Financial planner Robert Little is celebrating an unforgettable 12 months that saw him get married and celebrate his twin boys’ first birthday and ended with being crowned the UK’s Investment Advice Specialist of the Year.
It was third time lucky when Robert, director of Redcar firm Bob Little and Co, won the prestigious honour at the Personal Finance Society’s annual awards ceremony in London, having been shortlisted for the previous two years.
But he almost didn’t get his application in at all, as the closing date came while he was on honeymoon in Italy with his wife and their babies, who were 18 months old over Christmas.
“When I was shortlisted, I looked at the diary and realised I’d have to do it all in the two days before we went, so it was pretty intensive,” said Robert, who took over running the business when he was just 23 after his dad, founder Bob Little, died from cancer.
“The deadline for submitting entries was the day before we were due back and I knew we wouldn’t have time to work on it while we were away.
“The questions are always tough and I’ve had to do extra research to answer them but this was the hardest yet, involving trusts and taxes and how they impact on investments.
“My wife was very understanding as she got on with the wedding plans on her own because she was hoping to get a trip to London out of it if I got through!”
The couple tied the knot in August and then enjoyed a family holiday that included visits to Pisa, Siena, Florence and Chianti.
Robert beat leading advisers from throughout the country when his Investment Advice Specialist of the Year entry came out on top after an anonymised judging process and was presented with his distinctive trophy by TV presenter Clive Anderson.
He arrived back in the office after spending the rest of the weekend celebrating in the capital to be greeted by congratulations banners put up by delighted staff.
Robert has noticed a dip in new lump sum investment enquiries in recent months, with Brexit often cited as a reason why, but while he agrees the economic outlook is very uncertain, he’s also keen to reassure his clients.
“The UK is relatively small in terms of the value of shares and bonds compared to the rest of the world, so anyone who invests in a broadly diversified portfolio should be relatively well protected from any negative effects of Brexit,” he said.
“As a company, we’re very positive about our own future. We have plenty of new clients coming in all the time to seek our services.
“We’ve always thrived on word of mouth recommendation and I believe clients who come to us that way are often better for us because they’re already familiar with how we work before they come in.
“People in East Cleveland already know who we are but this and the other awards we’ve won have helped us reach further afield into Stockton and Middlesbrough where we weren’t so well known.
“We’ve carried on growing this year with an increase in turnover and enquiries and have dealt with the increased workload by better use of technology and better processes.
“We’re also very proud to have a very low turnover of staff. Nicola Wright recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary after joining us when she was 17 and Lisa Stacey, Angela Mackenzie and Martin Cockerill are due all to reach the same milestone in the next three years.”
Based at Kirkleatham Business Park in Redcar, Bob Little and Co employs four advisers and seven highly qualified support staff.
The firm was named North East Advisor Firm of the Year in the 2017 Professional Adviser Awards, having achieved much-coveted Chartered status three years earlier.
Robert, who has a first-class honour degree in Financial Economics, also has individual Chartered status and adviser Martin Cockerill was awarded Chartered status last year.