City Noble has closed down following its launch 18 months ago, after the independent advisory firm struggled to get enough business, PP has learned.
The firm, which was founded with seven directors in November 2014 to deliver independent and impartial advice to trustees and investors, closed at the beginning of July.
Its founder and managing director Alexandra Noble (pictured), who was inspired to launch the firm after hearing trustees felt they were not being fully supported by consultants, told PP: "We assembled a talented and knowledgeable group of senior professionals in the industry and our aim was to offer client care, objectivity and independent thinking in the financial sector.
"Sadly since we launched the company late in 2014, the rate of growth has not met our business expectations. We have, therefore, decided to close the business allowing our panel of expert advisors to focus on their other business activities."
There had not been many mandates for independent advisers over the past year, and the firm found it quite difficult to get people to make decisions.
It had anticipated between February and July there would be a lot of demand for preparatory work for pooling the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), but that did not happen.
"I think all the officers have done the work internally, but I suspect there will be a lot of work to do in the next couple of years," she said.
It was also very challenging as a small entity to win mandates in a world where the big firms continue to dominate the pension advice market.
"When you're a small company, responding to request for proposals (RFPs) is enormously time-consuming. The National LGPS Procurement Frameworks said 20% of the business would go to SMEs so we thought it's worth spending the time and effort but in reality everything was awarded to big companies. I'm not complaining about the Frameworks per se but it just shows what we were up against.
"We were trying to do something a bit different and we were genuinely independent. We had a number of people interested in getting involved with us but that would have completely destroyed our independence which was the whole raison d'etre for setting up the company. So it's very challenging to be independent and keep the business going."
She believes the issues that were present in 2014 still exist today.
"One of the reasons why I set up City Noble is I was getting anxious that while I'm a big fan of fiduciary management per se, and for a lot of schemes it's the obvious route, the independence angle is sadly lacking. Maybe it just wasn't the right time for City Noble. But there's still a need for that independence."
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