Changing places 

January 2, 2018

In November 2017, the highly-respected Jess Swindells left her established role as a partner in the banking department of a Newcastle law firm to become managing director of growing wealth management firm Tier One Capital Ltd. Here, she reflects on making the transition, her first weeks in the job and her aspirations for the future

Tell me about your career to date… 

I studied law at Northumbria University and trained with international law firm Eversheds Sutherland. I qualified into the Newcastle banking team in 2007 with a secondment to the London office, later spending two years specialising in high end ship and super-yacht financing. It was always my intention to move back into the North East mainstream banking market and in 2011 an opportunity arose to join Muckle LLP. I joined the banking and restructuring team, where I advised on some of the largest corporate deals in the North East, having acted for many major national and international banks, alternative finance providers, charities, local authorities, national governing bodies and corporate borrowers.

What attracted you to the job of managing director at Tier One Capital? 

At Muckle I was Tier One Capital’s lawyer from 2014. Throughout that time, I both got to know the people behind the company well and also saw the business grow at an incredible rate. The business that directors Ian McElroy and Stephen Black have built in such a short space of time is truly remarkable. I’ve always admired their passion; not just for the business and their clients, but their dedication for the North East market. The company is always very well intentioned and that was one of the key attractions for me.

The finance market has changed quite significantly over the past couple of years and the demand for alternative finance providers has never been stronger, in particular given the lack of property development finance from traditional sources. They have already successfully listed the TOC Property Backed Lending Trust PLC and have built up extensive experience in the lending sector. This represents a significant opportunity for the business and one which I am delighted to be part of.

What will be your responsibilities in your new role? 

I will predominately be working alongside Ian and Stephen as managing director tasked with leading the business into its next phase of growth. This will involve setting strategic objectives for the business and being responsible for its delivery. We’ve recently opened offices in Mayfair, London and Lausanne, Switzerland and are focused on building our offering nationally and internationally, while maintaining our headquarters in the North East. The London office is already gaining traction and is as much about assisting high quality North East opportunities to access London based capital as it is about allowing our North East clients to gain access to bespoke opportunities further afield which is pleasing to see.

What advantage is it to Tier One Capital having someone with your legal background? 

While the financial services sector is different, I bring almost 14 years of legal experience in the banking industry. This allows me to present an alternative viewpoint on certain matters and assist the business to enhance its service excellence model, ensuring Tier One Capital is well positioned for growth and generating an even bigger market presence. I have a very strong and committed work ethic, a habit formed from not only my legal background but also more generally from the people I surround myself with. Naturally, my legal experience has focused my attention on the importance of ensuring high quality, a sense of urgency and an attention to detail. These are all skills that will undoubtedly aid me in my role going forward.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge in making the transition from law to wealth management? 

Immersing myself in the bespoke financial solutions that the business offers its clients and understanding the impact of market influences on our business and the decisions our clients make; that will be quite a challenge! Running the day-to-day operations of Tier One Capital will naturally expose me to those aspects of financial services I need to help develop the business and take it to the next level.

You’re only a few weeks into the role; how are you settling in and what are your impressions of the firm so far? 

Incredible. It’s an exceptionally busy time for the business and the position is already exceeding my expectations. I’m delighted that while the quality and commitment of the individuals is particularly high, they’re also clearly a fantastic team with each other’s best interests at heart; we conquered the Three Peaks Challenge in 24 hours earlier this summer so it’s fair to say I got to know them pretty well and if teamwork holds up through that it must be pretty strong! That said, you can never truly understand what it’s like to be in a business until you’re in it. I’ve also been extremely impressed with the quality of things generally across the board, not just of the team but also things such as the service being provided, the client base and the culture that sits behind the delivery of the proposition to our clients.

Tell me about the team you’ll be working with… 

As mentioned, I’ll be working alongside Ian and Stephen, who are both from a wealth management background with particular experience in private banking, credit and investment management. The senior management team, which I’ll primarily be responsible for, comprises corporate finance, general counsel, risk and compliance, finance and investments, with support elements feeding into that. The team has already significantly grown within the past six months, which will continue. The business makes a real point of hiring exceptionally high quality people (so needless to say, I’m still flattered) and you can really see that evident in the general standards of day to day activity and productivity.

