City centre office for sale weeks after City watchdog imposes fine and ban

STOCKBROKER and wealth manager WH Ireland has confirmed its Manchester office is on the market for £4.75m as the firm’s chief executive refuses to rule out future redundancies.

The firm’s large Manchester office on John Dalton Street/ St James Square was its corporate headquarters for many years.

Richard Killingbeck, chief executive of WH Ireland, told TheBusinessDesk: “When we released our results at the end of February our chairman said we would be looking to potentially sell the freehold. In due course, if we do sell it, there will be a stock market announcement.”

When asked why the property had been put up for sale now, he said: “We are not a property company, we are a financial services company. We’ve had that building for at least 10 years – the local market is much more buoyant now and we don’t need to hold the asset.

“You couldn’t get a better location in the centre of town and there has been a lot of interest so we are hoping that it is the right time.”

In the last financial year WH Ireland exited from seven regional office locations whilst opening two, in Milton Keynes and the Isle of Man.

Killingbeck made it clear that the firm will continue to have a base in Manchester, although it may move to a new location following a sale.

“We are not pulling out of Manchester in any shape or form,” he said.

Asked whether the company would be reducing the size of its Manchester office and making job cuts, he referred to a blog post which had suggested the firm would be making 30 redundancies in Manchester by the end of May.

“No redundancies are planned for May,” he said.

But he was less clear on whether redundancies in Manchester might be announced later in the year.

“At the moment I can’t say – there has been no decision or discussion. Our industry is going through a lot of change and we have to be cognisant of that change and look at all aspects of the business.

“We constantly look at our business model. That’s what we are doing at the moment across the company.”

Killingbeck said he expects the company to make further announcements at the end of May.

Last month it reported a pre-tax loss of £300,000 for the 12 months to the end of November, as a regulatory fine wiped out its profits.

In February the firm was fined £1.2m and banned from taking on any new corporate broking clients for 72 days after a probe by the City watchdog. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the firm had breached a number of serious compliance-related rules during 2013.

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