This is a momentous year for Lowes and I am immensely proud to be presiding over the company that my father established fifty years ago. Whilst I was too young to remember the first office in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, I distinctly remember the early years at Market Street, which was the head office for a decade. The 1984 move to Holmwood House, which was the company’s home for over 30 years was a big part of my life, as of course was the move to our new home, Fernwood House, in 2016.
We are now a group of companies under the Lowes umbrella, represented by over 90 individuals, all serving our clients in line with our strapline: ‘Where personal finances are cared for personally’.
I am extremely proud that Lowes is amongst the most highly regarded Independent Financial Advice firms in the profession. Not many firms get to celebrate their 50th anniversary, neither do all firms succeed when the reins are passed from father to son. When Ken stepped down and I took over as Managing Director in 2002 there was naturally considerable pressure on the ‘boss’s son’ to do well; or to put it another way, failure was not an option!
The business has been a big part of my life, for all my life and I was determined from an early age to join the firm. Ken, however, wasn’t going to make it easy and encouraged me to instead, follow an alternative path. But after a few years on the outside, I was grateful for the opportunity to join the business. Seven years later however, I left to pursue my own business interests and subsequently, a degree in Business Management and Administration. Returning to the firm in 2000 I certainly had no expectation of running it for many years. I concentrated on broadening my knowledge and obtaining advanced, professional qualifications to the extent that I obviously impressed Ken enough for him to entrust the business into which he had poured so much over 31 years, into my hands.
I was ambitious for the firm and my plan was to grow the number of Consultants and quite dramatically. We interviewed 160 potential candidates in the first year, of which we felt just three matched our rigorous criteria. We appointed just one, Rob Newton, who continues to be a great Lowes Consultant to this day.
That was an important process because it showed me, in no uncertain terms, what previous incumbents of my position had also established; that finding the right calibre of individual to deliver the quality of service we expect for our clients was far from easy. As a result, rather than any rapid expansion, we have selectively grown the business and number of Consultants, incrementally, year by year and seen some retire along the way.
In 2005 we re-introduced one of Ken’s most successful initiatives, the seminars. I have now presented to thousands of people across the UK and have been delighted with the satisfaction, with all but a handful stating their attendance was time well spent. More than a few have gone so far as to state attending the seminar was one of the best things they ever did.
I vividly remember my nervousness before delivering the first seminar but now with hundreds under my belt I look forward to them and it has been frustrating not to be able to run any sessions during the pandemic.
An area of personal interest and one for which Lowes is now a recognised authority in the profession, is structured products. Over the years we have developed a well-honed expertise in these investments. In the early days I would analyse and post details of every product on our website. Now with typically 40 products being launched each month we have a dedicated team which conducts the analysis and manages the Lowes ‘Preferred’ list and our structured product websites.
We have been through two major market incidents in my tenure at the helm of Lowes, the Financial Crisis of 2008/9 and the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2008 we all came together to tackle the issues. This time around it has been a little more challenging, as we are all isolated from one another. But our determination to do our best for clients is the same, nevertheless.
Having looked forward to our 50th anniversary, sadly it seems highly unlikely we will be able to celebrate in the way we would have wanted this year, not least our planned garden party at which we hoped we would see some of our longest standing clients.
It has been extremely frustrating for us, as a people business, not to see our clients face-to-face and we thank all our clients for their understanding and patience in what have been difficult times.
So where to in the future? We are looking to grow the business, as we have done over the past 19 years, but we’ll not be making dramatic changes. You can be sure that we will maintain our family culture and the quality of advice and service for which Lowes is renowned.