Meet the clients – Alan and Stephen

Our senior consultant, Claire Finch, first met Stephen Hobson at one of the popular Greystone seminars she regularly hosted to help accountants and other financial services specialists negotiate their way through recently introduced pension legislation and the implications for their clients.

“I have to admit the offer of free bacon butties was always a winner at getting me through the door” says Stephen, “but the first seminar topic on new legislation around pension tax was something I needed to get my head round for my clients.

Listening to Claire I just thought WOW! She was impressive and extremely knowledgeable. I loved the fact she was so down to earth and could articulate everything clearly in a language all of us could easily comprehend. I was using another financial adviser at the time, but I contacted Claire and arranged an informal coffee conversation.

“That first meeting was six years ago”, continues Stephen, “and I’ve since recommended her to my clients who are equally delighted with the service. Claire simply does what she says she is going to do. She has a great investment and technical team behind her who recommend various individual stock selection ideas in the fund of funds appropriate to our needs.

The relationship with Greystone feels personal and caring” Stephen continues, “something the big banks and large IFAs just cannot hope to replicate. Any queries I have I always call Greystone. They know who you are when you call, are friendly and helpful and never get harassed. Rachel, Claire’s assistant is also excellent; I just feel I’m in safe hands.

I also enjoy mulling things over together with Claire and coming up with ideas on tax planning and financial strategies for our mutual clients; it’s a great two-way relationship.”

Claire agrees: “This is a fairly unique relationship and works really well,” she explains. “Stephen takes me with him to meetings with clients as there is a good deal of overlap with the services we provide. We work as a team which is really helpful for our clients. We also manage Stephen and Alan’s portfolios. Recently, we planned how to fund the purchase of their lodge in the Yorkshire Dales as part of a cash flow analysis through to retirement, to ensure that they can maintain the same standard of living.”

“I grew up in Scunthorpe and went to a co-ed comprehensive school where the ambitious planned to get out as soon as possible, primarily through the army or navy, as the alternative was to work in the steelworks like my father,” says Stephen.

However, Stephen’s success at school meant he was able to go to Manchester University and subsequently he qualified as a chartered accountant. He has run his own practice looking after the needs of individuals and family businesses for over 20 years.

By contrast, Alan grew up in Cheshire and entered The Manchester Grammar School as a free scholar in the 60s, funded by the Local Authority. By the time he reached Sixth Form, his aspiration was to go up to Oxford, which is where he read physics for three years. After taking his degree, he joined merchant bankers Rothschild in 1970 in London, moving to its Manchester office three years later. Since leaving Rothschild, Alan has held a number of business roles. Since 2000 he has mentored business leaders helping them ‘to become the best they can be’ and to lead fulfilled lives.

“Essentially I’m their sounding board; it really is true that it’s very lonely at the top. It’s rare that leaders get any time for themselves as they are busy supporting management teams – giving them what seems like a luxury of two or three hours every month or so to spend purely focusing on any issues they may have is greatly valued.

I work across a range of sectors and size of businesses mainly based in the North West, but I also have clients in London, Scotland, Ireland and even Latin America!

It has always been very important to me to use what I can do to give back to my community on a pro bono basis. I was a governor at UMIST for 13 years and Manchester Grammar for 25 years.”

Alan has two sons and four grandchildren who are living in America. Neither Alan or Stephen have given much thought to physically retiring, although they say that through Claire’s careful guidance it’s not through a lack of financial security.

“I really love my work,” says Alan “and I would be content to continue for some time. Stephen has no intention of retiring soon; we ensure there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy the time we spend not working.”

“We are just enjoying life as it is at the moment.” agrees Stephen.

“We have a lodge in Yorkshire where we spend on average two weekends per month relaxing and walking in the Yorkshire Dales with our dogs, Bertie and Jasper, who are young and spirited flat-coated retrievers.

Alan and I celebrated our 10 year civil partnership in the summer with an arctic cruise to North Norway, Spitsbergen, Iceland and South Greenland. We don’t normally do cruises, but we chose it for the spectacular scenery which could only be seen by ship. We were not disappointed! But our real passion is the arts and music, particularly opera.”

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