Mark Symes, Managing Director of Piling Equipment Limited, explains how Close Brothers enabled his business to fund capital investments when traditional banks couldn’t.
Mark Symes, Managing Director, Piling Equipment Ltd
My name is Mark Symes and I’m the managing director of Piling Equipment Ltd. Piling Equipment Ltd was a company which I started in 2006 after I sold my previous business and went into semi-retirement. The recession hit in 2008 which I saw as a golden opportunity to buy lots of equipment in the UK market because the recession hit the UK especially very, very hard. I then started to find myself buying, selling and exporting and before I knew it I had become probably one of the biggest dealers in the country with used foundation equipment. This came in over a space of maybe six months. All of a sudden then I had to build a company around the success of the business which was multiplying at such a rate, I’d never built a business back to front. Whereas you build slowly with success, success, I had to build the business back to front. Very, very difficult, unusual but nevertheless it’s been a very meteorite rise in what we do and how we do it.
I’ve always thought of money as a good thing in life and a bad thing in life. It’s something that you need and I feel that if you’re privileged to be able to have that money then you should look after it wisely because you’re looking after it for the next generation of people, your next generation of family and I was always led to believe, and taught by my father, if you’re lucky enough to do that as his son, then you should be able to hang onto this money and no one would have to go through what I had to starting at the very, very bottom, at the very bottom, literally digging the holes and progressing to where I am today. So the lesson’s been long and hard. It’s not happened overnight and there’s been a lot of other good times over my lifetime that has put me in this position. But what I’ve always said is that I count myself to be very lucky to be where I am today.
Close Brothers effectively are the trustees of the Piling Equipment retirement benefit scheme which they keep me and give me the guidance, they look after the VAT returns, they look after the rental agreements, they look after the lease agreements, they look at the capital values of the properties as and when they need to be valued. They effectively run the pension as an administrator. My first meeting with Close Brothers was with a chap called Ed who I have known and worked with for many, many years. I find him a very amicable chap, very nice, he understands me. Sometimes we laugh and joke a bit because he can’t believe quite what I tell him at times but nevertheless I always tell him what we’re going to do in the future and it usually comes to fruition because we have very sound basic rules that I engage in my personal life and business life. Ed understands the way we work now and, Ed, in the early days was coming up with some good ideas. He talked me through the SIPP’s and the SASS’s and all the advantages of both and everything else that goes with it. It was his idea effectively to put me into this scheme where the scheme could loan the money back to the business and the pension benefit as well. It’s probably one of the major and overriding expansion parts of the business that was very, very helpful with Close Brothers.
If we could take the pension money and put it into the pension, the pension could in return loan the money back to Piling Equipment as a seed to help grow organically without going to banks. It’s very difficult to go to banks in the recession and say, by the way, will you lend me money to buy everything that’s going bust. Effectively, it was good business for us and every time we bought a company we doubled our money. I tend to meet up with Close Brothers, especially Ed as my direct contact although he’s changed his roles within the Group and he is probably higher up now, he tends to take me on as a personal client within the Group which is the personal touch is quite good there.
Effectively, we meet up once a year to discuss the policies and plans, as we’re coming into the time, where at 55, I may well have to do things differently and as we get to the point where the scheme is at its maximum there are more decisions to be made and the way we attribute money and how we place money and how we use money is becoming more important. This is where Close Brothers now are probably having to do a bit more work, probably a lot more work, in relation to making sure that we don’t breach limits and guidelines and plan the future forward because of course I have family and people to consider as well as myself, as and when we progress through the pension world and the rest of our lives.