Our History

Established in 1984, PenLife Associates has grown to be one of the most respected financial planning organisations in the Yorkshire region.

Founded by David Gough and located in Bishopthorpe, the firm moved to ‘Limited’ status in 1989. Following a relocation to Heworth in 1995, Andrew Richardson joined as a Financial Adviser and shortly after took on the role of Director. That same year saw Phillip Mutter join the team as an Administrator & Mortgage Adviser.

Fast forward to 2003 and Julie Wilson joined the company as Office Manager/Paraplanner, and together, the trio set the foundations for what PenLife is today.

A few years later in 2006, David Gough provided the option to Julie, Andy and Phil, of buying him out. After careful thought and consideration – they agreed. The process was completed in 2007. Andy took on the role of Managing Director, Julie, Company Secretary and Phil became Director. From that point on, their vision shaped PenLife and transformed it into the business it is today.

The three individuals had their ‘niches’. Julie and Phil focused on the marketing side of the business, whilst still performing their other duties as Advisers. And Andy focused on business development using his networking skills.

Hungry to make the firm a success, they devoured business development training and coaching programmes to learn how to run a successful practice. It was very early on in their training when they were advised that the job of a company owner is to continually improve the offering – which is why ‘Continual Improvement’ has formed the backbone of PenLife’s progression ever since.

Under their leadership, the business grew from a team of 9 to over 30. They ensured that PenLife’s ethos of putting the client at the heart of absolutely everything was engrained in the team, right from the off. In 2009, PenLife became one of the first financial planning practices in the region to achieve ‘Corporate Chartered Financial Planner’ status.

Still today, the word ‘training’ is a constant within the PenLife office. This is consistently instilled in everyone – the need for training and how it is key to a successful business. PenLife created an environment where young people can flourish, and Julie, Andy and Phil helped with this in any way they could – with Julie, it was sometimes with the crack of the whip! Testament to this are Adam Dent, Louis Maddison, Haydn Wishart and Kriss Brining – four of our Financial Planners who joined PenLife as apprehensive apprentices and who, after years of hard work, determination and support, blossomed into fully fledged advisers. Louis and Adam have in fact achieved Chartered Financial Planner status at the age of 26 and 28 respectively!

PenLife went on to create specialist teams including Client Care. Client Care was a passion of Julie’s – celebrating with clients during the good times and being there for them in times of need – be it a comforting phone call, a helping hand with shopping during Covid, sending a food parcel when a client is dealing with a bereavement (just so it’s one less thing to worry about) or simply sending a bunch of flowers to let a client know we are thinking of them. It’s what sets PenLife apart from other financial planning firms and it’s what makes PenLife tick.

Not only did the co-directors create a successful business, PenLife raised the benchmark for financial planning firms in terms of the support that’s provided to clients, and the importance of the community in York and the surrounding areas. Julie often wrote articles (in her unique style!) for local publications and featured on local radio – sharing her knowledge with the community. She was extremely vocal on fighting for fairness and justice. She was also passionate about giving back to those that needed it the most and had the PenLife team running half marathons, climbing mountains and creating charity snack boxes to raise funds for local charities!

“I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing Julie throughout my entire adulthood after she hired me as an 18-year-old needing a lot of direction. She has truly helped shape me into the person and adviser I am today, and I will be forever grateful for that. She has taught me to give as much as possible, which she did so much of.”

Louis Maddison, Financial Planner

Employee Ownership Trust

Several years ago, Julie and Andy started to consider their futures and began to discuss exit strategy options. They looked at Employee Ownership Trusts as a possibility and very much liked the idea but on reflection, felt the time wasn’t right.

PenLife received some approaches from larger firms, however Julie and Andy felt these offers didn’t sit right with PenLife’s ethos and culture, and they didn’t proceed. It was hugely important to them that PenLife continued in its current structure when they retired, and that it wasn’t swallowed up within a large corporate firm. They wanted this for many reasons, but the two most important were protecting the PenLife brand and culture, and then within that, the team.

In early 2021, and behind the scenes, they decided the time was right to step back and put in place a new management team:

Deborah Jacobs

Director/Chartered Financial Planner/Sales Team Leader

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Tom Hughes

Director/Senior Financial Planner

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Nina Wright

Director/Administration & Compliance Team Leader

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Bernadette Render

Director/Data & Project Team Leader

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In August 2021, PenLife became employee owned, under an Employee Ownership Trust. This exciting news was going to be publicly announced in Spring 2022 with a bit of a celebratory do, but Julie very sadly and unexpectedly passed away in December 2021.

The Employee Ownership Trust enables PenLife to continue along the same path and to develop as always with the same culture, proposition and processes – just as Julie and Andy had wanted.

For our clients, the Employee Ownership Trust means PenLife will forever continue as they know it. For the team, it means we can also continue as we have been, but now, with even more emphasis on being a team and working together to nurture and develop this great company.

Here are some messages we have received from our lovely clients:

“How wonderful, though, that Julie left her legacy with PenLife and her memory will live on. It's so nice that she has left a legacy and that in itself will drive the company forward, you will all forever make her proud.”

“I think the new structure is an excellent way forward and one which seems to me just as Julie would have planned it.”

“Very best of luck with your (and Julie’s) plans for the Employee Ownership Trust - I think it’s a wonderful decision.”

“It is gratifying to read that the company is in safe hands becoming and Employee Ownership Trust last year, but sad that Julie will now not see that vision develop and grow as we are sure it undoubtedly will.”

“We are pleased to hear of the changes made to the Company to enable it to continue offering the same high level of personal service to clients.”

“We know the professionalism of the team will ensure that the company will move forward in the manner of which Julie would be proud.”

“Fantastic news about the employee owned company it is a true testament to Julies values. I am very proud of your company and how well you all have done despite all the difficulties of the last 2 years and now the loss of Julie.”

“She was obviously a remarkable woman who will be missed by many. How wonderful, though, that she left her legacy with PenLife and her memory will live on.”

“ It’s good to know that PenLife is in your good hands and will continue as Julie wanted it to. “

“On the positive side, we are pleased to hear of the changes made to the Company to enable it to continue offering the same high level of personal service to clients.”

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