Carrick Wealth, today, enters its sixth year of operations with a substantial growth in assets under management and client numbers. Along the way, it and CEO Craig Featherby have picked up a number of accolades and international awards.
Carrick Wealth CEO Craig Featherby, speaking at the company’s anniversary celebrations said anyone who has started a successful business never forgets the early days.
“When I launched Carrick Wealth, with a handful of colleagues in 2014, we operated out of a one-room office in Cape Town,” he said. “We all knew we were entering a tough market place, that we would be swimming with big and voracious fish, and that we had to succeed. Of course, knowing all that was no guarantee we would.”
But succeed it did. Within two and half years, in 2017, it was recognised as a respected, full-fledged boutique financial institution, with more than 180 employees. Carrick had established five additional, fully operational advisory offices in Johannesburg, Durban, Gaborone, and Port Louis in Mauritius. The client base had grown by 135% from 525 in 2015, to 1 235 in 2017.
There were setbacks, admitted Featherby. In that year, the company only achieved an annual 10% growth in assets under management (AUM) compared to the 50% growth between 2015 and 2016.
Yet this was also the year that Carrick set its sights on a bigger target, not just in terms of AUM and numbers of clients, but geographically. In 2017, it launched “Carrick 20/20: Opportunity Africa”, a business strategy to spread our footprint into the rest of Africa.
As Featherby noted, again, questions were asked. From the euphoric praise-singing of Africa’s future in 2010, the dream, five years later, seemed to be fading. Africa’s average GDP went from 4.9% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2015. Some alarmists said the decline was irreversible.
“Our long-term projections, however, were positive for several reasons,” he said. “We looked at the figures and realised that the decline in GDP in the continent’s largest economies — including Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Angola — had dragged down the average. But others — Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe — had all showed an increase in GDP.”
Also, these countries were experiencing the fastest urbanisation of any region in the world.
“It wasn’t rocket science to realise cities are key to capturing Africa’s consumer opportunity,” he added.
By 2019, Carrick Wealth was fully operational in 4 countries and we are about to launch both our USA and UK operations. We service 1 709 clients as compared with 525 in 2015 (a phenomenal 225% increase) and our AUM now sits at more than ₤300-million (with a projected 2019 end-of-year figure of ₤329m).
Talking about the growth in “client numbers”, however, glosses over the fact Carrick is where it is because of those clients who trusted an enthusiastic start-up to help them make the most of their wealth.
“We owe it to them, and those who followed,” said Featherby.
This is Carrick’s brand identity. Carrick, from day one, instilled a culture that genuinely cared about the people it worked with and whose financial value it enhanced.
“We listen to our clients, to their differing needs and requirements to assess individual situations, and establish the care required for all aspects of their lives,” said the CEO. “And we have been rewarded for this. We thank each one of our clients for the trust they placed in us, and for their continuing support.”
Carrick, entering its sixth year of operations, has always understood that strategy was not something from which you see the results in the short term. It has always been about what Featherby calls “building momentum”. He stressed it takes tremendous effort and progress was sometimes slow and difficult. The transformation from a start-up to a successful business, he said, rarely happens with the “first push” and there is seldom a defining moment along the way – it is about pushing continuously.
“There are moments when you realise you are doing something right,” he said. “For example, in 2018 we won, for the third consecutive year, the prestigious International Adviser Best Practice Adviser Award in the category for Excellence in Business Strategy.” He went on to point out in 2017, the company won in the categories Excellence in Client Service and Excellence in Marketing and Client Engagement, and the year before scooped honours in the categories for Excellence in Business Transformation and Excellence in Investment Planning.
“When your company takes home annual awards, recognised as some of the international financial advisory industry’s most outstanding honours, you realise you have come a long way from that small office in Cape Town,” he said.
When we were ranked second to veteran industry giant, Investec, in this year’s Wealthy Executives category of the Intellidex Top Private Banks & Wealth Managers Awards, it’s ample confirmation that Carrick was effectively and efficiently implementing its business strategy.
Also, Craig Featherby was ranked in the top 100 most influential people in International Financial services in 2018 and 2019.
Apart from the accolades, the numbers speak for themselves. But, above all, the sole purpose of its business was its clients. They have trusted Carrick to provide solutions to their problems. Yet, it is the harsh reality of the financial services sector that clients are only willing to pay for the level and complexity of the problem that you can solve today, and they are only willing to continue paying, based on your ability to continue doing so.
“Every financial services provider knows this,” said Featherby. “To simply address this, creates no real differential advantage between the competition and us.”
Carrick approached the issue differently. It knew all financial service providers (FSP) faced global political, economic, and market uncertainty and volatility. It knew they all came up against governments that were looking to generate additional tax revenues and were specifically targeting high net worth individuals (HNWI), who were at the core of the business. These were two market factors over which the FSPs had no control.
“What we do control — and what we have managed to do successfully — was to recognise what our clients wanted most of all, was an efficient, easy to understand, cost-effective, compliant, and performing solution to their financial strategy and wealth management,” he said.
This was the heart of the company’s success. Featherby was quick to point out that none of it would have been possible without the disciplined and principled team that is Carrick Wealth. Carrick, he explained, had built a core team of experts and wealth specialists who have been with the business from the beginning, and to which it was continually adding members, through focused recruitment, The Carrick Development Academy (CDA) — a graduate development programme — and on-going training and development, professional and personal. Core team members have a stake in their personal as well as the firm’s success. This was done through tiered remuneration models and our Departure Enrichment Agreement (DEA), a “book-buy-back” model to create long-term annuity revenue for the advisor as well as the firm.
“There will always be obstacles in this journey,” he explained “But, we have the vision to set new standards in financial planning and advice. We believe Carrick must be part of the solution to the problems of transparency in the market place and distrust of financial institutions and be at the vanguard of establishing a viable and trustworthy equity culture in Africa.”
To achieve this the company did three things. First, its clients’ investments had to grow.
“Wealth needed to work hard simply to retain its value, so we must work harder to grow it,” said Featherby.
Second, Carrick protected its clients’ investments, and ensured their future financial stability. And, thirdly, it set out to preserve their clients’ financial legacy and integrity.
Featherby ended the address, saying, “I can say with confidence we have achieved these three goals. And I can say with equal confidence, we shall continue to grow, protect, and preserve our existing clients’ wealth as well as those in the future.”