Chair departs from Hargreaves Lansdown in wake of shareholders revolt

Hargreaves Lansdown

The chair of wealth management firm Hargreaves Lansdown is to step down next in the wake of a bitter row with firm’s co-founder and largest shareholder.

Deanna Oppenheimer, who has held the post at the Bristol business for the last six years, is being replaced by Alison Platt.

The chair was also facing the prospect of a shareholders revolt at the company’s annual general meeting in December.

The share value of the business has plummeted in recent years and Hargreaves Lansdown is losing its place in the FTSE 100 after 12 years.

The decline in the company’s fortunes has infuriated Peter Hargreaves and he has repeatedly called for Oppenheimer to step down.

Peter Hargreaves

Hargreaves had labelled her tenure a disaster and has also called for a sweeping cost-cutting program across the business.

Glass Lewis, an influential proxy voting adviser, was recommending that investors vote against Deanna Oppenheimer at its annual meeting.

Last year, a third of shareholders, including Peter Hargreaves, opposed Ms Oppenheimer’s re-election amid concerns about the company’s leadership and cost management.

In a report to clients, Glass Lewis said it was “concerned with the paucity of disclosure surrounding the significant level of dissent to the re-election of directors”.

It added: “In our view, the nomination committee should heed the voice of shareholders and act to remove directors not supported by shareholders or, at the very least, address the issues that raised shareholder concern.

“In this case, while we recognise that the board has engaged with shareholders, we believe shareholders could reasonably have expected greater transparency around the specific concerns raised.”

Alison Platt is currently chair of Dechra Pharmaceuticals, a specialist veterinary products business which is currently going through an acquisition by EQT.

She is also a non-executive director of Tesco and the chair of general insurer, Ageas UK.

She was chair of L&G Financial Advice from 2019 to 2022 and chief executiveof Countrywide from 2014 to 2018. Prior to that she held several senior roles at BUPA, both in the UK and Internationally.

Following the AGM, during the period to Alison’s regulatory approval as new permanent chair, the board has confirmed the appointment of Penny James as Interim Chair. She is currently the senior independent firector .

Having remained on the board to support with the chair selection process, Roger Perkin has announced he is also stepping down.

Perkin has also served on the board for six years, including as chair of the Board Audit Committee.

Alison Platt said:  “I am delighted to be joining the HL Board and excited by the opportunity to work with Dan and the team as HL continues its critical work in supporting clients to make savings and investment decisions with confidence. I look forward to working closely with my new Board colleagues to guide HL’s next phase of growth.”

Deanna Oppenheimer said:  “I’m honoured to have overseen the board during a period of significant change for the industry and for HL. HL is in a strong position for growth and has skilled leadership which will ensure the company’s future success. Over the last six years our client numbers have doubled to 1.8 million and our share of the direct-to-consumer market has grown significantly from 35 per cent to 42 per cent.

“I’m delighted to hand over to Alison, whose broad and relevant experience across different sectors will be of great benefit and support to the HL team as they move forward. I would also like to thank Roger for his service and dedication to HL and for staying on over these last few months to support the Chair selection process.”

Chief executive Dan Olley said:  “I would like to thank Deanna for her guidance and stewardship during her tenure as Chair. I look forward to working with Alison who brings a wealth of experience to the board.”