Graham Storrie: it’s about how you stand out (pic: Terry Murden)
As Adam & Company marks its 40th anniversary, TERRY MURDEN finds the wealth manager’s head enjoying a shift in focus under its new owner
Graham Storrie recalls the day his father, an Ayrshire miner, took him down to the local bank branch to see the manager. He asked him to give his boy a job, just as he’d done with his older brother. As with many of those who dug coal, he was determined not to see his sons spend their working lives underground.
“Dad was looking for me and my brother to get white collar jobs, but I never thought at the time about a career in financial services,” says Storrie.
Nor did he imagine that he would become the head of a bank himself and a wealth manager handling the accounts of some of Scotland’s richest and most influential business leaders, sports stars and other celebrities.
Since becoming head of Adam & Co in 2011 he has seen its passage from a private bank and investment business under the wing of Royal Bank of Scotland to its current status as a pure play wealth manager owned by Canaccord Genuity which acquired it for £54 million in October 2021.
RBS (renamed NatWest) already owned Coutts, and, as he says, “it was a luxury to have two wealth management and private banking businesses”. When the time came to sell it there was little interest in the combined operations, largely because Adam & Co did not have a separate banking licence. So its private bank was hived off to Coutts. The wealth business drew a lot of attention and the deal was announced in April 2021.
“We are now owned by a business that acts like us and understands us,” says Storrie, who said it was also an opportunity to freshen up the brand.
That saw the profile of the economist Adam Smith removed from the logo and the business re-branded as Adam & Company Wealth Management.
“It was not the time for a tweak, but to re-launch as a wealth management business and to promote ourselves as a personal service as banking becomes more digital and app-driven.”
Given its visual association with Smith, Storrie says some people think Adam & Co has been around for generations. In fact it was launched as recently as 1983 “masquerading as a 300-year-old institution” and it celebrates its 40th anniversary in new offices in Princes Street overlooking the Old Town. One of its original directors was the late BBC Mastermind quiz master Magnus Magnusson.
‘It’s a competitive market’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Storrie says that despite the business being carved up it retained more than 95% of its clients and some have continued to bank with Coutts which means there is a continuing connection between them, but only at client level.
Along with its older clientele it is now seeing third generation family members, some in their 20s, as well as a growing community of self-made thirty and forty something entrepreneurs.
“I describe them as a capital moment,” says Storrie. “They may have been running a business for some time, and someone has come along with a big cheque and they sell up. That leaves them asking: what now? That’s where we come in and advise them on what to do with all this money.”
It’s also where the partnership with Canaccord plays a big part as it extends the range of services and resources available and the risk spectrum offered to clients . The service was extended further with Canaccord’s acquisition of Punter Southall Wealth which boosted the financial planning operation.
Adam & Co now manages assets of about £1.5 billion, though Storrie jokingly wipes his brow as he notes the turmoil currently affecting stock markets. PSW brings a further £300m to the business.
“Clients are invested for a minimum of five years and many have seen these market cycles before. When the markets are volatile our phones do not ring, because volatility happens. Turnover in our portfolios is low because we essentially buy and hold.”
He says the PSW deal was a vital cog in the overall offering. “Investment managers and wealth managers have realised that an essential part of being good at it is being able to offer sound financial advice,” he says.
He acknowledges that competition in the sector has intensified and that the wider banking and money management industry is experiencing some nervous moments. Our chat takes place just after UBS had acquired Credit Suisse and two US banks had collapsed.
There are now a lot of players in the market, not least in Edinburgh and other big cities. Does he foresee any rationalisation of the sector?
“No, I don’t see any sign of that,” he says. “I’ve just been up in Aberdeen and there are offices opening among the big players.” It is understood that Coutts is looking to expand into the city.
“It is about how you stand out, the longevity and personal qualities of your people,” he says.
Loyalty from clients is often reflected in the loyalty of staff, he adds. “I can’t remember the last time one of our people left. The team is happy and engaged, but it is a very competitive market and we have to make sure they remain happy.”
Occupation: Head of Adam & Co
Birthplace: Kilwinning, Ayrshire, raised in Cumnock
Education: Cumnock Academy. The composer and conductor Sir James MacMillan was in the year above me, Sir Tom Hunter in the year below
Career highlights: Joined RBS at age 17, never regretted not going to university; 18 years in sales and marketing at Standard Life; returned to RBS in bancassurance; in 2011 became head of Adam & Co
Running and mountain biking. Formula One racing. Tennis
What keeps you awake at night?
How do we remain relevant, the pace of change, digitisation.
What frustrates you?
People not doing what they say they will do.
Do you carry cash?
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a meeting or dinner party who would you choose?