At the risk of repetition, it is fair to say 2020 has not panned out the way any of us thought it would. Back in March we were preparing to celebrate twenty years of Hearnden Associates being in business when lockdown happened. It seems extraordinary looking back at our last week in the office; we had no notion of what lay ahead of us. We had a Business Continuity Plan, albeit one for dealing with a computer virus rather than a physical one, and congratulated ourselves that we had set up a WhatsApp Business Continuity Plan group a year or two earlier so we could easily communicate. How little we knew! We closed the office with the exception of our receptionist, Moira and swung into working from home mode, after all it was only going to be for three weeks…
Fast forward to 5th November 2020 and we are entering our second lockdown having never fully come out of the first one. What have we learned during the last seven months? So many things; that the strength of Hearnden Associates lies not only in the quality of the advice it delivers but the resilience, fortitude and loyalty of its clients and staff.
Hearnden Associates was established in early 2000 by Cath Hearnden, Paul Hearnden and Stuart Inman who between them already had 35 years’ experience as financial advisers. The company started with Cath and Paul converting a dining room into an office and sharing the child-care of their two young sons and Stuart working from his home office. Within a year, there were two part-time administrators, sitting in the same dining room, vying for use of a computer, whenever an adviser was out at a meeting.
The company grew; the volume of business demanded office premises so in 2003 Hearnden Associates moved into The Press in Mount Pleasant Road and the business flourished. Soon Alison and Emma, the original administrators, were joined by Claire, Sandra and Gemma, our first full-time member of staff. If these names are familiar to you it is because they are still with us, except Sandra who retired a few years ago.
We continued to build the business and then the world’s financial markets crashed in 2008. We tightened our belts, adjusted our business model and invested time in improving the breadth of services we could provide whilst, at the same time, making sure we were there for each and every client. Although the mortgage side of our business understandably slumped during this period our redesigned and improved investment process proved its value to our clients and we weathered the storm.
We came out stronger the other side: The FCA had brought out a new initiative just a year before the crash; Treating Customers Fairly. We reviewed every facet of our business to ensure that we embedded sustainable processes to confirm that every client is, indeed, treated fairly. Treating Customers Fairly remains at the heart of our business.
Hearnden Associates has continued to develop its relationships with clients, the community, investment houses and mortgage lenders and as the years have passed, we have remodelled the office more than once as the business has continued to expand. We brought in a fourth adviser, Simon Blackman, and in 2015 recruited our first apprentice paraplanner. The part-time administrators employed by Hearnden Associates back in 2001 had been recruited at the school gates of Lingfield Primary School. Our trainee paraplanner is the son of one of the mothers at those same school gates. Harry Cox, who we first knew as a very small boy, is now six foot six inches tall and is set to be one of the youngest Chartered Financial Planners in the country, with just one more exam to pass.
In 2017 we achieved Chartered Financial Planner status, considered by the Chartered Institute of Insurers as the gold standard of financial planning, an achievement of which we are immensely proud. Cath Hearnden and Paul Hearnden are also Chartered Financial Planners in their own right.
Due to the success of both our investment process and mortgage and insurance business we have recruited several members of staff, all local residents, within the last three years, four of whom are undertaking apprenticeships in varying aspects of financial services.
None of our achievements would have been possible without the wonderful relationships cultivated between our clients and everyone at Hearnden Associates; advisers, paraplanners and administrators. We were as proud then as we are now to grow our business overwhelmingly on the strength of referred business from existing clients. It is rewarding to help multiple generations of families, their friends and colleagues and we look forward to this continuing in the future.
We passionately believe in home grown talent. We also believe in letting people fly the nest. There is no better example of this than Chris Isaac, who left us a year ago to work in Australia and will return in January 2021. This brings an unexpected challenge which was evident even before Chris announced his homecoming. We have outgrown our nest and, short of digging out the basement or building a staircase to access our loft space, we cannot accommodate the twenty members of staff now employed by Hearnden Associates. A year ago, it would have been inconceivable that our staff could work from home but having been galvanised into action by circumstances far beyond our control, everyone successfully rose to the challenge. Our next hurdle is how to successfully combine our office presence with working from home into 2021 and beyond. If the last twenty years have taught us anything it is that change is to be embraced. The celebrations may have been put on hold but there is no stopping Hearnden Associates.