt like a rarity among the crowd of middle-aged men. “I had to create a company to get away from that. It was horrible. I look back and I can’t imagine what it would have been like for a young female coming into such a male-dominated industry. You go into a room and feel completely out of place. I remember the first couple of years were really difficult. I would go to events for CPD, and it was almost like: ‘What are you doing here?’
“I didn’t feel comfortable in the profession. I was listening to the same old stories, and was really disillusioned reading the comments in the adviser trade press. It didn’t feel like a great environment to be part of. It also felt like I didn’t have many peers, like there wasn’t that many of ‘me’. I’ve since found a lot more people like me, so it’s funny how that has evolved. But at the time it felt like quite a closed industry, like I was being shoehorned into a certain way of doing things. I’ve got to say, if NextGen Planners didn’t happen, I probably wouldn’t be in this profession.”
What compounded that sense of disillusionment was what had happened to Adam’s late father. Last month he told delegates at the sell-out NextGen Planners conference how his father was advised to transfer out of his defined benefit pension scheme, only for the adviser to go into liquidation and his father to lose almost £195,500 of his pension pot. Just £48,000 was recouped from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
“It’s a really difficult situation to be in when you’re a financial adviser and you’re having to explain to your mother what’s happened. It took me a while to deal with that. I thought, ‘I don’t really want to be an adviser anymore’ because I didn’t want to associate myself with those kind of people.
“But then I felt I had put too much work in through my exams to get to where I was, to then turn around and give it all up. I started to reach out to other people, and one of those people was Rohan.”