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Cofunds strategy clash pushed Williams out
by Nicholas Paler on Jul 12, 2010 at 09:58
A clash over strategy between Cofunds’ Brett Williams and the board of the company prompted the platform to instigate talks with the chief executive which led to his departure.
Cofunds announced last week that Williams (pictured) was stepping down less than two years after he was hired from Skandia and that former chief executive Charlie Eppinger has taken on the role until a successor is found.
Threadneedle chairman Simon Davies will take over Eppinger’s duty as Cofunds chairman in the interim.
A source close to the situation told Citywire Cofunds initiated talks which led to Williams’ departure as it wanted to accelerate the growth strategy at the platform and develop a broader wealth management offering.
A separate source said Williams had been forced out by the board. ‘He did not go of his own volition,’ they said.
Cofunds and Williams have both declined to comment. The company said it had reached a ‘mutual agreement’ with Williams to leave.
On joining the firm in January 2009 after six months’ gardening leave Williams quickly set out plans to develop Cofunds into a financial planning platform. Shortly after joining he told Citywire he had a three-year strategy to liberate advisers and their clients from ‘old-fashioned’ with-profits funds and life assurance bonds.
Although the board was happy with Williams’ plan, it felt it was not being implemented quickly enough and was concerned it was still being seen as an aggregator of funds rather than a retail distribution review (RDR)-compliant platform by advisers, sources have said.
Williams is also believed to have come under fire for placing platforms with bundled pricing structures in the sights of the regulator, which ruled in its last RDR paper on platforms that all costs must be unbundled. The work needed to unbundle charging on the ‘big three’ platforms which make up the UK Platform Group – Cofunds, Skandia and FundsNetwork – will come at significant cost.
In a speech last year, Williams is believed to have said Cofunds was a distributor, not a service or technology provider, undermining the UK Platform Group’s argument that platforms should be allowed to fund their model through undisclosed fund manager rebates.
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