An advert in the paper promising the chance to earn £80,000 ($115,374, €101,618) is what drew Craig Featherby, the group managing director of South African advisory firm Carrick Wealth (Carrick), into the world of financial planning.
Working at South Africa-based ABSA bank at the time, the then 24-year-old jumped at the prospect of a hefty pay rise.
“I had absolutely no experience but the next thing I knew I was being interviewed by three people who gave me the job,” he says.
Featherby, who was born in Zimbabwe and educated in Australia, began his career in the Middle East – advising expat clients in Kuwait – before moving to the Far East to focus on providing offshore investment advice to wealthy individuals.
Joining the deVere Group in 2004, he spent more than three years in Japan, initially as a senior financial adviser, before being becoming the country manager.
Growing increasingly tired with life as an expat, Featherby and his wife Di returned to South Africa in 2008, where he took the helm of deVere’s African division.
“Within a few short years I had developed and expanded this division into a wealth management business, attracting $771m worth of new assets and more than 3,500 clients. By the time I left the company, there were 220 staff and 14 offices across the African continent,” he says.
His success at deVere pushed him to strike out on his own and launch Carrick in October 2014, fulfilling a childhood dream in the process. When he left, Featherby took 45 of his deVere’s colleagues with him – a testament, he says, to the “truly special team” he created there.
“It has always been my dream, from an early age, to create my own business. When I left, many of the team felt they were ready for a change, too.”
Spotting a gap in South Africa’s offshore funds market, reportedly worth $14-17bn annually, Featherby’s vision for Carrick Wealth was to shift away from the business model of pursuing high-pressure sales tactics to a more client-focused approach.
“The selling tactics of the large direct sales forces out in the market are out of date. The market is changing because buyers do not want to be pushed anymore and, furthermore, they know all of the old tricks.
“We were planning the future of what would become Carrick Wealth in a hired office that had such bright white walls, we felt as though we were in an asylum.
“We recognised that there is currently a complete paradigm shift occurring within the financial services sector. In the old paradigm, the interests of the adviser came first. Now, its shifted to client-focused.”
Working tirelessly in the 19 months since its launch, Featherby proudly reveals the Cape Town-headquartered start-up has gone from strength to strength.
At the last count, Carrick, which currently employs 142 staff, had assets under administration of $200m from 579 clients.
“Initially there were many naysayers who took delight in saying what we set out to achieve couldn’t be done. We set high expectations and then worked assiduously on achieving them.
“I have learnt that those I once trusted turned out not always to have had my best interests at heart. Now I make a conscious effort to value those who have stood by me and continue to support me. In business, it’s never ‘just business’, it’s always personal.”
Specialising in offshore investment advice to expats living in Africa, Carrick now dominates the market for pension transfers, writing more than 25 Qrops a week with an average value of £180,000.
“We are a boutique advisory service for a niche market. Reports indicate we have assisted in 82% of the transfers that have taken place in South Africa,” says Featherby.
The most popular offshore jurisdiction used by Carrick to set up Qrops for its clients – many of whom are British expats retiring to South Africa – is Gibraltar, due to its double taxation laws, while Guernsey and Bermuda are the destination of choice for offshore funds.
Meanwhile, Featherby reveals that Isle of Man-based Boal & Co is the firm’s most commonly-used Qrops provider, while for life policies Carrick favours Old Mutual.