It’s a scene most Londoners know well: a normally peaceful, typically photogenic corner of their city has suddenly, unexpectedly become a film set.
Large vans and other utilitarian vehicles are parked haphazardly around the nearby streets, which are also crowded with bulky equipment and cameras, noisy electricity generators, and often, horse-drawn carriages or period automobiles. Groups of people stand and mill about, some in costume, others wearing orange vests emblazoned with words like “security” across them...
If asked, the guys in the orange vests may admit that a movie or TV show is in the process of being filmed, but they probably won’t say which one it is, or who its stars are, let alone point them out to you.
Once in a while, you might actually see some filming taking place, but this is rare.
London and other parts of the UK have long been accustomed to the periodic arrival of such film crews, which are attracted to Britain’s distinctive architecture and landscapes, in the interests of detail and authenticity.
From even before the earliest James Bond films in the 1960s through the Harry Potter franchises (2001 – 2011) to such comedies as Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Love Actually, the UK has long been a location of choice for film producers – and benefited financially from that fact.
The last couple of years, though, have seen a significant increase in the amount of filming and production being done in Britain, including by major U.S. companies, according to industry organizations that track such trends, and others. (See table, above left.)
There are a number of reasons for this, as a recent Knight Frank report noted, “including generous tax incentives, a highly-skilled workforce and talent base, its world-class production facilities, and not least, its indigenous natural landscape and scenery.”
In the U.S., UK and elsewhere, in addition to there being more television channels to watch in the latter years of the last century, consumption of filmed media of all kinds was also boosted in the 1980s by the introduction of home videos, which quickly evolved into DVDs, which in turn have now largely been replaced by streaming services.
Among those who’ve been watching this evolutionary process with particular interest has been Tim Whiting, the founder and managing director of Timothy James & Partners (TJ&P), and his TJ&P colleague for more than 18 years, Jessica Ayres (pictured below right).
As Whiting explains, their interest is more than that of obsessive James Bond or Agatha Christie fans who happen to stumble upon film crews in London from time to time.
The origins of their interest in the industry, Whiting says, lie in the fact that many of the people on both sides of the cameras, as well as many of those looking after the costumes, scripts, soundtracks, music, set designs and so on, have been clients of what he is careful to describe as his “independent financial planning and investment company,” dating as far back as the 1990s, when he launched it.
And since around 2012, reflecting changes taking place in the industry, a growing and increasingly significant proportion of these TJ&P clients have been American citizens working in the UK, and ensconced in the advertising, music, film and television industries – or what Whiting calls “the creative industries.”
“Generally speaking, many if not most of our clients are employed in this sector, which by definition means that they are often self-employed – and of these, many of are in the film and TV production industries,” Whiting says, speaking in a meeting room in his company’s offices in the Mayfair district of London’s West End, two blocks at most from Piccadilly Circus.
“It’s a sector that has done very well over the last, say, 27 years.
“It’s said there are 3 million people currently employed in the UK’s creative industries, of which an estimated 47% – the highest percentage – are self-employed.
“With the introduction over the past decade of streaming services, and the emergence of companies like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime – alongside existing creative giants like Warner Bros. – it’s been growing even faster recently, as has the number of Americans coming over to work in the sector.
“And with the British pound currently trading at or near its lowest level ever against the dollar, with few signs that it’s poised to recover significantly anytime soon, we’re expecting this trend to continue.”
Many in the industry appear to echo Whiting’s view, to judge by media reports of companies taking multi-million-pound long term leases on British film studios in the last few months.
“BBC and ITV remain the powerhouses of UK TV production,” a trade publication called LogisticsManager.com reported last month.
“However, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have all pledged to continue to invest in British TV and filmmaking and this is evidenced by such companies taking huge amounts of studio space in the UK.”
The Knight Frank report cited earlier, entitled Taking Centre Stage, came to the same conclusion, noting that it was “reasonable to assume” that the industry’s space requirements over the next five years will double, in line with a predicted doubling of the industry’s production spend during that time, meaning that “an additional 6 million sq ft of [production facilities will be] needed.”
This, Knight Frank helpfully points out, is “a footprint equivalent to 15 Hogwarts Castles, or 282 Quidditch pitches”.
Early vision of an emerging sector
Whiting says he didn’t set out to target TV and film producers, musicians and other creatives at first, when he launched TJ&P in December, 1995, at the age of 27.
Born and raised in London (“Raynes Park, SW20”), he decided to skip going to university, and instead, learned the basics of financial planning by going straight into the business – working for others at first, then buying his first regulated company when only 21, and joining the board of another soon after that.
Back in those days – as is still the case today – relatively few people in the UK came from families that owned 30,000-acre properties in the British countryside, attended private schools like Eton while they were young, and went on to study at top universities like Oxford and Cambridge as a matter of course, he recalls.
“Yet the established ‘wealth’ industry of the day nevertheless tended to focus on this small, privileged sector of the population.
“To us, the opportunity had to lie elsewhere. So we set out to find it.”
Twenty-something entrepreneur that he was back then (the late 1980s, early 1990s), Whiting says he began to cultivate and develop a network of accountants, solicitors and agents who specialized in looking after self-employed individuals and business-owners, who ultimately would refer their clients to Whiting, and thus help him to begin the business now known as TJ&P.
As it happened, many of these clients turned out to be some of the earliest “creatives” who would eventually comprise what became a wave of freelance actors, writers, musicians, costume designers, film technicians and others who were increasingly being employed by London’s growing West End TV, film and related industries, Whiting says.
“In the beginning, many of them were working for such emerging businesses as the UK’s first free-to-air commercial British television channel, ITV,” Whiting recalls.
