Hargreaves Lansdown founder heralds entrepreneurship – at the most unlikely time
Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of Britain’s largest retail electronic trading company, says now is the time to empower yourself just as Margaret Thatcher had said. The difficulty is, we need a Margaret Thatcher for today!
The year 2020 has been most peculiar, especially from a personal liberty and business perspective.
Even those among us with the most staunchly capitalist views (myself included) have had to readdress their stance on whether it is wise to encourage anyone at all to start a new business, whilst those with existing businesses have either been forced into closedowns which have been implemented with ‘laws’ that have been rushed through various governments without adhering to proper democratic process, or have had to reassess their position and rationalize their businesses with tremendous belt-tightening.
Today. however, one of the most successful and respected senior figures in the retail electronic financial services sector has bucked the current mindset by openly stating that now is a good time to start a business.
Bizzarre thought? Perhaps, however straight-talking Yorkshireman and fervent Brexit supporter Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown, the largest retail electronic trading company in Britain by a considerable margin, says that now is the time to become independent and found a business.
“Right now is a fantastic time to launch a business, especially those who are working for companies that are struggling. They are in a great position to set up cheaply and challenge the bigger guys”, he told the Daily Mail this morning.
“People are also doing things they’ve done before which entrepreneurs should take advantage of. Before lockdown, I had never used online banking and my wife never did her grocery shopping online”, he said.
Mr Hargreaves, who established Hargreaves Lansdown alongside colleague Stephen Lansdown in 1982, has amassed a personal fortune of over £2.4 billion and is one of Britain’s most wealthy individuals.
Mr Hargreaves and Mr Lansdown sought to be the biggest and the best as they grew their business. Their combined talents and entrepreneurial skills led to a strong and trusted service with funds now at £54.7 billion from 760,000 clients by the time FinanceFeeds took a good look inside the company’s Bristol head office in 2015.
Mr Hargreaves believes that aid future entrepreneurs, the government should get rid of some taxes and ease regulation. “A five-year holiday would be wonderful to get this country going. We’d see huge numbers of businesses setting up now like we did in the 1980s and they could be the entrepreneurs of the future” he said.
He praised former Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher for the role that she played in liberalising the economy during the 1980s. And so he should. Mrs Thatcher did such an incredible job of making the British economy so successful and empowering so many small businesses that despite weak leadership ever since she retired in 1992, the UK is still riding along on her legacy almost 30 years later!
“The only way people can have a good standard of living in any country is business prosperity and capitalism is how you can prosper” said Mr Hargreaves.
“That’s what Margaret Thatcher did, she created an environment for businesses to grow. Her passion was beyond belief, and I believe she will go down as the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever seen” – Peter Hargreaves, co-founder, Hargreaves Lansdown
He added that current chancellor Rishi Sunak should follow suit and get rid of “crazy regulations” bogging down the private sector.
He is indeed quite right.
Mr Hargreaves has shown his unwavering support for private business over recent times, one example being his prominent stance on Brexit, and how his vocal approach in the run up to Britain’s exit from the European Union made it clear that he wanted a truly global market for the UK.
“I am firmly convinced that the day hopefully, we decide to leave, that little bit of insecurity, that little bit of unknown will be an absolute fillip to everyone” he said just after the public voted for Britain to leave the EU in 2016.
Mr. Hargreaves continued
“When Singapore became independent from Malaysia, that little insecurity that they were no longer part of Malaysia, it was an inspiration. I honestly think that would be good for us too.”
Mr. Hargreaves told the BBC at the time that concerns about leaving the European Union and the potential impact that such a decision would have on the financial sector, particularly the City of London, were being blown out of proportion.
“We raise money for the Russians; we raise money all over the world, for countries that are not in Europe,” he said. “They’ve got to use London. London can raise billions on a few phone calls” – Peter Hargreaves
Mr. Hargreaves believes that there would be absolutely no material effect on trade between Europe and Britain should an exit from the European Union take place.
Just as Britain would no longer be required to pay tens of millions of pounds every day to the various white elephant projects and failed economies in the European Union, the country would retain its sovereignty as an independent nation and further secure London’s place as the prestigious world financial center. He clearly understands that even if Britain is not inexorably tied to the European nations politically, the demand for European companies to sell tehir products in the world’s 10th largest economy by GDP would still be very strong.
“Can you imagine if they put up a trade barrier, and we would reciprocate immediately” said Mr. Hargreaves. “Just imagine the three phone calls Angela Merkel would get the following day, the chief executive of [Volkswagen], the chief executive of Mercedes and the chief executive of BMW” – Peter Hargreaves
Mr Hargreaves, voiced his pro-Brexit opinion last year, has stated that being autonomous could also help the country to strike better trade deals. He said Britain could look to the Commonwealth for more trade, as it would be free of previous deals that favoured other EU members.
Mr. Hargreaves also considers the reduction in bureaucracy to be a potential boon. “Britain would also escape many of Brussels’ rules and regulations” he claimed.
If Hargreaves Lansdown is to be held up as an example of this type of British ingenuity, it would be quite apt.
In a meeting with FinanceFeeds, Hargeaves Lansdown demonstrated its self-developed Vantage service, which is an in-house developed proprietary platform that offers customers a wide selection of option choices such as spread betting and CFDs, ISA’s, SIPPs as well as corporate and government bonds, ETF’s, Investment Trusts. The company considers its strong customer service and safety of client funds to be top priorities.
Trading in the instruments that the company provides is manageable via the Vantage system which holds different types of investments together in one place with one valuation and dealing service, and whilst CFDs and spread betting are very much part of the firm’s product range and are offered under the HL Markets brand which is a white label of IG Group, Hargreaves Lansdown has 14% of the UK’s market share in ISAs.
The company has a value of around £6 billion and is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange.
Despite his absolute stance on private enterprise, Mr Hargreaves will not tolerate poor business ethic.
Last year, at the height of the Woodford scandal, Mr Hargreaves stood tall and publicly attacked Woodford for is withdrawal chaos.
He was furious that Woodford continued to operate which caused Hargreaves Lansdown to continue to provide the fund to its clients even though the fund was experiencing problems, leaving Hargreaves Lansdown with the customer-facing issues that have ensued from clients not being able to withdraw, has publicly expressed his opinion, citing that Mr Woodford had not been ‘truthful’ about the situation.
“The problem was Hargreaves Lansdown had too much with him” said Mr Hargreaves, referring to Neil Woodford.
“The clients have been stuffed in this horrible Woodford fund. I’ve drawn this big dividend. Nothing to do with me and I’ve been very successful. What do they want me to do? Give the dividend back to the unit holders?” said Mr Hargreaves in defence of the £64 million dividend he received from the company that he is entitled to as he is a 32% shareholder.
“It’s annoyed the hell out of me that it would appear he (referring to Neil Woodford) has not been truthful with Hargreaves Lansdown. But it’s also annoyed me that they let it go on so long” said Mr Hargreaves publicly.
It is refreshing to hear such a direct opinion from the founder of what is now a huge publicly listed company with a loyal client base.
This demonstrates, however, that even the most astute companies in the business can fall foul of perceived quality, as withdrawal issues are usually subconsciously associated with low-end bucket shops on islands or in the Middle East, not long-established plate-glass hedge fund managers who hold themselves out as financial gurus and court the media.
It takes a lot of mettle and a strong mind to go into a new business, especially at a time like this when many companies are retracting, failing or unable to start afresh due to no new business bank accounts being opened by banks, and this sweeping socialist revolution that is gripping the world by force.
Mr Lansdown, however, is a voice to be taken very seriously.