It is a reflection of where we have been and are (battling a pandemic) that even when your business attracts billions of pounds of customers’ money, your first thought is not about the cash – it is about people.
Andrew Croft, chief executive of St James’s Place did reflect on the performance of the Cirencester wealth management firm in its annual results, of course.
But, despite the increase in profits from £146.6 million in 2019 to £262.0 million, Mr Croft’s first words in an almost sombre statement were for the individuals and families in what he called ‘extraordinary year’.
‘2020 was an extraordinary year for individuals, families, businesses and broader societies across the globe, with events shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic that began early in the year.
‘Our lives have been disrupted and we have all had to adapt to protect the physical, mental and financial health of ourselves, our friends and loved ones, our colleagues, and the vulnerable,’ said Mr Croft.
Turning to business matters, he added: ‘Our operations and performance during 2020 were inevitably disrupted by the lockdowns and social distancing.
‘However, I am very pleased to report that our business has demonstrated real resilience and made further progress with net inflows of £8.2 billion for the year and funds under management closing at a record £129.3 billion.
‘Overall, I am very pleased with both our new business and financial results for 2020.’
Shareholders concerned by a decision to withhold 11.22 pence of the 2019 final dividend at the start of the pandemic need fear not.
Mr Croft said the Cotswold firm’s board now have the confidence to pay this withheld amount as a further interim dividend during the first quarter. It also proposed a final and full year dividend for 2020 of 38.49 pence per share.
By Andrew Merrell