Even before entering financial services in the early 1990s, George Critchley was no stranger to building businesses.
Yet the Preston born businessman, who grew up in Lea Town, had initially set his sights on becoming a professional footballer, having spent much of his youth playing with North Lancashire Boys and later on the books of Blackpool FC.
His passion for sport and health would eventually serve him well and after several years in retail management he set up a fitness firm and later a health food business.
George successfully built up both firms, eventually selling out his share in the first to his business partner.
It was he says the right move for him at the time, but with a young family to support, and his health food business not quite providing the income he needed, George found himself exploring a complete change in career; looking to finance appeared to be the answer.
Committing his time to retraining in financial planning George would later attend a recruitment seminar for life assurance group Allied Dunbar, where he worked until a move to Lincoln Financial Group in 1997.
Hit with redundancy three years later, it was this point George took the opportunity to go out on his own, setting up his first IFA business franchise Inter Alliance Preston.
This experience, left him with a big desire to build a lasting business in finance based on the core values of ‘good advice and good service’ and it was this in mind that in 2003, George opened Euxton-based company ‘True Bearing.’
Now one of the north’s leading firms of independent financial advisers (IFAs) True Bearing is celebrating its 15th anniversary, unveiling a seven-year course for further growth.
Chairman George is now setting out plans to double the company’s staff number and triple its turnover to £15m by 2025.
George says putting the right top team in place has helped to drive the firm’s growth.
There are currently 64 employees working from their premises in Euxton. Susan Peary, the managing director, and Helen Lupton, compliance director, both joined in 2011.
He adds: “Having the right people in place is the key to the success of a business. As part of our growth plans, we are looking to double staff to 125 by 2025, which means keeping the existing team and attracting more good people. We have already significantly increased productivity but we are aiming for a further 30 per cent gain through the use of new technology.”
“While we are not looking to extend to the whole of the UK, we want to be the leader in our region – which stretches from the Scottish borders to West Yorkshire and the Potteries - and we are also considering a location for a second office.”
True Bearing Chartered Financial Planners has expanded its team by 300 per cent since 2011 and currently advises more than 3,000 individuals and businesses, with £426m of assets under management. It has its own legal services arm and operates an online advice service, Bread and Butter Advice.
True Bearing was one of the first IFAs in the UK to receive Gold Standard Investors in People, which it has retained three times and it is one of the few IFA firms to have been awarded Corporate Chartered Status.
George adds: “The factor that determines whether the client gets what they hope for is the timescale. If they invest for long enough, they generally get there.
“With a growing elderly population, IFAs have a really important role to play in safeguarding people’s financial future. As interest rates are lower than inflation, cash in the bank is effectively losing money.
"Whatever sums people can afford to put away, it is vital that they invest wisely. At True Bearing we aim to give them the best advice possible.”
While True Bearing aims to get to the heart of client’s financial goals - George and his team are also committed to keeping in touch with their local roots and community.
For the past five years they have organised and paid for the ‘Last Choir Singing’ competition for Lancashire school children aged eight to 11 years. The overall aim of the project is to showcase musical education throughout the region.
George adds: “Last Choir Singing is our way of giving something back to the community.
“It is so important that children have a chance to participate in the arts. The competition teaches them discipline and team work and they experience the pure joy of singing.”
The firm has also chosen Derian House as its charity this year and have already raised £830 since May with two events and will be joining Derian House on August 19 with the Morecambe Bay Walk.