Today, WH Ireland looks and feels unrecognisable from when head of wealth management Roderick Buchanan joined the firm four years ago.
The transformation is in part down to current chief executive Richard Killingbeck, who joined prior to Buchanan’s arrival to start the painful process of confronting legacy issues and reviewing which parts of the business were working.
Under Killingbeck’s direction, the group distilled its business to its core elements – corporate broking and private client wealth management – with several products, including its Birmingham-based derivatives business, ending up on the chopping block.
“We realised the days of being all things to all men were over,” says Buchanan.
But the most dramatic change was the group’s decision to scrap its existing management team and the majority of its board two years ago, after the Financial Conduct Authority took the stockbroker and wealth manager to task for failing to protect against the risk of market abuse.
The watchdog fined WH Ireland £1.2m in February last year and restricted the group from taking on new corporate banking clients for a period of 72 days.
The sanctions took their toll on the firm’s interim results in 2016, contributing to a £1.7m operating loss. But last year was not just a series of trials and tribulations; the group also laid the foundations for future growth.
In June last year, WH Ireland announced a long-term partnership with SEI Wealth Platform, handing over its administration and custodial duties to meet the evolving needs of its client base. In September, the firm gained the attention of Kuwaiti European Holding, which paid £8.45m to purchase a 23.1% stake in the wealth manager.
These developments, coupled with the extensive internal reorganisations over the past four years, have left the group poised to enter a new growth phase, says Buchanan.