Staff to share £2m windfall as stockbroker AJ Bell floats
Founder will reward workers as firm plans to go public in difficult market to raise its profile
STAFF at stockbroker AJ Bell will share a £2m windfall when the “DIY” investment giant goes public later this year, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
Founder Andy Bell, who is targeting a £500m stock market listing in the coming months, has told his 750-person workforce that they will each receive a free share award worth £750 after the fund shop floats.
The multi-millionaire entrepreneur has also promised staff that they can buy shares up to the value of £1,800 when the business floats and pay the firm back over 12 months.
He said the windfall will encourage employees to “think like business owners” and will act as an incentive to grow.
“Following the norm and doing our offering behind closed doors didn’t feel right to me,” Mr Bell told The Telegraph.
“Some of our staff have been with us for over 20 years.”
The business, which has £46bn of assets under management, has already said that its 197,000 customers will have “exclusive” access to its shares at the time of the float.
The listing will also create a windfall for City tycoon Michael Spencer, who promised to back the listing earlier this year.
Well-known fund manager Neil Woodford sold off his final stake in the company to his former employer Invesco Perpetual in February.
Mr Bell, who was born in Liverpool, set up the business in Manchester with a colleague and £10,000 of personal loans in 1995, two years after he took a career break to teach football and tennis in America. He is selling just 3pc of his holding in the float, leaving him with a 25pc stake.
He wants to raise his firm’s profile so that it can steal market share from arch-rival Hargreaves Lansdown, which also offers investment products online but, with over £91bn of assets under management, is much larger. The 2007 listing of the Bristol-based fund supermarket netted founders Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown windfalls of £81.6m and £70.4m, and made millionaires of 20 of its employees.
However its growth seems to be slowing. Hargreaves warned of an “industry-wide slowdown” after posting a decline in net new business over the summer months, an announcement that sent its share sliding.
Yet, AJ Bell last week posted a 16pc boost in assets under management for the year to September, as well as a 20pc increase in customer numbers.
Despite the strong numbers, AJ Bell is preparing to float against a backdrop of market volatility. It also follows a raft of disappointing London listings, which bankers say have dampened appetite for share offerings among City investors. Shares in carmaker Aston Martin and peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle both slumped following their long-anticipated debuts in London earlier this month, prompting a number of companies to pull the plug on their plans.
Litigation funder Vannin Capital and French building materials supplier Consolis both shelved listings this month.
“The first-half [of 2019] will be sparse,” said one banker.
The FTSE 100 is on track for its worst month since the financial crisis, on Friday slumping briefly to its lowest level since 2016 following disappointing updates from Google and Amazon.
“Global markets are closing out a memorable week, with sharp losses across the board,” said IG’S Joshua Mahony on Friday.