AT THE end of a High Court case, and with the banking system falling apart around us, I thought this had to be either the end of the business or the beginning of something good,” says David Scott, the founder of the mid-sized wealth management firm Vestra Wealth. “But the thing was, I had invested everything I had in the idea. Failure wasn’t really an option.” Getting through this first year of business, however, was no easy task.
The court case was the result of 72 UBS staff handing in their notice to go to work for Vestra Wealth on the same day. “They got a little bit upset about that,” Scott says wryly. “But it worked out okay in the end. We basically settled on the terms.”
Scott had started, run and sold a boutique business before, but this offered him little comfort amid 2008’s chaos. “The thing about being a successful, one-time entrepreneur is you can’t help but ask if you were just lucky.”
But these events worked in Scott’s favour. “It was a bit of a David and Goliath thing. We actually had people phone us and say: ‘I’ve seen that this big bank is trying to crush you, can I come down and give you my business?’” With the added bonus that the credit crunch had broken the unconditional trust many had in large banks.
IT’S YOUR MONEY
“The chain of events actually sat very nicely with Vestra’s ethos,” Scott adds. “I was motivated to set her up because I thought there should be a market for offering a wealth management service that didn’t push products down customers’ necks.” Indeed, “vestra” means “your” in Latin.
Scott couldn’t understand why this sort of wealth management business hadn’t been started before – until he tried. “Creating a mid-size business is really quite difficult. You need a critical mass to recruit the right people, but if you don’t have the business, how can you afford it?” he explains.
Luckily, Scott had attracted a desirable collection of early stage investors. “Goldman Sachs, who had initially wanted me to set the business up as part of their discretionary service, took a stake. It gave the initial credibility it needed.”
From then on, they were up and running. Scott managed to find premises on Cornhill in the City. “To get the great staff we wanted we had to offer them the same packages they had been on previously, that included a City address, and a lot of vision. They have been fantastic though, sticking with us through the court case. They took a big risk for us and what Vestra Wealth could become.”
Since then the business has grown steadily, often attracting other entrepreneurs as clients. “I think it’s in an entrepreneur’s blood to distrust big banks and want to have more control over their money.”
Where’s next for Scott? Does he have another business idea? “I find it hard to imagine not doing this,” he says. “I suppose at some point a chief executive figure should step in, but that’s not on my radar yet. Not least because running the business isn’t as much fun as dealing with clients.”
David Scott is a founder and managing partner of Vestra Wealth LLP.
CV | DAVID SCOTT
Job title: Managing partner
Company name: Vestra Wealth LLP
Assets under management: £2.5bn
Number of staff: 140
Born: Northern Rhodesia
Studied: MBA, Ulster Business School
Motto: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained" or “Be the best that you can be”.
Drinking: Chilled white wine
Reading: Steve Jobs biography
Idol: Jackie Stewart
Talents: Spotting opportunities
Favourite business book: The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism
First ambition: To be a surgeon
Awards: Citywealth Leader of the Year 2010