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General election 2015: Clifton Asset Management chairman Adam Tavener – I’m voting as…

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Access to finance is a key issue for political parties currently out securing the vote of Britain’s army of business owners and managers. For Adam Tavener, the latest figure to feature in our “I’m voting as…” series, it is a space that is particularly close to his heart.

Below, he gives a flavour of what recent growth has been like, how he envisages the future for his business looking and where he believes there is room for improvement.

Who are you and what does your business do?

My name is Adam Tavener and I am chairman and founder of Clifton Asset Management. We are best known for our pension-led funding product, providing finance for the UK’s SMEs, and, more recently, we were the driving force behind the Alternative Business Funding (ABF) collaboration which successfully engaged with the government to permanently change the way SME owners will access growth finance in the future.

How has your business changed over the last five years?

The business has grown significantly over the last five years and, critically for our long term value, has transitioned very successfully to a recurring revenue model. Total revenues have approximately doubled over the period; whilst recurring income has increased fivefold. We have also invested heavily in technology and now consider ourselves to be very much a fintech business, albeit one with a very personal touch.

What are your growth plans for the next five years?

The next five years should see us break through as a product provider to a range of intermediaries, specifically IFA’s and commercial finance brokers. We are in early-stage talks with potential strategic investment partners to make this happen, although we might decide to list on AIM instead. This new style customer acquisition would accelerate our growth rate by a factor of ten and put us in a good place for a main market listing towards the end of the period. Our Alternative Business funding portal will have been spun out of the group by then.

Read other “I’m voting as…” features:

What kind of government would you like to see elected?

I feel very strongly that business owners – who are largely the UK’s wealth creators – are too heavily taxed. This is counter-productive in building the nation’s economy and an aspirational business culture. 

Higher rate and top rate tax payers already contribute way more than average, plus usually take far less out. Fair taxation and a business friendly environment inevitably create greater prosperity for all. I would also welcome a serious intervention into the way the financial sector is regulated. The current system layers cost without consumer benefit and stifles innovation.

Do you think government in general is doing enough to support businesses of your size?

In the main, yes. The role of government in the business arena is to create a framework of confidence, legal certainty and fair taxation, amongst other things. Its role is not to intervene directly in a free market other than to set the rules by which the market can operate, in order to ensure a level playing field. 

My own interactions with BIS and the Treasury over the last twelve months have convinced me that they understand the SME sector fairly well and are very proactive in coming forward with supportive initiatives. I had the opportunity to wish farewell to the outgoing secretary of state for business, innovation and skills not long ago, and my final words to him were “bravo, I genuinely admire all that you have achieved over the last five years”. I hope whoever takes the role in the future is able to demonstrate the same level of vision and determination to get the obvious things done. We parted on good terms.

Has the impending general election caused any uncertainty regarding how you run your company?

No more than the normal uncertainty caused by politicians refusing to stop messing around with the pension system. When your core product is pension-led funding you are always wary of what the next big idea is going to be. Both sides of the political debate seem to think that pensions are a problem area, without acknowledging that it was political, then regulatory intervention that caused the problem. 

Gordon Brown’s infamous pensions raid, combined with the retail distribution review banning commission payments to intermediaries, caused the nation’s savings ratio to collapse. There is clearly some uncertainty around an outcome which presents the nation with a Labour/SNP tie up, as the very left wing nature of such an administration is highly unlikely to be conducive to such things as individual responsibility for our long term financial wellbeing, entrepreneurship and reasonable taxation levels. We’ll see.

In one sentence, please finish this line: “I’m voting as…”

I’m voting as a business owner who understands that all budgets, whether personal, household or national, have to balance, and that the only way we can all enjoy better services is for the economy to be strong.

Read more from our general election coverage:

Do you agree with Adam Tavener? Is there anything you’d like to add? Please let us know in the comments box below.

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