HERE is the best slice of independent business advice you are likely to get: There's life - and success - after Sun Life.

Ask Alan Cook, 51-year-old managing partner of Pentagon Financial Services LLP, of The Grange, in Wheldrake Lane, Elvington, York.

He was one of a quintet of financial experts who ensured that after the sun set on their Clifton Moor branch of Sun Life Financial of Canada last February, they would masterfully manage their own new dawn. And Pentagon was born.

Now the five are pitching for the 2001 Evening Press New Business of the Year category and have hopes of winning the overall title. And Mr Cook, a regular speaker on the subject of positive thinking, has been nominated as the Evening Press Business Personality of the Year.

So much seems to have happened since that dramatic day on February 15 when members of the entire field-force of Sun Life Financial of Canada were called to a meeting at the Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Solihull. The word on the street was that the good news of a major acquisition by the company was to be announced simultaneously both there and in Basingstoke, where the company's British headquarters is based. Instead, the chief general manager appeared on screen via satellite-link to inform them that the company was closing for new business in the UK. As a result the entire 700-strong field force along with 1,300 members of the Basingstoke support staff were being made redundant. The shock was numbing for the Clifton Moor branch. Only when the client files were confiscated to be archived and the office cleared and closed did they realise: they were history.

But then the five people at the York branch conferred. Alan, who describes himself as having been "possessive, even obsessive" about the York operation, recalls: "We made the decision that it was time that the righteous indignation stopped and that the crisis should be turned into an opportunity. After all, there was 70 years' experience between us."

The five - Alan, Anne Chaplin, John Ellerington, Alan Smith and David Cook - formed a new limited liability partnership, found a converted farm building in Elvington, and signed a lease. Then, while they prepared and equipped their new office, complete with boardroom and leading-edge networked computer system, they set about researching for detailed business planning strategy.

In their discussions with all types of business they discovered that too many of them had no knowledge of what financial advice services were available. And none could name a practice or individual who was providing trustworthy advice.

"We now knew that there was a huge gap in the market, crying out for an integrated business-solutions approach, " says Alan. "We made contact with legal and accountancy practices, credit-management companies and expense-reduction analysts to enable us to package services dedicated to improving the efficiency of businesses and ultimately their profit.

"This holistic approach is being welcomed by the commercial community and forms the basis of our corporate strategy."

Meanwhile, a bespoke website has just been built and even now the Pentagon partners are looking to expand and are already receiving requests from other brokers seeking to join them and their new place in the sun...