Our Story

From changing ambitions to changing lives

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Positive change: passion and purpose:

Watch AES International directors Sam Instone and John Viney unwrap the origins of the organisation.

Discover how the military values of knowledge, integrity and teamwork underpin our vision for changing the future of international financial services.

And learn why we're bringing positive change to people's lives, and helping to make the world healthy, wealthy and wise...

Sam Instone AES International

Childhood dreams

For as far back as he can remember, Sam always wanted to serve in the British Army.  

He joined the cadets, completed a military degree, and was commissioned from the Royal Military Academy into The Household Cavalry.

Sam loved the military... 

He ended up in charge of changing The Queen’s Life Guard at Buckingham Palace…   

AES International was born in Geneva

Time to get a 'real' job

Whilst in London he met his future wife, Kate. 

Because they wanted a family, Sam reluctantly left the Army to ‘get a real job!’

Like many people, he thought the best prospects would be in finance – and he jumped at an opportunity to join a so-called wealth manager in Geneva, Switzerland.

However, it took just days for Sam to realise how different the world of finance is from the Army…

Gone were the culture and values that underpin the military. Gone was the integrity of treating others well. Gone were the concepts of vocational duty, service and professionalism.

Surprised and disappointed – Sam resolved to forge a better way to help people make important financial decisions…

“Let’s make things simple and successful”

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, way back when in 2004…

AES International was born, at 14, Rue Maunoir Geneva.

John Viney and Sam Instone

The early years (2004 - 2006)

At first, it was just one man, a laptop – and a great idea! 

But within a few months, other military veterans joined Sam.   

One of these was John – he’d served in the same regiment as Sam in the Army. 

Together, they poured their hearts and souls into making the business a success…

Soon, the seeds began to sprout…

“Having known Sam in the military, I became one of the first clients of AES back in 2004. I always knew my faith was well placed and for well over a decade the team have acted as trusted stewards for my families wealth. It has been incredible to watch how they have continually strived to be at the forefront of their marketplace and the success they have brought both to me and their profession.”

Andrew Bourne

“I love the way that complex matters which I don't fully understand are clearly explained. I feel more empowered by the knowledge and lessons I have learnt from AES and actually find myself looking forward to getting updates, blogs and reading lists about things I previously didn't find interesting! The approach is poles apart from anything I have previously experienced.”

Amanda Cowan

“I was attracted to AES becasue of their different approach. I liked the fact that their UK business was Chartered, I liked the fact that they charged transparent fees and didn't accept commission. I liked the fact that the fact I could trust them and get some peace of mind from leading experts.”

David Galbraith

    The existence of a parallel industry...

    The organisation initially focused on helping veterans and companies that operated in high risk professions or regions.   

    Basing itself on military values, AES International brought new levels of trust, integrity and service to this niche area.

    Despite a sense of how others in financial services operated…it wasn’t until attending a conference for traditional international financial advisers that Sam and John realised an entirely parallel industry existed.   

    A global financial services industry intent upon helping itself, not its clients…   

    It consisted of product providers and salespeople pushed out of the UK by regulation.  

    People who wanted to avoid high standards, dodge duty, and circumvent best practice – at all cost.

    Spotting opportunity where others might have despaired – they decided to challenge this toxic status quo. 

    Their mission became to transform the financial industry, that manufactures and vends products for its own gain, and to pioneer the creation of a vocational profession to help the people it serves...

    …to create 'positive change' for clients and for the marketplace...

    AES International London office

    Growth and identity (2007 - 2012)

    Relocating the headquarters to London in 2007 allowed the fledgling business to begin exporting UK best practice into the international marketplace.

    With a new head office, a clear mission, and now rapidly advancing growth…

    ...Sam and John needed someone to step in and take the organisational reins.

    This is still our London office - today!

    Pippa Miller, CFO

    The help of an old friend

    As luck would have it, Sam’s university friend Pippa had just given up her job to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition (of owning a pub!).

    Seeing an opportunity, Sam asked Pippa to help handle the growth of AES International.

    Pippa’s entertaining response?

    “Sure. I’ll help. Until I find my pub!” **

    Despite having to postpone her dream, Pippa dived right in…

    She dedicated her time to learning about the marketplace, the status quo and best practice.    

    The network model

    Time to disrupt

    Together, they worked out how the UK market had eradicated the toxic direct sales organisations of the 80s and 90s. 

    The replacement model was the network

    And so it was this concept that Sam, John and Pippa perfected and exported.

    There were now three directors – each with unique personalities and strengths.

    A team…

    Massive change and growth ensued as the AES International network model disrupted the brokerages and the direct sales organisations around the globe. 

    Award winning financial advice

    Awards and recognition

    By 2010, AES was the 11th fastest growing business in the UK… 

    In 2011, it was the 4th fastest! AES became a top 50 financial firm by size…and won accolade upon accolade. 

    Richard Branson praised AES in his Fast Track Awards.

