WH Ireland posts losses on ‘costly’ transformation

Finance director exits after difficult period for the wealth manager

WH Ireland Group’s “costly and challenging” transformation has resulted in the wealth manager posting losses for the half-year period as it announces the exit of its finance director, the latest in a handful of senior executive changes.

The company reported a loss of £1.9m for the six months to September 30, compared with a profit of £263,000 last year. The pre-tax loss was £2.1m, down from profits of £960,000 the year before. Revenue was also down 12% for the firm at £12.8m from £14.5m.

However, WH Ireland did see assets under administration (AUA) for the wealth management business up 3% from March to £2.6bn for the period, while the discretionary portfolio management service increased its assets by 8% and accounted for nearly 44% of total AUM.

Chief executive officer Philip Wale, who joined the firm in August, said its transformation programme has been “both costly and challenging” for the business.

“One of the key initiatives being undertaken has been outsourcing our custody and operational functions and, as previously reported, this complex project has run over budget and taken longer to implement,” he said.

Seeking new hires and higher AUM

Chairman Tim Steel said progress has continued in the firm’s transformation programme during the reporting period in order to provide a more robust platform and enhance its offering to clients for the years ahead.

“As I have stated before, the scale of this process has not been without additional cost and labour, but is now closer to fulfilment,” he said.

Wale added: “Following the significant investment made in the division in recent years, the key now is to ensure that we build on the platform in place to grow the business towards profitability.

“We will continue to look to increase the proportion of discretionary assets under management and attract high quality teams into the business in order to take advantage of the scalable platform which we now have in place.”

Daniel Cowland resigns

In a separate update, WH Ireland said Daniel Cowland has resigned as a director of the company, with effect from no later than 30 April 2019.

The firm said it has appointed an interim head of finance, with effect from 3 December 2018, to work alongside Cowland to ensure an orderly transition. It did not name the temporary replacement.

Cowland had worked at the firm for four and a half years.

It follows several other senior executive changes with Phillip Wale appointed CEO in October following after Richard Killingbeck made a quick exit in July as the wealth manager reported a £1.6m loss for the year. A week before Killingbeck departed, group head of wealth management Roddy Buchanan also left the firm over a difference of opinion regarding the strategic direction of the private wealth management division.

The departures of two of WH Ireland’s most senior figures prompted one of its largest shareholders, Kuwaiti European Holdings, to divest its entire 23.1% stake in the business.

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