Wed, 20 Jun 2018
Melvin Czapalski, left, and Michael Roberts, of Protect & Invest
A desire to not be ‘the man from the Pru’ set Michael Roberts on a path that would eventually lead to him setting up his own company, with business partner Melvin Czapalski.
The men began working together in 2009 and the following year set up the thriving financial planning business, Protect and Invest, that they run today.
The 38-year-old, who was born and brought up in Wokingham, joined Prudential when he left college and it was there that he undertook his financial advisory exams.
After a few years he decided he no longer wanted to be ‘the man from the Pru’ and so joined Village Finance, the mortgage arm of estate agent Village Properties.
“It wasn’t easy to get into when you had the qualifications but no experience,” he says.
“I was only 22 years old and it took me about six months to find someone willing to give me that chance.”
He spent four years building his experience before moving on to a similar company and then, after 18 months there, in 2006, Michael decided the time was right to set up on his own.
“In this industry you have to be regulated,” he explains.
“So the easiest way to achieve that is to attach yourself to a business that is already regulated, which is what I did at Orchard House.”
He was there until 2009, when he moved to the financial planning arm of accountancy firm Ross Brooke. It was here that he met Melvin for the first time.
Melvin owned 50 per cent of the financial planning business, but had come to the decision that he wanted to sever the connection with Ross Brooke and gain some independence.
“In 2010 I bought Ross Brooke out,” Melvin says. “It was at that point that Michael became a director and a shareholder.
“We wanted to have more independence to work with other companies, but it was difficult to do that when we had the same name as one of their competitors.
“We still work closely with Ross Brooke to this day, though, and continued to be based in their building until the beginning of this year.”
Melvin’s career path had taken a different route to Michael’s and financial planning wasn’t initially what he had in mind.
The 62-year-old was born in London and attended a comprehensive school in Finsbury.
He moved on to Southgate Tech to finish his A-levels before studying engineering at Leeds University.
His first job after graduating took him to Bracknell, when he joined Sperry Gyroscope, part of BAE.
But, after four years, Melvin realised it was time to move on and try something different, so he joined an insurance company.
“I just wasn’t a good engineer,” he admits.
“It wasn’t my forte and I was introduced to a broker in Tadley [he was working at AWE for BAE at the time] which led to the job with the insurance company.”
That was in 1982 and he has worked as an adviser in financial services ever since.
He is a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute and Personal Finance Society and holds its diploma level qualification.
Melvin, who specialises in pensions and investment planning, had been working with Ross Brooke for around five years when Michael joined the company in 2009 and the pair teamed up to take over 12 months later.
“We wanted to be more individual,” he adds.
“So we decided to go out on our own and buy the accountants out and take over the firm entirely.”
The industry at the time was a very sales-driven environment, Michael explains, but there were a lot of changes on the horizon.
“Historically commission was how we were remunerated, but that was being outlawed,” he adds.
“The industry was becoming fee-based and anyone who wanted to join had to be far more qualified than before.
“We were very much in favour of the changes and had already achieved the minimum requirements before the date set out though and we were already working on a fee basis.
“We wanted to stay ahead of things, not just meet the minimum requirements, and always maintain a high-level of professionalism.”
Protect and Invest became chartered in 2013 and Michael became a fellow of the Personal Finance Society; the highest level of qualification awarded by the PFS.
Having been a practising financial planner since 2002, he also holds the Chartered Insurance Institute’s prestigious Chartered Financial Planner title.
He is also an affiliate member of STEP, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
This is highly-regarded within the industry, particularly among lawyers, and, Michael points out, not many financial planners have achieved it.
When they launched Protect and Invest they made a number of changes, including updating the website and setting up an electronic back office system, “making it a 21st-century business”.
Up until this year they had continued to rent office space off of Ross Brooke, but an opportunity to purchase the current offices arose and they moved in this January.
“We put the property in our pension funds,” says Michael, who lives in Wokingham with his wife and two children. “That is something we specialise in offering advice in too.
“You can use a pension fund to buy a property, which has a number of tax benefits for a business.
“Essentially what we do is help people live the life they want to live without running out of money.
“We work primarily with people about 10 years from retirement and beyond.”
The company now has seven members of staff working out of the new Newbury office, in Mill Court, and a second office in Wokingham, where Michael is predominantly based.
Melvin, who lives in Burbage with his wife and has three children, adds: “It is a big psychological thing to retire.
“It is about making sure the money you have accumulated over the years doesn’t run out after just a few years.
“We help people realise what they can take out, but we do have people who struggle with the mind-set of changing from saving money to spending money.
”And you have to remember that you could be retired for 30 or 40 years nowadays.”
Looking to the business’ future, the men say they are keen to continue expanding their growing firm and are looking for another adviser to come on board.
They also have some “exciting plans” in the pipeline that they say will complement their current service offering.