CEO Jamie Shepperd has spelt out Courtiers’ long-term succession plan, which he believes will maintain its family ethos and culture and benefit employees, clients and shareholders alike, by providing them with as much certainty as possible over the company’s future direction.
While two thirds of the UK’s small and medium-sized firms have no succession plan, Jamie explains that succession planning has long been on the agenda at Courtiers. “We first started talking about it in 2012, and then actually started to implement it legally in 2017,” he says.
“When you look at Courtiers, it’s been very successful for our clients, it’s been very successful for our employees and it’s been very successful for the Shepperd family, Gary Reynolds and Cath Reynolds. We’re just the custodians of that asset.”
There are a number of reasons why succession planning is important for Courtiers, says Jamie. “We needed a destination point to be able to focus on as a business and for all the employees in the company,” he explains. “Quite rightly they want to know if they should invest their future hours, days, years and their careers with us.” It’s not only important for employees, but also for the company’s main shareholders – Jamie himself, his wife Anne-Marie, Gary and Cath Reynolds. “They need to know where their destiny is, and what their objectives are. We’re now in our 50s and 60s and we wanted to know what’s ahead of us.”
It’s also important for Courtiers clients, many of whom have entrusted their wealth with the company for as long as 15, 20 and 30 years. “They want to know that we’re going to be there for the long term on their journey. And not only for their journey, but that we’re going to be there for their children’s and their grandchildren’s journeys in the future.”
This focus on the long term also ensures that the interests of the company, its shareholders and its clients are aligned. “We are long-term investors, our clients are long-term investors. When our clients’ wealth goes up our wealth goes up and when our wealth goes down clients’ wealth goes down.”
So, what exactly is the plan? It starts with building “a very strong” senior management team responsible for running the business on a day-to-day basis, Jamie explains. This team is constantly evolving and improving as it gains more experience and new people are brought in to strengthen it.
Alongside this, the plan involves ensuring that the next generation of the Shepperd and Reynolds families have the necessary skills and experience to move into more senior leadership roles, eventually taking over from Jamie and Gary.
Jake, now Head of Asset Management, “left a promising career at Schroders,” before coming to Courtiers, which Jamie adds, “was his ambition”. Declan, an Adviser, is a member of the Private Client Team at Courtiers and last year he qualified as a Chartered Financial Planner.
Courtney, part of the Brand & Communication Team, “just loves what she does, and will evolve her career.” “It’s not just handed to them, they have to work as anybody else has. They haven’t had an easy ride.”
Having this invaluable experience working in the business under their belts, will prepare the younger members of the Shepperd and Reynolds families to take on more senior roles over time. Gaby will step up to be CFO of the Group Company overseeing all the finance and fund accounting.
Declan will continue to work as an Adviser for the next five years before shadowing Jamie for a further five years. At this point he will take on Jamie’s role as CEO, and Jamie will become Chairman of the company.
Jamie explains that Jake, who is already five years into ‘his apprenticeship’, still has “10 years more to do” before he takes over from Gary as Chief Investment Officer.
Jamie says he’s confident that when it comes to passing on the baton, the management style that has worked successfully over many years will “rub off” on those that succeed himself and Gary, although he recognises the benefits of “fresh ideas” that those taking over will inevitably bring.
He is aware of the argument that companies should appoint the best person for the job rather than because they are a member of a family that owns the company. “That’s a view,” he says. However, he maintains that being a family firm is central to Courtiers’ identity and DNA, and that were it not to continue as a family firm, “it would lose its essence and become just another company.”
Courtiers’ values, as well as its culture, “are embedded in the two families” that own the business, he says, and passing the leadership and eventually the ownership of the company to the next generation is the best way to ensure that these are maintained and that the company remains true to its original ethos.
“The key thing that will always remain is staying true to those core values and delivering a fantastic client experience.”
Although the idea of selling Courtiers to outside investors has been considered in the past, and the company “is not short of offers on good multiples,” Jamie says this is a non-starter. “It’s just not what we want to do. We have too much ambition for what we want to achieve with Courtiers.”
For Jamie there are massive benefits to retaining family ownership and not having outside investors. “We can turn around and say, ‘Right this is what we are going to do in 5, 10 and 30 years’ time.’ We can actually set long-term objectives and follow through on them. There is not going to be a sudden change of strategy.
“We can play the long game as opposed to we’ve got to deliver these results in three years and we intend to exercise our share options. That’s just not us.”
This provides employees with a degree of certainty over the long-term direction of the company and gives them a good idea of the sort of company they can expect in the coming years. This helps them to plan their careers safe in the knowledge “that they are not going to be taken away from them.”
That’s not to say that everybody who joins Courtiers has a job for life but “but it’s as much certainty as you can provide.”
While nothing is ever certain in business or indeed life, Jamie is clearly determined to ensure that by having a detailed and robust plan for the leadership of the company and implementing it, employees, clients and shareholders alike will be provided with as much certainty about the future direction of Courtiers as possible.