How It All Began

A small, quiet dinner was recently held celebrating 30 years since the inception of the original business that became Charles James Financial Planning Ltd. Below are extracts from a speech that Founding Director Bob Thorpe gave reflecting on 40 years personal history in the financial services business as well as the 30 year evolution of Charles James:

How it all began;

I was working at Thomas W. Ward Ltd. as a manager. Unfortunately there was no opportunity to work overtime allowing me to raise extra money to buy a house. Therefore on the 24th November 1974 I attended an interview for an additional part time job selling savings plans for Inter City Investment Company.

I had a flair and I successfully managed a team of other professional people, so much so that in October 1976 I decided to leave the secure job at Tommy Wards and work self-employed for Inter City Investments. I was then responsible for the whole of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
At that time my Dad was concerned that with a wife and child on the way, I should continue in a secure employed job at Tommy Wards. As a very determined person I felt confident with my own ability to succeed. 
In March 1984 Chancellor Nigel Lawson abolished tax relief on saving plans (LAPR). I decided that it was not in the client’s interest to continue with the format that had been used over the past 10 years.
I suggested to my colleagues Peter Stanley and Steve Plunkett that we should ‘broaden our horizons’.
In October 1984 I came up with the idea of using both Peter`s (Charles) and my (James) middle names. Subsequently Charles James and Company was founded.

A New Office
In September 1985 we acquired an office in Bakewell at the Mill and shortly afterwards we were offered the Halifax Agency in Baslow. In an effort to reduce costs both of our wives worked for us on the counter and covering admin duties. Times were hard and I regularly worked 7 days a week visiting clients in their homes, often not returning home until 10 or 11 at night. I always put the clients first and on many occasions even to this day client visits are made whilst travelling to and from family holidays.

Someone else who shares my work ethics and always puts the clients first is my colleague and good friend of 40 years Steve Plunkett. We have been through a lot together over the years and despite giving us great concerns with his health I have not met many people as nice as you and Bev.

In 1989/1990 Commercial Union arranged a competition with the prize of a trip on the Orient Express to Venice. Each company had to introduce 100 new contents and buildings insurance policies. Steve and I managed to write 210 between us.  This enabled Steve and I along with our wives to go on The Orient Express, we had a brilliant time.

Our First Employee
Our first employee was office manager Ann Harper who joined the company in October 1987 and remained loyal to the company until her retirement in December 2007.

In 1988 a decision had to be taken, new rules were introduced. For the first time investment advice was to be regulated. You needed to decide whether to be an Independent adviser or become tied to and sell the products of one particular company.

We were offered large sums of money to "tie" to a number of Life Companies, but as we came from a previous "tied" company with Inter City I wanted to remain independent. Peter decided to tie with one provider and so the result was that the partnership was dissolved and I retained the ‘Charles James’ name.

Charles James and Company continued with me as a sole trader until I included Denise as a partner. With hard work we soon went from strength to strength. It has always been my view that by offering independent advice I would be able to attract more clients. Both Steve Plunkett and Tony Shaw decided to stay with me for the same reason.

Expanding the Business
In 1991 I expanded the business by purchasing the Darley Dale Halifax Agency. In November 1993 we then purchased the Halifax Agency in Matlock from Mills and Black Accountants and this increased our responsibility to a total of 20 staff. Tony Shaw had been working in the Darley Dale office and I transferred him to the Matlock office, his relaxed manner enabled him to get on well with the customers which worked well for the business.

It had taken around 9 years to get reasonably established. Denise and I had worked extremely hard, not only raising our 2 sons but also building a successful business.

Shortly after signing for the Matlock agency Denise became seriously ill, however with determination she still managed to help with the family and work.

Dean Joins the Company
In May 1995 my eldest son Dean joined the company with the aim of becoming an advisor, we spent many hours late at night talking business and I would like to think I helped him along the way. This meant we needed a training scheme and we joined the IFA Network Ltd. as an Appointed Representative to allow me to use their scheme. I passed the Supervisors Course in London and we were on our way.

Dean quickly passed the required exams and became a qualified financial adviser. The sky was the limit!

In 1997 the Halifax became a bank and as a result our agencies could no longer be run by us.

We continued to work from our Baslow office.

Steve Joins the Company
In July 1998 a young and well-motivated Steve Unwin joined the company as an administrator and he also worked hard to become a qualified financial adviser. Always spot on in his work and attending his recent wedding was a privilege.

More changes to regulations as well as new products meant that 15 years ago in November 1999 Charles James and Company ceased to be and Charles James Financial Planning Ltd was launched with myself, Dean and Denise as Directors.

