The legacy of one of the most renowned figures in Scotland’s financial sector has been secured six months after his death as employees of Alan Steel Asset Management (ASAM) have taken majority ownership of the business.

Mr Steel, who set up the award-winning advisory firm in 1975 in his hometown of Linlithgow, had hoped to complete the sale of ASAM to an Employee Owned Trust by October of last year. However, these plans were delayed after the 74-year-old lost a month-long battle with Covid in September.

Known as a crusader in the financial industry, Mr Steel is said to have received lucrative offers for the business on a “near yearly basis”. However, all were turned down as incompatible with the firm’s ethos and its founder’s vision for its future.

His long-term advisor, Iain Binnie of Geoghegans Chartered Accountants, had introduced Mr Steel to employee ownership specialist Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates. The team – including Mr Steele’s wife, ASAM finance director Frances Steel – have following approval from the Financial Conduct Authority now completed the transfer of 70 per cent of the equity to an Employee Owned Trust.

“Alan Steel had always resisted any approaches to buy the company he founded,” Mr Binnie said. “When we were working on his succession plan, it was paramount to Alan and his fellow shareholders that ASAM's values and unique culture and way of working were protected.

READ MORE: Scottish investment veteran Alan Steel passes away

“Once we discussed the idea of an Employee Ownership Trust, it was the obvious solution for ASAM. Both clients and staff have the long-term security and [this] places the company on a sound platform for the future. It is a privilege to see Alan's dream come to fruition.”

The business has 42 employees and 10 advisors, two-thirds of whom live in the local area. Together they managed more than £1.5 billion of client assets.

The current board of directors, headed by Ms Steel, director Steven Wilson and managing director Steve Forbes, will continue to oversee operations. Ms Steel said although it has been an “incredibly difficult” time for all, they were thankful to have carried out her late husband’s dream for the company.

“ASAM is a close-knit group and we have a number of families working within the company, and so adopting employee ownership felt like a logical step for the business, and Alan recognised this from the beginning,” she said.

“This decision is not only instilling confidence in our team, but it is also reassuring our clients, some of whom we have built relationships with over decades, that our roots are very much in Linlithgow.”

HeraldScotland: Frances SteelFrances Steel

Mr Steel was the first person in the industry to expose the Equitable Life scandal, and from there went on to challenge the poor performance of with-profits bonds. He also publicly challenged the flawed workings of the split capital investment trust sector.

Three times voted the best investment IFA in UK-wide industry polling, ASAM’s “five principles” are knowledge, integrity, innovation, fairness and fun. Ms Steel said employee ownership will secure these fundamentals within the business and ensure her husband’s legacy.

Ms Leslie of Ownership Associates added: “My dealings with Alan were always warm and engaging, and he understood the importance of looking after the business long-term while safeguarding those at its heart. Alan’s five values have been written into the legal documents and the company has committed to adhering to Alan’s way of doing business.

“It was stressed upon me how important this transition was to Alan, and I am delighted that we can welcome ASAM to the employee ownership family.”

The firm was advised on the transfer to employee ownership by Douglas Roberts of Lindsays, who said it was “very clear” from the start that this structure would be “perfect” for ASAM.

“Alan referred to the staff as family and he wanted the values of ASAM to continue which might not have been the case if ASAM was sold to a trade buyer,” he said.

“I wish Alan could have been here for completion of the transfer, but it is brilliant that his plans for the future of ASAM have been implemented.”