Meet the client – Jannette and Russell Harris
A sound investment made nearly 20 years ago means that Jannette and Russell Harris can now literally sail into the sunset and begin realising their retirement dream.
Both keen sailors, the couple’s first adventure will be on a yacht while exploring the Greek islands, before going on to live for a while in their favourite part of Italy “where the option to play tennis is plentiful – very important” says Jannette.
However, our story begins in 1994 when Russell and Jannette were in the middle of renovating a once roofless 1920’s farmhouse, and back to the point in time they first met Greystone Director, Phil Eaton.
“We needed some pension advice”, says Jannette. “At that time we also had two young children so a discussion around appropriate life insurance was also essential and our accountant recommended Phil.
He has now been our trusted adviser for over 22 years and not only helped us with solid financial advice, but he’s also been a great sounding board. For example, when in 1997 Russell spotted that Lymm Water Tower was to be auctioned, we decided – in a moment of madness – to put in a sealed bid. We won and over the coming years we’ve certainly been very grateful to have Phil around to assist with some pretty critical decision making.”
Today, Russell is perhaps best known for his award winning renovation of this once derelict Grade II listed water tower, and its conversion into a luxurious contemporary family home, which they are now ready to sell in order to invest some of the capital to fund their retirement.
“When we met, Russ was a professional film maker and producer”, elaborates Phil, “and this, along with his role as a TV personality, made for a busy lifestyle.
Out of the blue came the opportunity to buy the water tower”, he continues. “Russ had tremendous vision. The build pre-dated Grand Designs so it was a pretty unique project, however it was crucial that his vision was married to a realistic budget, which is where Jannette came in. Occasionally I was invited over to help and bouncing ideas off each other meant that we were able to come up with solutions to resolve any issues.”
Jannette laughs as she recalls this time: “Russ is such an optimist and can get carried away. Phil gives him grounding; he is someone you can really depend on and trust and who doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear.
As a realist, Phil gave us different angles; he was a great help in terms of exploring some of the financial implications of the renovations, which helped us to manage the practicalities of an ever-increasing budget.
It was such a stressful time,” admits Jannette, “and put a huge strain on our physical and mental well-being, as well as our financial resources, but such a plus that Phil could also give us an awful lot in terms of general advice, outside the world of investment.”
It took Russell (as project manager) and Ellis Williams’ architect, Julian Baker, seven years to realize the vision, with the result attracting huge media attention and the property winning 11 awards, including the prestigious 2006 RIBA Award for the Best Contemporary House.
The project featured in Seven Year Makeover, a television series produced and presented by Russell on what was then UKTV, and was also selected as one of Kevin McCloud’s Best of Grand Designs, even though it did not appear on the show.
The husband and wife team founded their TV production company, Little Planet Media, in the early 90s, primarily making commercial videos featuring the great outdoors. Russell and Jannette were commissioned by the Discovery Channel to develop and produce The Diceman, an adventure travelogue television series, originally aired between 1997 and 2001, and now has a cult following. Russ and cameraman Shaun Fenton made 60 programmes in all, travelling a total of 32,000 miles across 14 different countries.
Since then Russell has presented everything from BBC One’s Room For Improvement to I Own Britain’s Best Home for Channel Five. He has also been successful at designing and fabricating interior design elements and products for the home and creating pop art.
“But the time has now come to sell our family home as our children have flown the nest”, explains Jannette. “The house is everything we dreamed of, but it’s time to move on and invest part of the capital to provide an income for our future retirement – it’s time to relax and enjoy life.
We trust Phil and the rest of the team at Greystone completely to look after our investments. Phil just knows us; he’s been with us on the journey and understands our history. I can’t begin to count the times he has helped when we needed to make big financial decisions. He listened, advised and a few days later had reviewed and documented everything in a report for us, succinctly setting everything out and making it all crystal clear.
Phil has helped us with everything from pensions, life insurance and mortgages, to fantastic portfolios, which he kept up to date giving us formal evidence on our financial position. He gives guidance for the whole family – our daughter Sophie is now 21 and currently at UCL, and our son James, now 26, is a pilot based in Paris. When James wanted to train to become an airline pilot, for example, Phil looked into obtaining funding through grants and the various options that were open to him.
Always happy to go that extra mile, Phil has given us as much time as we’ve needed over the years – it’s just part of his personal service. He commits to his clients 100%.”
“It’s very much a two-way relationship”, interjects Phil. “When I was Chair of a school charity raising money for a rebuild, Russ created a superb promotional DVD, which would have cost around £70K. He only charged £3K, giving all his time for free as his contribution towards the charity. We ended up raising over £130K, with a great deal of the appeal’s success due to the DVD.”
“Phil is just a decent man,” says Jannette, “always approachable, always amenable. He has become part of the family and met many of our friends through dinner party invitations. We’re very fortunate to have found Phil and Greystone – long may our relationship continue.”