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02 November 2019 16:49

Labour Party Salma Yaqoob Mayor of the West Midlands

Women all but absent from £24m windfall for AJ Bell top brass

When that comes investors are advised to be on the watch for a rally in the pound, UK stocks and a spurt in economic activity as sidelined household and business spending kicks in. In this Shares feature late last year, he at the time expressed his confidence that clarification in the relationship between the UK and EU would act as a catalyst for investors to revisit the UK equity market. Paul Mumford, a fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management, also thought that there would be a 'good chance' for UK domestic earning companies to bounce on the stock market in 2019. In the year 2000, AJ Bell did the first online self-invested personal pension (SIPP) for execution-only investors. Move forward 18 years and one of the two awards we've won is 'Best Online Pension Provider' and that tickles me in a way, because it's slightly embedded in our genes here to do things in a slightly different way.

It's really about supporting individuals to be able to invest easily in the stock market. How many investments can investors choose from when investing in an AJ Bell Youinvest SIPP, ISA or Dealing Account? Interestingly, when we were launching our 'Favourite Funds' list, we did a survey among customers to see how many funds they wanted on it, and the message we got back was between 50 and 75 which is lower than we thought, but that's because there's often too much choice and people can feel overwhelmed. AJ Bell Media publishes a magazine called Shares magazine and the vast majority of our customers get that. Find out how to easily manage your investments with the award-winning AJ Bell Youinvest today This week, Midas considers two very different stock market flotations, investment firm AJ Bell and energy efficient income trust, SEEIT.

Co-founded by Andy Bell in 1995, the company has almost 200,000 customers, administers £46billion of investments on their behalf and has delivered average annual growth of more than 25 per cent over the past six years. Now the group intends to float on the Stock Exchange at a price of between £1.54 and £1.66 per share, valuing the entire business at up to £675million. The deadline for applications is Wednesday and the flotation is primarily aimed at large institutions, although AJ Bell customers can also apply – after Bell himself went against bankers' advice and said he wanted his clients to be eligible for the offer. The group paid a generous dividend too and intends to maintain that approach after flotation, paying out two-thirds of post-tax profits to shareholders every year. As a business, AJ Bell differs from many competitors in that customers can either access its investment platform directly – via AJ Bell Youinvest – or through financial advisers – via AJ Bell Investcentre.

This dual approach gives the business a broad spread of customers, including many relatively affluent individuals, who use AJ Bell for Self-Invested Personal Pensions, Isas and low-cost share and bond dealing accounts. Following the flotation, every employee will be given 750 shares and the opportunity to subscribe for up to £2,500 worth at the flotation price over the next year. Bell himself will be reducing his stake by just 3 per cent – from 28 to 25 per cent – and will be the largest shareholder following the flotation. Bell himself is determined to make the business even more successful and believes he can do so, even if markets become more turbulent. The SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust – known as SEEIT – is designed to help address this issue and deliver attractive, sustainable returns to investors at the same time.

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The trust is managed by Sustainable Development Capital, an investment firm which has set up energy efficiency programmes for a number of large organisations, including St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, NCP car parks and Santander's UK bank branches and offices. The trust is managed by Jonathan Maxwell, who has worked in the sector for more than a decade and worked on the flotation of HICL, the first London listed infrastructure fund, whose value has risen more than ten-fold over the past 12 years. MIDAS VERDICT: The energy efficiency market may seem niche but it is growing rapidly and projects can be costly and extensive – Santander's move to LED cost £17.5 million and involved 90,000 new lights, for example. LONDON and AUSTIN, Texas, March 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/--AJ Bell, one of the UK's largest investment platforms, has selected Blue Prism's market leading robotic process automation (RPA) software to increase operational efficiencies and enhance customer experiences. Blue Prism's connected-RPA software will enable AJ Bell to utilize digital workers (software robots) to automate labor-intensive and routine back office administration functions. For example, a customer with a regular direct debit paying into their Individual Savings Account (ISA) can hit their subscription limit before the end of the tax year. The digital worker can take over these routine tasks, thus reducing costs and importantly freeing up staff to do more value-added tasks that will be of greater value to the company and its customers. In addition to the tie up with Blue Prism, AJ Bell is expanding its IT function as part of its continuing growth, with current expansion plans including the recruitment of 15 new roles in addition to the new CTO role. The CTO will join AJ Bell's Executive Management Board, leading the development of the company's technology strategy and assuming responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the IT function. "Robotics is a fascinating area that has the potential to automate processes that are important to ensure we deliver the right service to our customers but are currently quite labor-intensive. "Blue Prism's digital workers will be a great addition to our business, but it is important to understand that this is not about reducing staff numbers. The continued growth of our platform business means that we will need to continue to grow our workforce, in fact we are continually investing in our IT department and we are currently looking for a CTO to come in and lead the team through its next phase of growth." Established in 1995, AJ Bell is one of the largest investment platforms in the UK with assets under administration of £44 billion and 204,000 customers (as at 31.12.2018). We aim to make it easy for our customers to invest by providing them with additional support in the form of various investment solutions and information. We offer a broad investment range including shares and other instruments traded on the major stock exchanges around the world, as well as all mainstream collective investments available in the UK and our own range of AJ Bell funds. At Blue Prism, we pioneered Robotic Process Automation (RPA), emerging as the trusted and secure intelligent automation choice for the Fortune 500 and public-sector market. Blue Prism's connected-RPA can automate and perform mission critical processes, allowing your people the freedom to focus on more creative, meaningful work. More than 1,000 global customers leverage Blue Prism's digital workforce, empowering their people to automate billions of transactions while returning hundreds of millions of hours of work back to the business. Only one woman was part of a £24.1m windfall for AJ Bell directors and senior managers as the investment platform went public this month. Chief executive Andy Bell enjoyed the largest payday when the company he founded went public on 7 December 2018. Bell sold over 11 million shares at 160p each taking home £18.1m in total, according to a regulatory filing published on Wednesday. Following the transaction Carstensen holds the smallest percentage of the company's issued share capital out of any of the directors or senior managers at just 0.03%. An AJ Bell spokesperson said: "We focus on ensuring there are no barriers to women moving into senior roles if they want to when they become available and we have a talent management programme that incorporates that. AJ Bell directors and senior managers transactions at IPO City Hive chief executive and founder Bev Shah said she could not comment on AJ Bell directly because she was not familiar with its company culture, but said the filing highlights structural issues that prevent women reaching top roles. The gender split across the business is 58% men, 42% women, AJ Bell told Portfolio Adviser. In 2017, women at fund groups were paid on average 29.5% less than male staff, while at wealth management firms the gender pay gap was 40.9%. AJ Bell said the pay gap was due to the structure of its senior executive workforce "the composition of which has been stable for several years".