Edward Jones has set up eight individual offices in affluent communities in outlining areas of England with investment representatives transferred from the United States.
The reps, who gave up established businesses in the states, have signed on for a five-year commitment to bring the Jones model to the U.K. "We're here to do what Edward Jones does in North America," says Allan Anderson, managing director of the firm's overseas operations. "We provide face-to-face community-based relationships with individual clients."
The challenge facing the reps will be learning local terminology and adjusting to a client mind-set accustomed to having separate providers for financial services, Anderson says. "Here you have a broker distribution channel where financial professionals generally handle individual stocks [called shares], and a separate distribution channel of Independent Financial Advisors [IFAs] who take care of mutual funds [called unit trusts], along with other types of investment products. Having a single individual handling what two financial professionals generally do is unique for England."
Another challenge will be to educate and encourage clients to focus on saving and investing for retirement, a relatively new concept for many, says Anderson. "The middle class, dependent for years on pensions and on their government to provide a safety net, is beginning to realize the government can't continue to support the increasing number of baby boomers approaching retirement age."
The pioneering Jones reps seem enthusiastic. "It's a wonderful opportunity to do what we've been doing in the states," says Katie Bass, a Jones broker from Union, Mo., who's been in England since November. "Our market in the states is a little more advanced than it is over here, but it's exciting to be on the ground floor of this project and be able to educate a whole new culture."
The U.K. operation marks the firm's second foray outside U.S. borders. In 1993, when Jones opened offices in Canada using the same strategy of relocating established U.S. reps, the firm began a feasibility study with the London Business School focusing on the U.K. market.
"Based on that study, we decided there was a market in the U.K," says Anderson, "and we wanted to be there as that market developed."
Jones is counting on the firm's reputation and commitment to one-on-one personal service to give them a foothold in Britain. "People here have the same basic needs as those in North America," he says. "When asked what they want from their personal financial provider, they said personal service, convenience, face-to-face contact and trust. These are services we intend to provide."