David Cater is an independent Financial Advisor working as part of Manning and Co. The OM Team meet at his office based at The Watermark in Ivybridge, to delve a little deeper into his history, and find out the reasons behind starting his own business.
“I certainly didn’t know that I wanted to go into financial services when I was younger. I left school with seven O Levels, and one A level- which was economics as it happens!” David went to King Edward the Sixth Community College in Totnes, and by the end of A levels, like many- he had had enough of education.
In 1987, David was 23 years old and working on a building site with his father. He tells us a story of how he was walking down Totnes high street one day, and came across a woman who had broken down in her Ford Capri. “I saw this damsel in distress, so of course I went over to help. She told me she had broken down so I offered to walk her to the nearest garage”.
Naturally, the pair got chatting and David learnt that the woman was a financial advisor. “I thought, that sounded interesting. We got talking more and more and to be honest, at this point I was working with my dad but with no disrespect, I had no career path there, so this seemed like a good opportunity’’.
Shortly after, David attended a seminar in Torquay recommended by the woman he had helped. “You’ve got to remember- this was the mid to late 80’s, so it was very Del Boy with the red braces! You’re going to make lots of money- all of that. The pound signs were lighting up in my eyes!” David immediately got sucked into the razzmatazz, and signed himself up.
However, the pull of the presentation wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, as David explains it was back in the days of commission only sales. “At the time I was with a girlfriend of three years, we had just had our daughter and bought our first home. It was really tough!” David stayed with the company; then named General Portfolio for just under a year before moving on.
In 1989, David found himself working for the Prudential, as part of their home service. His job role was to collect client’s payments for services such as insurance premiums and life policies. “I stayed with them for four years. That was probably the best grounding I’ve had in the financial industry; they taught me everything and the training programmes were second to none”.
Finance is an ever changing industry. David soon found that his position had become more of a selling role, after the company decided to rationalise and remove the Home Service. “I wanted to move out of that area. The job also had extremely unsociable hours so I wasn’t seeing my family as much as I’d have liked”. David left the Prudential in 1993. This then happened again after 8 years working as a Branch Advisor and Sales Manager for Halifax Building Society. Halifax merged with Bank of Scotland, and job roles were once again rationalised.
It is a constantly changing business but it’s an enjoyable one. No question, the best part is when you’re out seeing people
“I effectively had two options, take a voluntary redundancy package or demote my position back to branch Advisor”. I had been in the industry long enough to be confident that I could find another job, so I took voluntary redundancy. I took 5 months out, it was nice having time to catch my breath!” David started applying for jobs once again in the new year, and secured a branch advisor position for HSBC.
After 7 years, David’s job role changed to a commercial IFA, to service the needs of business clients. This was mainly giving advice to directors and shareholders, rather than individuals. “I really enjoyed it. You were going out to see clients so it was a different environment; it was a more customer faced role”.
The main turning point in David’s career came when he decided to leave HSBC after 11 years. Stressful sales targets meant that the job wasn’t what it was when David had first applied.
I wanted to stay in the industry, but I wanted to become my own boss. So, like most of us- you make that leap of faith
“At the time I had a company car, a pension, sick pay and all of the benefits. That was what I was potentially giving up but it was risk I was prepared to take”. In 2011, David decided to go self employed. He had built up a great clientele through existing customers deciding to make the move with him, and through approaching accountant and solicitor contacts, offering help to their clients if needed. “I was lucky enough to obtain referrals from professional accountant contacts. It was just word of mouth really and it’s naturally grown from there”.
Most of my clients come through recommendation, which is what you want. That serves as a true representation of any business
David was a self employed Independent Financial Advisor, but working initially with an agency named Positive Solutions. “Positive Solutions served as a good way of getting set up in business’’. But David found that he wasn’t out facing customers as much as he would have liked. “As the business grew, I found that increasingly, 80% of my time was spent sat in front of my laptop sorting paperwork or on the phone chasing providers and only 20% meeting clients. It shouldn’t be like that”.
‘’This is a customer centric business, and they are at the heart of everything we do, so something had to change’’
Following this realisation and a recommendation from a business friend- David Cater joined Manning and Company in April this year. “Manning’s offered me the opportunity to have the back up and support that I needed. My client bank had grown so much that I needed to service them properly. I am now able to go out and advise my clients without having to worry, as Manning’s have taken away a lot of the admin pressure”.
‘’Everyone, whether they are an individual or a business will need financial advice at some point and that is what we are here for’’.
Current hot topics in the industry are Final Salary pension transfers and Workplace pensions but David and Manning’s offer advice across the range of financial areas from Mortgages and Investments, to more complex areas like Tax planning and Inheritance tax.
Your knowledge is constantly growing because the financial world just doesn’t stay the same
“The industry has changed massively over the years compared to when I first started. It was a very sales orientated job, whereas now I would hope my clients see me as a professional advisor. You’re taking a holistic approach to financial planning, not ‘oh what can I sell them”.
David Cater also offers a fee based advice service. “The customer knows exactly what they’re getting, up front. The client can also decide how they want to pay that fee”. Customer relationships are extremely important to David, and making sure he is someone they can trust is a priority.
I’ve been in the business for 30 years. I think people trust you after that length of time, and trust you know what you are doing
When David started as an Independent adviser, he was working out of an office in Cattedown. The lease was not put up for renewal, meaning David worked from home for a period of 12 months. “I actually came to have an office here through networking”. David was made aware The Watermark had offices available, put his name down on the waiting list and was successful.
“It’s a good base to have and the Watermark has a great working environment. You’ve got the smaller private offices, meeting rooms, the café and every facility that you need is here. I’ve been here for four years now”.
Outside of work, David is a qualified FA football coach. “I was at Torquay United for 2 years. I was an apprentice professional and I played for their youth team. If I had my time again I would love to have made it as a Pro!” David tells us that he still loves the sport, and played until his mid 40’s. Now, he is involved in Totnes and Dartington FC and oversees the Youth setup. “I do a bit of coaching when they need it. I also play golf, badly!”
With over 30 years experience and a professional service tailored to his personal client base, David Cater has moulded his own success story.
“The reason I wanted to start my own business is because I was tired of being targeted. I wanted to be my own boss and have that work, life balance. There is an argument to say that starting your own business brings more stress- but I really haven’t found that to be the case!”