Ex-Heartwood boss Simon Lough has been appointed as a non-executive director of the Aim-listed wealth manager and is to serve on the audit, risk and remuneration committees, subject to regulatory approval.
WH Ireland has suffered from a litany of issues over the past year, losing several top senior figures and issuing multiple profit warnings. However, it has been attempting to reverse course under new chief executive Phillip Wale and former Brewin Dolphin fixer upper Stephen Ford (pictured), who was recruited in December to transform the business.
But so far WH Ireland has been unable to stop losing money.
The firm stunned the market again this year when it revealed it would need to raise £5m in emergency funds in order to meet its capital adequacy requirements, plunging its share price 42% to a nine-year low.
Major shareholders Polyon Global Partners and M&G Investments agreed to pony up the bulk of the £4.95m gross funds raised, enhancing their stakes in the business to 29.8% and 14.9% respectively.
Aviva also spied an opportunity to buy shares in the beleaguered wealth manager, snapping up close to 32 million shares, leaving it with a 3.13% stake in the business. But on 22 March it had reduced this back down to 2.33%. A spokesperson for Aviva Investors could not tell Portfolio Adviser which manager(s) bought shares in WH Ireland.
Up for the challenge
Lough said the “challenge” of helping the new management team turn the firm’s fortunes around was what drew him to the role.
“While recent financial results make it clear change has been and remains necessary, the potential of WH Ireland excites me,” he said. “The brand is well known, the key shareholders are supportive, and I have been impressed by the new management team and their recovery plans. I am confident my experience in wealth management can contribute to those plans, and help the WH Ireland business add value for clients, employees and shareholders.”
Lough is best known for his turn as Heartwood’s chief executive. First arriving at the wealth manager in 1996 to open its London office, he subsequently headed up both the client and investment teams before taking the reins of the business in 2008. He stepped down from his post in July 2014, a year after Heartwood became a wholly owned subsidiary of Handelsbanken.
Chairman Tim Steel, who participated in the emergency fundraise, hailed Lough as a good fit for the board, citing his “first-hand experience” growing and developing “a significant wealth manager”.
“We believe that he will be able to bring his extensive wealth management experience, gained over 20 years, in support of the new executive management team as we move forward to expand and develop our business.”
An Oxford University grad, Lough first got his start in the industry after joining Kleinwort Benson in 1984 moving to work in their Tokyo office two years later. He has also worked at Banca della Svizzera Italiana in the Tokyo and London offices.
He also served as a member of the Financial Conduct Authority’s Smaller Business Practitioner Panel from 2013 to 2016 nominated by PIMFA predecessor the Wealth Management Association to represent the wealth management sector.