Massow’s back and helping you to save

FAMED for founding the first company to provide mortgages and life insurance for people in HIV high-risk groups, Ivan Massow’s name used to be all over the papers in the 1990s. He sat on the sofa with Richard and Judy, on a panel on BBC’s Question Time, he was even flatmates with the now education secretary Michael Gove. Then all of a sudden he sold off his business and moved to Barcelona alone.

“My partner had killed himself and I had lived on a media whirlwind from the age of 21,” says Massow. “I was emotionally exhausted. I wanted to go somewhere where I didn’t know anyone and could turn my phone off for four years.”

Retirement didn’t suit Massow though. “Initially, going to the beach, eating lunch and walking my dog was wonderful, but I got bored and started drinking a lot. If I’d stayed I would have just died. Bored out of my mind, on a beach with no friends,” he says.

“I’d always had this idea that you needed to work really hard on your business in order to sell it and retire. It doesn’t suit me though. I don’t think it suits many people. I’ve been talking to my mum’s friends and they all feel a bit useless now they’ve retired.” Massow’s friends worried about him while he was living abroad. “It was quite sweet, they’d come on little pilgrimages to persuade me to come back to the UK.” The most glamorous of which was Joan Collins: “She said enough was enough, it was time to sort myself out.”

So he’s now back – and back in the financial business, campaigning for a cause. He’s launched a new company that pledges to return the majority of trail commission clients are paying to their independent financial adviser (IFA). “Hardly anyone has heard of ‘trail commissions’,” says Massow, “but up to 1.5 per cent of the value of most people’s investments each year is paid to your IFA in commission for no real reason.” The business concept is simple: give permission to Massow’s and they’ll pay 80 per cent of it back to you, taking a cut of 20 per cent.

Of course, the new Retail Distribution Review (RDR) rules coming into force in early 2013 will put an end to these commissions, but Massow is still confident about the business’s viability. “It’s obviously not a business I’m going to be able to sell, but there is a backlog of 25 years worth of investments that people have made that they are being fleeced on.” He thinks that he can return £60,000 to the average pension holder.

“It has huge potential,” he insists. “The market is worth £1.6bn and we’re targeting to attract 5 per cent over the next year or two. This would be turnover of £80m. Our operating margin is only 20 per cent, so that would be £16m per year.”

Impressive stuff. But could he do it, if it wasn’t a cause? “No, I need to be fighting for something,” says Massow.

Company name:

Number of staff: 15

Age: 44

Born: Brighton

Lives:Hoxton Square, London

Studied: “I’m dyslexic, so I left school at 16 without any qualifications.”

Drinking: “Rehab ended all that.”

Reading: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Idol: Barack Obama

Talents: Being cheerful

Favourite business book: The World According to Joan by Joan Collins

Awards: “Make me a million,” the Channel 4 entrepreneur award

Motto: “It’s not that bad.”

First ambition: “To have a job where I used a dictaphone, so that nobody would discover I was dyslexic.”

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