The "incredibly special" boss of a wealth management company operating across Ipswich and Norwich has died at the age of 61.

Stephen Girling, founder and managing director of SG Wealth Management was taken ill last month and died peacefully at his home in Norwich, surrounded by his family.

In 2018, he successfully completed a buyout of the business - which at that time had  £250m of funds in its portfolio.

Stephen - who was brought up in Felixstowe and still has family there - began his career in financial services in 1978 and founded the business with co-director Neil Shillito in 2001.

Ten years after the company launch, the business acquired Ipswich-based Stan Gaskin Ltd. It later moved its Ipswich operation to a new waterfront office on Wherry Quay.

The firm - described as an "enormously successful" East Anglian business - currently employs 37 people.

Stephen was known throughout the region for his charitable and community activities, as well as being a respected voice in the financial services media.

Company chairman Dr Andy Wood - who has been in constant contact with the family since the popular businessman first became unwell - said thanks to Stephen's planning prior to his death the business was continuing on a sound footing.

“Stephen and I were already in discussions around his intention to step away from the business at the early part of 2024," he said.

“We had worked closely on developing a process toward that goal, within which we had been undertaking valuable governance and resilience work for much of 2023. 

“As a result, we are able to be confident of smooth continuity even in unexpected circumstances.”

But the news of the passing of the company founder "has hit all of us extremely hard within the business", he admitted.

He and the team sent their condolences to his widow, Rachel, and his three children and "all who knew and loved him", he said.

“I can say from both a personal and professional perspective that he was an incredibly special man who brought a lot of guidance, kindness and opportunity to many,” he added.

“We of course understand that our clients might be conscious of the pivotal role Stephen has played at the helm of our company for more than two decades, so we want to allay any concerns as to the stability of operational activity at this time.

“Thanks to Stephen’s conscientious professionalism and his capacity to develop a hugely talented and competent team of experts in their field, we already have in place a strong leadership team.

“You can be assured that they, and their colleagues, are working as hard as ever on ensuring you are in receipt of the same level of service and support you have come to expect of us.”

Although not widely known, the company’s management team had been actively looking at succession planning for SG Wealth Management with a view to Stephen passing on the baton of the business in 2024.

There will be a Thanksgiving Service for Stephen on Tuesday, January 16, at 3.30pm at CityGates Church (formerly known as Surrey Chapel), 2 - 6 Botolph Street, Norwich NR3 1DU. 

Refreshments will be served in the church following the service and the family welcome along everyone who wishes to join them in celebrating Stephen's life.