    Barclays Bank named them the ‘Best UK management team.’

    Sam was an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.

    The Economist Magazine called Sam ‘The Field Marshal of Finance.’ 

    Staff now numbered in the hundreds. The organisation held over 67 different licences. Offices were operational in 12 different countries.

    …but something deep at the heart of the business was still not as good as it could be…

    Transparent fees

    Challenging times (2012 - 2015)

    Like other industries and professions, financial services was rapidly changing.

    Professional standards were being raised…
    Practices were being refined…
    Options for investors were improving.

    AES International wanted to be at the vanguard of this positive change – but the network model wasn’t adaptable...

    Traditional advisers resisted the introduction of higher standards.

    Product providers resisted technologies, improvements and any form of change.

    Even clients often failed to understand the better options that were rapidly becoming available to them... 

    …like transparent fees instead of opaque commissions.

    Or index funds instead of expensive and esoteric investments…

    Snake oil salespeople continued to peddle their wares.

    A battle commenced...

    Between a self-interested financial services industry of the past.

    And believers in a new, better way for the future.

    It was a fight between the last generation versus the next generation, mercenaries versus missionaries and firms who want to be big versus ones who want to be the best.

    Sam, John and Pippa knew their mission depended on their ability to enable much needed change. 

    But when change came – it was painful - because dramatic cuts ensued.

    AES International had to say farewell to colleagues who didn’t share their passion for educating by sharing information, and who wouldn’t embrace the new ways to get clients much better results.

    We had to explain to clients why we believed the products of the past were now out of date.

    And the self-interested financial services industry of the past tried to fight us – with one provider firm even trying to sue us for publishing their astronomic charges!

    James McLeod, Legal Counsel

    Enter eccentric James!

    Another former Guards Officer, James had been a lawyer at Herbert Smith. 

    He joined the crusade as our sword and shield – protecting our business and our clients from these attackers – and ensuring transparency of action in all our words and deeds.

    The making of AES International

    The making of AES International

    Despite the challenges, this difficult period proved to be the making of AES International.

    Specifically because those who remained made three critical promises (below).

    These transformative, initially difficult decisions pivoted AES International from biggest to best – from follower to leader – from accepted practice to best practice…

    And set a new course for what AES International would now become.

     

    Three transformative decisions

    AES International DIFC

    From adviser to provider (2016 >> )

    By exclusively focusing on best practice within our marketplace, large corporates and wealthy clients were approaching us.

    Our UK business became the first and only Corporate Chartered Financial Planner devoted to helping international clients.

    The only index fund adviser…

    The only Investors In People Champion…

    The only completely transparent, fee-based adviser in our marketplace.

    Our goal was to provide an invaluable resource for international investors and corporates who wanted to get better results…

    And by making our expertise accessible and by sharing everything online, AES International started gaining more traffic, more enquiries and more clients than ever before.

    Stuart Ritchie, Chartered Financial Planner

    Changing the way the world invests

    With renewed momentum on our side, a new model for the business appeared on the horizon.  

    Stuart, both a Chartered Financial Planner and Chartered Wealth Manager, joined us from a firm of Aberdeen-based accountants. 

    He couldn’t believe the short-comings of traditional adviser models – and he had an idea to help all international investors get much better results. 

    Stuart saw an end to transactional business and product-related problems – and the dawn of a transformational organisation that added much greater value for every client. 

    We welcomed Stuart to the board as a director, and together we brought his vision – "to change the way the world invests" – to life…

    A new model - accessible for all

    For many years AES International was an intermediary, attempting to find the best products on the market for clients. 

    Like the often new releasing iPhone, many of the products we had represented in the past were now out of date.  Superseded by better-returning, lower-cost options.

    Knowing there was now a better way for clients to invest, we wholeheartedly embraced this positive change and simplification.

    And with Stuart’s vision, AES International created the world’s first cyborg investment platform to enable international investors – regardless of their level of wealth or geographic location – to access these lower cost, better returning options…

     

    The AES Index Account™

    Wealth management

    A beautifully simple solution

    No lock-in periods, no hidden commissions and no frustrating complexity.

    It’s a beautifully simple solution to help everyone achieve better results.

    By the end of 2016, AES International further simplified to focus exclusively on wealth management and employee benefits

    Wealth management – focuses on changing the way the world invests.

    Employee benefits – focuses on changing the way companies protect.

    Our purpose is distilled.

    A distinctly different approach.

    It's about getting better results for clients, nothing less.

    Today, AES International continues to pioneer positive change.

    The British Army’s motto is BE THE BEST…

    That motto encapsulates the vision that has driven AES International since inception…

    It’s a vision that continues to evolve for us…

    Today, we are driving forward to be the best, the most innovative, and most educational international wealth management business in the world.

    One that "makes the world, healthy, wealthy and wise"...

    …and we’re already well on the way…

      

    **Since 2008, 29 pubs have closed in the UK each week.  We’re glad to say Pippa gave up looking for one a long time ago!

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