Although ITV first went live in 1955, by the 1990s its effect on the market was impossible to ignore, Whiting recalls, and it was joined in the West End by MTV in the 1980s; YouTube was launched in 2005.
It wasn’t just the big-name companies whose creatives were coming through his doors, Whiting stresses, because the industry was comprised of so many independent parts.
“Take Cadbury’s, for example,” he says, referring to the British manufacturer of chocolates for supermarkets and convenience stores.
“They did very well off the back of ITV, with ads like their famous ‘All Because The Lady Loves Milk Tray’ series, which you still can find on YouTube – a measure of its impact at the time.
“What you have to remember is how many people would have been employed in each of those adverts! There’d be costume designers, make-up artists, a cameraman; the first assistant, the second assistant, the travel agents…
“Early on, we could see that as this industry began to grow, the number of people doing these sorts of jobs would grow too.
“And that’s why they’re the people, and businesses, that Timothy James and Partners has ended up looking after.”
In 2019, TJ&P was acquired by Waverton, a London-based asset management firm, which Whiting later explained had followed a painstaking, five-year-long search for a company with a similar approach to looking after clients, and which would also allow TJ&P to keep its own branding, and identity.
Not financial boffins
Although generalizing about clients is never easy, Whiting says few of his “creatives” are as fascinated by financial topics as one might expect of “landed gentry and Oxford graduates,” which was something he said he took on board when setting up his business.
“Their interests tend to lie in areas other than finance and investment. They’re just not readers of the Financial Times on Saturday, or the Money section of the Sunday Times,” he says.
“Instead, they say, “YOU do all that for me. I want you to look after me.
“So that’s what we do.”
Asked to name some of his better-known film and TV industry clients, Whiting is, for the first time – and understandably – a bit circumspect.
“Obviously I can’t reveal anyone’s name,” he finally says. “But I will say that some of them have won Oscars [Academy Awards], BAFTAs [British Academy of Film and Television Arts], Golden Globes, and Emmys (for music).
“Fortunately, we’ve won a few awards over the years ourselves, although admittedly, no Oscars, BAFTAs or Emmys.”
The TJ&P offering for American expats
The first thing to know about the TJ&P independent financial planning and investment offering for Americans, Whiting and Ayres say, is that it reflects certain views about such things that differ from many other wealth managers in the marketplace.
For a start, Timothy James & Partners doesn’t pay commissions or bonuses to its financial planning consultants; and Whiting says he also insists that they be "old enough to have had at least a little bit of experience in life,” so they can better understand and advise the people they’re looking after.
TJ&P is also a referral-only business, with most of the referrals coming from accountants, solicitors and agents, as well as from existing clients, rather than ads on buses, news websites or magazines.
Finally, it really does prefer to accommodate self-employed clients rather than those employed by others, Whiting says.
“We do often end up with sort-of-conventionally-employed people as clients, typically from companies and entities like the BBC, Channel 4, Netflix, Disney, Fox and the like, and we don’t treat them any differently than our self-employed clients, apart from a slightly different hand-holding experience.”
American clients, on the other hand, do require special attention, Ayres says, because of such quirks in the American tax system as the requirement that Americans selling their main residence in the UK are required to pay a capital gains tax of up to 20% to the IRS on any income that they might realize, with the exact amount dependent on their filing status, and how much is involved. The equation is further complicated if they're married to a non-U.S. citizen.
Another quirk, Ayres points out, is that the British tax year ends on April 5, while the U.S. tax year ends on Dec. 31 – making it preferable to work only with investment companies that are already set up to provide the necessary documentation to accommodate this tax-year difference.
(Among the companies whose investment products are suited to such American expats, she says, are MASECO, Vestra and Waverton.)
Finally, Ayres notes that because it is only regulated in the UK, TJ&P can’t formally advise American residents living elsewhere on their investment and tax issues, including those of its American clients who return to the States – although it works with U.S.-based and -qualified CPAs (certified public accountants) and others who can.
Among these, typically for clients in the television and film industries, are Moore Kingston Smith (which has offices, conveniently enough, in Los Angeles and London’s West End), and for those in the music business, YMU, a global entertainment business management firm.
Since the UK left the European Union, TJ&P also can no longer look after clients living on the other side of the channel, something Whiting admits to wishing hadn’t happened.
“We used to have 120 clients in Europe, but now we can’t advise them anymore,” he says.
“Hopefully the new UK government will speed up negotiations with Brussels, so at least we can advise our British clients who live over there.”
Ensuring happy endings
If the TJ & P Show were a Netflix or Disney+ mini-series rather than a London-based financial planning and investment firm, it might, at this stage, be expected to open an outpost in Los Angeles (or even Hollywood), thus paving the way for “The TJ&P Show - Series 2.”
But Whiting says he has no plans to run his business like a mini-series – although rather than comparing his company to a film or TV show, he likens it to a small but special hotel.
“TJ&P is never going to be the Marriott or Hilton of independent financial advice,” he says.
“We are absolutely going to remain the Charlotte Street Hotel, or 1 Ham Yard” – two characterful Soho hotels favored by, one imagines, people like Whiting’s clients – “of wealth management for UK-based creatives.
“Which is to say, quite boutique-y, the sort of place where everybody knows who you are, you get smothered with attention, and everyone tends to sit around having coffees and chatting about life in general.”
Ayres, however, seems comfortable with the use of film and TV analogies to describe what she says TJ&P does for its American “creatives” clients.
“We help them to unravel their complex financial stories, and see to it that the various elements are dealt with by professionals who specialize in these areas, while overseeing the big picture for them,” she explains.
“And, of course – perhaps more so than some of our film-industry clients – happy endings are the only kind we’re aiming for.”