Looking over his first full calendar year as chief executive of Knox Private Office, Jeremy Franks says that significant progress has been made in growing the business and its reputation amongst professional advisers. He plans for this growth to reach new heights in the year ahead and says he “remains incredibly excited about the opportunity.”
The Knox Private Office offers a range of services to wealthy individuals, predominately entrepreneurs. The services include: debt advisory, wealth planning, tax investigation, trusts/fiduciary, investment consulting, as well as what Mr Franks refers to as a “family office in a box” for those clients who wish to avoid going through the hassle and expense of setting up their own family office. Mr Franks says team are “just as enthusiastic and well equipped to assist the client base” with a wide range of services from family governance to administration of affairs and much more.
Mr Franks joined the firm after almost 12 years with UBS Wealth Management, where he was managing director, head of UK wealth planning advisory and UK head of clients and products tax. Prior to this he worked at PwC in its entrepreneurs and private clients and its tax technical teams. He joined Knox in September 2016.
Outlining the philosophy of the firm, Mr Franks said it is to advise clients, not just on the technical aspects of their wealth but to also take into account what is right for their life and family. This means considering the impact on other family members, especially around succession, and also viewing an entrepreneur’s business and personal wealth as a whole.
Mr Franks also mentioned that one of the key roles of his team is to suggest areas that a client may need to consider for the future. These “foreseeable events”, such as potential movements on the political front, can be factored into the decision-making process to ensure that in the eventuality of such change, there is a clear and robust contingency plan in place allowing families to efficiently re-organise their affairs in a swift manner.
The other key area for Mr Franks is around working collaboratively with other advisers. Although the Knox Group is able to offer a broad range of services, Mr Franks said that one of its central tenets is not to “step on the toes” of a client’s existing advisers. The firm often refers work back out to the professionals who refer opportunities to the Knox group of companies.
“We get a lot of work referred to us from private client lawyers, accountants, private banks, trust companies and wealth managers,” he explained. “We would never offer that client services if the introducer is able to offer them. We would always refer the clients back to the original adviser as we feel that this is the right thing to do. There are times when the respective engagements reveal potential areas for further assistance, and this is when we will pick up the phone and alert the adviser rather than seek to do the work ourselves.”
Of course, if the group identifies that it can provide value to a client and not overlap with any existing professional relationships then it will offer to carry it out. Most clients initially access a specific service, said Mr Franks, but will extend their affairs with the group over time. “We are always happy to work with external professionals if they are better placed for the clients’ needs than we are,” Mr Franks added.
When Mr Franks became chief executive, he considered what investment proposition the group should offer to UHNWs.
“We could have decided to launch a discretionary management service,” he said. “But I took the decision not to. Instead, we have an investment consulting business harmoniously aligned with our philosophy to always be on the same side as the client. The team is not incentivised to ensure a client is (or is not) invested in, any asset class or product. This helps to reassure clients that there is no potential conflict between our interests and theirs.”
John Elder was appointed as managing director of Knox Investment Consulting in June 2017, as thewealthnet exclusively revealed at the time. Mr Elder was just one of a number of hires that the group has made in the last year, according to Mr Franks. He is also planning to recruit more talent into the group, but there is one main challenge he faces in this area. Although technical knowledge is extremely important for a private client professional, Mr Franks said he is on the lookout for those with “exceptionally high levels of emotional intelligence,” which can be harder to find.
Mr Franks reiterated that the Knox group of companies tries to look at the “bigger picture” when dealing with clients rather than just finding a solution that is technically correct. This may not fit with other family circumstances or possible future events, or the client may not feel entirely comfortable with it. It is paramount to the relationship that advisers are able to “read a client’s body language” and realise “how they are reacting to a suggestion”. This is perhaps one of the main challenges when considering recruitment.
“When we find somebody with the right skill set, we are always keen to bring them on-board when the right opportunity arises - even if it may not be to a role that we were actively looking to fill at the time,” Mr Franks said. It is important that a team servicing entrepreneurial families is dynamic and entrepreneurial itself.
He added that he expects to make more hires in the year ahead and continue to add a significant numbers of clients.