Tier One Capital describes itself as offering a straightforward service that’s based on common sense, not common practice. What is meant by this and how does this approach benefit clients? 

Tier One Capital is about providing the most efficient and effective financial solutions, tailored to the clients’ individual needs. We advise and specialise in corporate, business and individual wealth management through a diverse range of products and financial services.

Currently, there is a market trend towards standardisation of wealth management. Our offering is genuinely different and far more bespoke than a normal wealth management proposition as it also incorporates private equity and corporate finance. Our culture and approach creates an environment which provides truly independent client advice and efficient and transparent reporting. We pride ourselves on our passion for the industry and for being proactive, responsive and attentive. Finance can sometimes be complex; we understand that. We aim to keep things simple yet authentic so that our clients can fully understand the decisions that they’re making but ultimately the business stands or falls by its advice and our track record in this area has been quite exceptional. As an example, the Direct Lending part of our proposition is about to achieve its fourth year of maintaining a 100 per cent track record and delivering an average 8.51 per cent net return on Property Backed lending for clients which is remarkable.

Do you think the financial services industry has regained its reputation from the financial crash ten years ago, or does it still have an image problem? If so, how does Tier One Capital continue to build confidence among investors? 

While without a doubt the reputation of the financial services industry has suffered since the crisis of 2008, we continue to see a growing improvement and restoration of confidence. We have seen global stock markets climb to all-time highs, and property prices have returned and exceeded pre-crisis levels. This is a strong sign of investor confidence returning. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the experience of the aftermath in the years following, cast a shadow over the entire industry, and it’s still clear that all financial organisations must strive to continue to address the reputational issues of the whole industry. Indeed, one of the key challenges for Tier One Capital is to continue differentiating ourselves in a way that ensures we distance our business, as much as possible, from the ongoing reputational concerns that many customers have.

The values and principles of our business underpin our approach to building and maintaining confidence across all stakeholders in our business, including our investors. We have created a culture where we believe in an approach that creates an environment of truly independent client advice, efficient and transparent reporting, being proactive, responsive and attentive, and ensuring investor costs are as fair as possible. We understand that sometimes finance can be complex, and we aim to break down this complexity to offer our investors a common-sense approach, in layman’s terms, that they can understand to make decisions. Building trust, demonstrating integrity every day, driving improvement and performance, keeping things simple, but authentic, have passion and believing in what we do, all go a long way to instilling confidence into not only our investors, but all stakeholders to Tier One Capital.

Our business has grown a solid foundation after five years of operation, and we take great pride in the people associated with our business, both internally and externally. I’m a great believer in letting others cast judgement on how we are doing, and in a very tough and competitive environment, we have built a progressive new wealth management firm from the ground up. This is the biggest sign I need that we are managing our reputation well, and that confidence continues to build among our investors.

What are Tier One Capital’s priorities for 2018? 

Our strategy for growth encompasses many areas. Our assets under management are growing and a key priority is ensuring we continue to increase these assets by distributing our products and services across a growing client base. We will also prioritise the continued deployment of funds into our investment trust: the TOC Property Backed Lending Trust PLC, which was listed on the main market on January 24, 2017. Our final immediate priority is coping with growth and managing the breath of our operations. Our offices in Mayfair, London, and Lausanne, Switzerland, are in recognition of the quality of, and the demand for, our offering and an opportunity to present our investment service to a wider client base. That said, we remain very much committed to the North East and our headquarters will always remain here.

What are your personal aspirations for the future? 

Tier One Capital has a fantastic quality foundation and has a real opportunity for growth. I’m lucky enough to join at this stage and help shape its future and make a valued contribution. My aspiration is to see the firm not only reach, but exceed its potential. The future is exciting for us; the landscape is changing and we are well positioned to take the lead with our unique offering.

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