David Rudge, managing director of Active Wealth at ZEDRA tells Citywealth why family businesses so often fail, and how succession planning is vital to avoid family conflict.
Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role
I recently joined ZEDRA as Managing Director of the Active Wealth business in the UK. I’m incredibly excited about the role as ZEDRA has recently made strategic acquisitions in London (in the Global Expansion and Institutional Pension sectors, which strengthen the existing UK Trustee and Estate Planning business in Manchester). ZEDRA now has a substantial footprint in the UK, covering a wide range of services.
My role will be to grow the Active Wealth proposition, supporting clients and colleagues in the UK and overseas from our growing hub in London, showcasing the talent and wide range of services available at ZEDRA.
Tell us about your typical client profile.
The great thing about our client base is that it is so diverse. Within Active Wealth, we work with high-net-worth individuals and families, business owners, entrepreneurs, family businesses, family offices and private investors.
Active Wealth is at the heart of discussions with our clients, as we support and deliver on their business and personal aspirations.
We often find that the wealth of our clients is multifaceted. They may have homes, business interests and special family assets spread across the globe, nearly always with a UK nexus. At ZEDRA, we appreciate the complexities involved and invest time in listening to our clients so that we can innovate and deliver agile solutions for them, supporting them and their advisers continuously throughout their journey. We like to be seen as an extension of their team, providing the infrastructure and support they need so that they are free to achieve their goals and live their lives to the fullest.
What are your business priorities for 2021?
My aim is to ensure that the London office becomes a focal point for the Active Wealth arm of the business. As far as priorities are concerned, I am looking forward to meeting colleagues and clients again in person. I miss the buzz of the office and of the City in general. It will be great to get back to some sense of normality as we go through the rest of the year, even the sometimes tortuous train journeys. The collaborative benefits that the work environment provides will, undoubtedly, be of great benefit with the integration of the new service lines at ZEDRA in the UK and to help grow the Active Wealth proposition.
I am looking forward to working closely with my colleagues in the UK and also welcoming our overseas colleagues, intermediaries and new and existing clients to our refurbished office in Holborn.
What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?
Whilst our clients have been a lot less mobile than usual, it has focussed the minds of many to evaluate their financial affairs and we have been supporting them a lot with their wealth structuring and succession planning.
Our private clients are increasingly confronted with intergenerational transfer of wealth and business challenges. 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take over. This could be due to a number of reasons but often it is internal family conflicts or, having the same leaders/decision makers for many years. The main cause of failure of a family business is insufficient succession planning.
Our teams have been busy providing the right support to families wanting to make sure that their business can be passed on as smoothly as possible. These discussions have also been an opportunity to make other provisions for members of the family that won’t inherit the business or do not want to be involved, but also to discuss any other challenges that have arisen and to look at providing them with solutions. We have also discovered from our discussions that there are often numerous opportunities that our clients bring to the table and where we will look to support them.
Ultimately clients need to have comfort that they have the right advisors in place. We are fortunate at ZEDRA that many of our clients see us as an extended part of their team and are able to help them overcome the challenges that often present themselves.
Describe your management style
I would like to think that my management style has evolved over the years, as I have learned from my peers and sought feedback from colleagues.
Being approachable at all times, engaging and ensuring good lines of communication are vital for good management. Supporting colleagues, being vocal and making decisions, however tough, also define a good manager or leader. I would hope that my own management style encompasses all of the above qualities and that my enthusiasm, employee-focussed approach and mentoring skills create a productive and fun workplace.
What is your most memorable work moment?
From a client point of view, I was working with an important family who had just entered the UK and arrived at their new house after a long journey. I received a call from the client who was very upset as the entrance to the house was completely full of litter and debris, left by the previous owners. As quickly as we could, a colleague and I booked the client and his family a table at a nearby hotel restaurant and told him to relax at the hotel for the afternoon while we dealt with the situation. We managed to get everything cleared from the property and the client and his family arrived back to the house later that afternoon and moved in. The client called saying how impressed he was that we got everything dealt with so swiftly. He then asked if we could deal with a yacht purchase and management for him. I often tell this story to colleagues – if you can deal with the small things well for clients, then bigger projects will follow.
On a personal level, it has to be my interview with ZEDRA. After some initial discussions we went for a meal at a lovely rooftop restaurant in Geneva. Just as we started to eat, there was a sudden, almighty storm with gale-force winds and we had to be evacuated from the restaurant. The result was a partly destroyed restaurant from one of the worst storms in years. It was certainly an interesting and memorable work moment, although I like to think of it as a positive omen for my career at ZEDRA.
If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?
This is an interesting one. When I was a child, I often dreamt of being a professional football player. That was clearly never going to happen, and I have been in the wealth management industry for all of my professional career. That said, I have always enjoyed dealing with property transactions for clients and helping to get deals over the line, so I suppose I might have ended up in the property industry. Going back to football, I’m sure I could do a better job of running some of the clubs these days…but then again that’s probably just me dreaming again.