2 top growth stocks for clever investors

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IFG Group(LSE: IFP) slipped to five-week lows in mid-week business following a less-than-enthusiastic response to half-year numbers, the financial services play last 3% lower from Tuesday's close.

IFG announced that revenues fell 4% between January and June, to £38.5m, and as a consequence adjusted operating profit fell to £3.7m from £5.8m a year earlier.

However, the Dublin-based company saw assets under administration and advice gallop to £29.1bn from £24.4bn in the corresponding 2016 period, while it also saw new client activity take off at both of its divisions. At James Hay the number of new clients on its books rose 50% year-on-year to more than 3,000, while Saunderson House added 144 new clients versus 126 a year ago.

The solid first-half performance prompted chief executive John Cotter to declare that the growth in clients and assets at both businesses "[reflects] the quality propositions that they offer our clients, and our ability to compete successfully in our chosen markets."

He added that "whilst short-term financial performance is being impacted by the low interest rate environment, restructuring costs and the resolution of legacy issues, we expect a much improved second-half underlying performance, particularly in James Hay as the effects of repricing and restructuring start to bear fruit."

Self-help to pay off

And IFG is confident that restructuring efforts will really begin to bear fruit from next year onwards. Cotter commented that "we are confident that both businesses are on a strong growth trajectory and that the underlying performance will translate into a much improved financial performance in 2018."

This positive outlook is certainly shared by City analysts, who expect the business to follow a predicted 3% earnings rise in 2017 with a 25% advance in 2018.

These figures leave IFG dealing on a P/E ratio of 19.2 times for 2017, peeking above the widely-regarded value benchmark of 15 times or below. However, this slips to a much-improved 15.4 times for next year.

And the financial services giant offers an added sweetener through chunky dividend yields -- these ring in at 3.7% and 3.9% for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Sure, trading may be a little bumpy right now, but I believe IFG's transformation strategy should deliver decent returns over the long term.

New business booming

Those seeking explosive earnings growth right now should also check out St James's Place (LSE: STJ) as new business powers ahead. It recorded a net inflow of funds under management of £4.3bn during January-June, up 39% year-on-year, helping total funds under management move to £83bn from £65.6bn in the corresponding half in 2016.

The London company saw new business profits climb to £343m in the period from £228.9m previously, and it is steadily building its adviser base to keep business rolling in -- it currently has 3,540 advisers on its books, up 3.7% from the start of the year.

City brokers believe that the bottom line is about to catch fire too, current forecasts suggesting a 95% profits advance in 2017. And an extra 21% rise is forecast for 2018.

Subsequent P/E ratings of 27.9 times and 23.1 times for this year and next may be pretty toppy on paper. However, PEG multiples of 0.3 for 2017 and 1.1 for 2018 suggest that St James's Place is actually attractively valued relative to its growth prospects.

When you also throw in meaty dividend yields of 3.5% and 4% for 2017 and 2018 respectively, I reckon the financial colossus is worthy of serious attention right now.

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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro.