Steven Pyne is Holden & Partners’ managing partner and one of the original founders back in 2003. We asked him to reflect on the 20 year anniversary of Holden & Partners.

What do you remember about setting up Holden & Partners?

It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago this year that Holden & Partners sprung into life. I don’t feel 20 years older, but maybe some of the photos from the time give it away. It was a very exciting time.

Holden & Partners in 2003: Steve Pyne, Tim Cosway, Peter Holden, Mark Pate, Mark Hoskin, Tony McCormick

A few eyebrows were raised when we set up. Anyone looking at ethical and sustainable investing today might be surprised at what a risk setting up a business which had this area so close to its heart was back then. A leading industry firm at the time was quoted in the press saying ‘I don’t think a brokerage firm setting up at this time will fair particularly well’. Happily, I think we can say that Holden & Partners has more than stood the test of time!

What are you most proud of in the last 20 years?

Cultivating our client relationships. We have many clients who have been with us for over fifteen years, and we are now working with second and even third generations of the same family. Intergenerational planning helps us to take advising to a different level and to really understand what is important to a family. Its interesting to observe how the priorities change between generations. Sustainable investing is very high up the priority list for many of our younger clients.

Being trailblazers in sustainability. We knew that sustainable and ethical investment was important back in 2003. For us it made financial and environmental sense, although that sounds smug now. At the time it was a gamble to set out our stall as a sustainable firm and now that it is more mainstream, we will always be proud that we were at the forefront and have continued to lead the way by championing the cause and being among the first to become a B Corporation. Our approach has always been about offering clients a choice of how to invest without being evangelical or judgmental.

Maintaining our independence. There has been significant consolidation in the market, but we have always maintained that being independent is the only way to ensure we are guiding our clients with their best interests determining our advice. Holden & Partners is now one of very few remaining truly independent (both in terms of investment proposition and ownership) wealth management firms of mid/large size.

How have you seen the industry change?

Demand for sustainable investment. When we started out there was a limited understanding of what sustainable investing was. For many it was seen as something akin to philanthropy and some coverage in newspapers would be illustrated with a person hugging a tree (literally), for me that says it all about where the perception was back then. Demand and awareness has grown, slowly at first, and then picking up pace significantly over the last five years. Of course, the ever-increasing frequency of freak weather events and the impact of Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough’s fantastic documentaries have all contributed to the rise in awareness.

Availability of funds. Back in 2002 there was a very limited selection of investment offerings. Holden & Partners invested in the Ventus Venture Capital Trust in 2009 which raised and invested £50 million in very small companies/enterprises which generated renewable energy. This investment performed exceptionally well for clients and demonstrated how sustainable investment and positive returns could go hand in hand.

Greenwashing. The term didn’t exist back in 2003, but the double-edged sword of more sustainable products is those funds that are badged and marketed as ‘green’ where there is little or dubious evidence to support their claims. Regulation is going to be the key in helping to define and describe what is sustainable and what is not. The regulatory burden on the investment sector is heavy, but when it comes to greenwashing it is the only way to ensure we sift the truth from the spin for clients.

How do you see the future?

Regulation. This year alone we are set to see the impact of two major FCA sets of rules in the UK – those around Consumer Duty and Sustainability Disclosure Requirements. Both sets of regulations will help to put client outcomes first and foremost, so they are undoubtedly positive steps. For good firms this of course should come naturally however much of Consumer Duty will be about monitoring and recording client outcomes through improved processes.

Interpreting and implementing new regulations can be time consuming, but our size and independent status mean that we can be fleet of foot in adopting new standards. The downside is the increased costs firms face. These new areas of regulation will shape the advice sector for many years to come.

Sustainability. Choosing the right sustainable investments today is exactly that, a choice, but as we move through the next 20 years, it is quite conceivable that sustainable investing will become completely mainstream and the accepted norm. We may be nearing the point where clients and firms have to opt out of a sustainable approach. The risk will then sit with those who have failed to embrace the need for change.

Well-being and staying true to what really matters. Maybe this is more of a personal hope than a trend, but I believe we are becoming more tuned in to values, well-being and what makes individuals happy rather than sticking to fixed, linear goals that might not lead us down the happiest path. More advisers are now talking to clients in a less binary way and asking, ‘what does happiness mean for you both now and in the future?’.

The financial goals we set are important of course but aligning them with what truly makes you tick as an individual is the ultimate aim. We all need to work out the balance that makes us fulfilled today in line with what we need to make us happy in the future, the exact formula is different for everyone and may change over time, and our plans need to allow for that.

What motivates you?

It’s been the same since day one. Doing the best I can for our clients, our business, and our staff. And of course, our planet. Ultimately, its about building a business we can all be proud of which has the right values and is always looking forward.

20 years ago, I didn’t have a wife and family to think about so life was simpler. Now there is never a dull moment and I’m very lucky to have a supportive wife and three lovely children. The biggest challenge is balancing my time… that can be difficult, but it’s a good problem to have.

To anyone who has been part of the Holden & Partners journey so far, team members, clients and industry partners; thank you for helping us to reach this milestone. Here’s to the next 20!

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