Outgrowing Our Surroundings
We had made significant strides and it was still a family business, however we had by then outgrown the Baslow office. An ideal opportunity arose when Roy and Betty were wishing to sell their shop and home. The premises were ideal, only a short walk from home, the bank and amenities. 
So in September 2001 we moved into Thorpe House on School Lane, Dronfield.

In 2008 Denise resigned as Company Secretary and Director. Jodie was then appointed as Company Secretary and the company has since been run by myself and Dean.

I must say that over the years I have experienced many good and bad times. There have been many changes throughout my career and I am extremely proud of what has been achieved. In the early days life was hectic, exciting and tiring and this can still be the case. 40 years in a business that is constantly advancing, there isn't another industry quite like ours!

A Company to be Proud of
I founded a company, a company that we can be proud of because we have claimed our rightful place and as I believe we are well respected in this industry offering a quality service. 
The business has grown from no clients to those who have been built from trust and recommendation. The old catchphrase in 1974 was ‘How would you like to make some money?’ I am pleased to say that I not only made them money but I also made many good and longstanding friends.

It may surprise you to learn that technology is not my forte! I would have liked the opportunity to have more knowledge and dealings with computers, but rather than trying to teach an old dog new tricks I continued to use my expertise on servicing my long standing clients and ensuring that money was generated into the company and our staff's jobs were safe.

A Great Team
Fortunately Dean not only has his own client base, he has introduced the technology required in the 21st century. This is complimented by our ‘whiz kids’ in Decode. 
We have Dan who is affectionately known as "Hoss" - what he doesn't know about computers is nobody’s business!

As I continue to lead a less active role, I shall support Dean as he leads our company from strength to strength. Dean I am pleased to say is my son, business partner and football pal. We are both lucky to have such a professional team and some real rising stars developing and growing.

Graham, who is admired by many clients and known for his silky voice, commenced in January 2001 and originally travelled on two buses to the Baslow office. Graham is methodical and soon became our Adviser Support Manager, his flexibility enables clients to contact the office up until 6.45pm.

In May 2003 another of the ‘Thorpe dynasty’ - Geoff - joined the company from Aviva. Geoff with his amazing sense of humour and his ability to mimic so many people. He continues his success on the golf course and I am proud of his handicap.

Ryan came to us straight from university in November 2007 and has been a great asset and he is now the expert on mortgages. We are also proud to say that he is a newly fledged financial adviser. Dan Johnson commenced in July 2008. Dan came from Henry Fanshawe School. He is known as our ‘stats man’ and suffers from my regular requests for Portfolios. Dan like others showed his real dedication to the business when he attended work on crutches.

John Marshall AKA ‘Robin Hood’, I wouldn't want to be in his eagle eyed sights. John came to us as an experienced financial adviser in October 2009 and he is also dedicated and very thorough in his work. Wendy commenced in May 2010 and is now our Office & HR Manager. Wendy is extremely adaptable covering all areas of the business. Wendy always works over and above and is regularly late home. Wendy also needs a pat on the back for keeping all of the boys in order, all of that and she still manages to smile!

Dan Cook our para-planner and technical expert, fitness fanatic and marathon runner commenced in March 2012. Dan is also conscientious in his work and an overall nice guy.

Neil Smith an appointed representative who trades as ‘Harmony Wealth’ joined us in September 2009. Neil is another of our hard working colleagues. One thing we disagree on is his choice of football team! Jack is our recent trainee and another footballer whose injuries resulted in a spell on crutches. Jack still attended work which proved great dedication. I hope that you are enjoying the experience with us.

I am sure that if you all continue to work hard and have the dedication then you will have a bright future and continue to be successful. I would also like to thank John Steer our accountant and friend who keeps the books balanced and ensures that we run a tight ship.

Almost everyone here today has worked for Charles James at some point over the last 30 years and has helped bring about our success. Every successful company is backed by people who have combined their creativity, diligence and passion to support our service. A company's personal pride is its foundation stone and our team has pulled together over the years to help build a wonderful business. You have worked hard and risen to challenges.

A Fantastic Achievement
Building a business is a fantastic achievement and I would like to thank our staff, clients, family and friends. 
30 years in business in a sector that is constantly and rapidly advancing is an achievement that we can be proud of.

It may sound corny but 30 years ago I was a young man with a young family, but I had a dream that was simple enough!

That dream came true!    

Thank you.”

Extracts from a speech that was made by Bob Thorpe on Thursday 4th December 2014