Wise Investment

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Wise Investment is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Highlighting best practice
Alexandra Rae, CEO
Based in rural Oxfordshire, having recently celebrated their
25thanniversary, Wise Investment is a company looking after
private individuals by offering a full financial planning and
investment management service. For them, the big picture must
always be in sight, because most of their clients are long-term.
Indeed, the majority have been catered to by Wise for many years.
Equally long-term is their investment horizon and strategy. What
follows is CEO Alexandra Rae’s word on the matter.
Who we are
I joined Wise Investment as an administrator in the year 2000 when there were six
of us in the company. In many ways, we are the same business as then, but it’s also
true to say that a lot has changed in the meantime, within both Wise and the wider
industry. I had the privilege of being asked to take on the role of CEO around two
years ago, having previously worked in various roles within the business.
We are part of the Oak Investment Partnership, which includes the fund management
businesses Evenlode and Wise Funds. Our founder, Tony Yarrow, was looking at
options for succession planning some years ago. Remaining independent in the
sense of ownership was a key consideration, as we’ve always felt this is the best
way forward for the people working here as well as our clients. It was decided that
becoming an employee-owned business was the most attractive option, and five
years ago this became a reality.
Under our new structure, our shareholders (“partners” as we call them) are all the
people who work in the business. This is a powerful model in terms of engagement
from staff as well as that of accountability. The people who work at Wise Investment
know that it is the decisions we make that will shape the future of the business. And
this in turn means that our clients know that the people they deal with are the people
who are accountable and responsible for the business.
We and the other businesses in the Oak Investment Partnership are owned under
an employee benefit trust. This is the “John Lewis model” and is an unusual
ownership structure for any business, but particularly so for a financial services
company. However, awareness of this form of ownership is increasing with the
support of government legislation as well as bodies such as the Employee Ownership
Association. Employee ownership is not a fit-all model, but it is certainly something
that more financial services companies should consider, especially those where
owners are considering what their succession plan might be.
The path ahead
We’ve grown steadily over the last 25 years, all through referrals from existing clients
rather than any active marketing. We continue to believe this is a high-quality way
to grow the business, as it functions as proxy feedback on how well we’re treating
our clients. However, we’re now moving ahead with a plan to grow the business
»CEO: Alexandra Rae
»Established in 1992
»Based in Chipping Norton,
»No. of employees: 33
»We manage around
£300million for our clients,
who span the UK
Wise Investment
We look after
our clients for
the long term
so that they
have the
freedom to do
the things that
interest them
in a more deliberate manner and are
starting to consider how we market our
business and services going forward.
The main reason we are considering
growing the business at a faster rate
is that we recognise the necessity of a
scalable business and of being a size
where we have enough people to deal
with areas such as compliance and IT,
particularly in the context of increasing
regulation. We also need a dedicated
management team to complement the
team of financial planners and advice
support staff.
Attracting and retaining people in
the business is key for us as well as
for other smaller financial services
companies. Having consistency in staff
is something that is truly valued by our
clients. Investing in our staff is therefore
key to our business. We want good
people to be attracted to coming to
work here and we work hard to ensure
that existing people stay.
The younger generation of potential
employees and clients are also attracted
by companies that are about more than
just a service or product. They want
to know that the business that deals
with their financial future also has an
ethos that aligns with their own. Having
an employee-ownership structure is
valued by our clients and staff. I think it
will become increasingly valued as the
younger generation become our staff
and clients.
Our working environment
We’re based in the countryside and
plan to remain here. A few of our
recent senior recruits have come here
having previously worked in London,
with a view to striking a better work-
life balance. Attracting people in
specialised roles therefore has not been
as difficult as we anticipated. Being out
here overlooking fields from our office
window and taking our office dog,
Griff, for a walk at lunchtime means we
have the space to think.
We offer a generous benefits package
including life insurance, income
protection, pension, volunteer days
and a generous training allowance for
everyone in the business. We are keen to
develop the people who work here, and
even though the company is relatively
small, many people (including myself)
have moved through several roles.
Diversity among the people who work
here is also key. As a younger female
CEO it is very obvious that I stand out
and this is something that I strongly feel
needs to change. The financial services
industry and its clients would benefit
from having a more diverse workforce
in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and
We also offer a flexible working
environment and enhanced policies for
maternity and paternity leave. In fact,
we offer the same enhanced policy to
both mothers and fathers. This means
we’re giving the same opportunities
to males and females in the business,
which should encourage a more equal
workforce in the longer term. A lot of
the things we have implemented are
not expensive, but they nevertheless
make a big long-term difference in
terms of staff retention.
Another area that I think is particularly
important to us as an employee-owned
business is openness with regards to
our future business planning and the
financials. We discuss business planning
openly and everyone in the business is
encouraged to think about the future
strategic direction of the business. This
transparency with our financials entails
a monthly company meeting to discuss
the business plan and budget in relation
to the accounts.
At the end of the day we operate in
the same way as most other businesses.
We have a board of directors and a
management team, and decisions are
ultimately made in the same way as
other businesses would make them.
However, being employee-owned
means we have our shareholders
within the business and their input is
Being employee-
owned means our
interests are aligned
with those of our
The people who
work at Wise
know that it is
the decisions we
make that will
shape the future
of the business


This article was sponsored by Wise Investment. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.