Blacktower Financial Management Group has deep-rooted foundations in London, but from this base it has expanded outwards over its 30-year history and now touches 28 countries around the globe.
Group managing director John Westwood admits it has not been easy, and he says a hefty amount of time, energy and money has been spent ensuring the company’s 15 regional offices meet compliance standards.
To some, it might seem he is intent on swimming upstream, using the sheer size of his growing company to power through the tsunami of regulatory obstacles emerging in Europe.
For keen sailor Westwood, who spent much of his childhood boating on the River Thames, being fazed by a strong tide is not an option.
Blacktower was initially incorporated in London in 1986, but 12 years later the independent financial advisory firm was left in the capable hands of Westwood, one of the four founders.
Shortly after taking over Blacktower as the sole owner in 1998, he decided to steer the company overseas, seeing the great expanse of land yet to be conquered.
“At the time, we were dealing with a lot of international clients in the UK,” he says. “Many of our clients were moving abroad, so we expanded to other countries to service those clients on an ongoing basis.
“We saw the opportunity the international market provided was potentially very big and decided to capitalise on that as a full-time operation.”
After the launch of its international head office in Gibraltar in 2003, Blacktower underwent a phenomenal growth spurt and now has its feet firmly planted in various regions around Europe. It also recently set up in the Cayman Islands in order to serve the Latin American market.
“Since opening the office in Gibraltar, we have concentrated on expanding the international business, which has been the main driver within our group of companies,” he says. “It is the international company that has seen the major expansion within the past 10 years or so.”
Changing face of the industry
Boasting more than three decades in the industry, Westwood has seen the wealth management business change radically, and he admits it has become increasingly tricky over the years.
“Though the industry has become much more difficult and regulated, it means that any business operating in this sector has to be far more professional today than ever before.
“Regulators have gained teeth and the general public are more aware than ever of what is required of an adviser in the marketplace, so I think the level and standard of advice being provided now is good and it should only improve from here.
“The challenges the industry is facing today, particularly in the European markets, have to be taken very seriously if wealth managers like us are to survive and prosper.”