THOMAS Spencer & Associates and Bentley Reid & Co have merged to create a one-stop financial advisory firm after two years of discussions and a lot of soul-searching. Bentley Reid chairman Nicholas Bentley and Thomas Spencer managing director David Thomas said the merger would provide the new firm with a competitive edge by being able to offer clients a wider range of services. The new company will have more than US$180 million of funds under discretionary management and an additional $500 million under advice or trusteeship. Thomas Spencer will bring its expertise in pensions and employee benefits advice to the table while Bentley Reid has focused on trusts, international tax and asset structuring. Offices will be located in Hongkong, Tokyo, London and Guernsey, with representatives in Basle, Melbourne and Tokyo. Mr Bentley said the merger required a lot of careful thought because both firms had carved out distinctive niches and had different management styles. ''To merge two intensely personal finance firm is a pretty serious step,'' he said. ''We both have a distinctive style and it was very important we satisfy to each other the approach was not different because neither one of us want to change our style,'' he added. What eventually made the merger logical, Mr Thomas said, was the common ground both sides discovered they had. He said, for example, both firms were adamant about being independent and not tied to any institutions so they were free to provide any kind of advice. Mr Bentley said the two firms also had the same business philosophy with a commitment to provide clients with what they needed instead of trying to press products on them. While the corporate entities will merge, it will take time before the operations of both firms actually assimilate. Clients will not notice any physical difference because both firms will continue to operate out of their own offices until their leases expire next summer. ''We want to do it step by step,'' said Mr Bentley. ''We are absolutely adamant not to cause any disruptions to our clients.'' He said the merger would help Bentley Reid to shake off its reputation of dealing only with millionaires and help return it to its roots of serving a wide range of clients from savers to ''the boys who have got it''. Mr Thomas said the merger accelerated his firm's development by five to 10 years because it would have taken that long to establish a business offering the same expertise as Bentley Reid.