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Are CEO exits positive for the wealth sector?

Are CEO exits positive for the wealth sector?

David Moyes’ exit from Manchester United has not been the only sudden departure this year.

Although it’s only spring, there have been several senior management changes in the wealth management industry that experts say could help ready firms for a changing environment.

In the last month, the chief executives of Towry and Cannacord Genuity Wealth Management (Andrew Fisher and Neil Darke, respectively) have departed. In both cases it was after they had overseen huge change, including multiple acquisitions.

These moves followed the announcement of Andy Pomfret’s retirement from Rathbones earlier this year. Under his tenure, assets under management soared by more than 160%, but after almost a decade at the helm, Pomfret said he was ready to pursue a ‘plural career’, after recruiting successor Phillip Howell, former chief executive of rival firm Williams de Broë.

To cap it off, it was announced last week that Brown Shipley executive director Bob Smoker was to leave the firm, marking the end of an era after 37 years of service.

Sebastian Dovey, managing partner at Scorpio Partnership, believes this shake-up is fitting for an industry on the cusp of a new regulatory environment.

‘The UK market is poised to take on a completely new pace of development, partly down to the retail distribution review (RDR) and the changes it will make to consumer behaviour,’ he said.

‘It’s fair to say quite a few businesses that have been doing well and have been led well up to this point have seen their management team reorganise. We are going into a new three to five-year period.’

While Dovey described Towry’s Fisher as a man whose ‘catalogue of achievements stands up against any test,’ he argued these departures are an opportunity to bring in fresh blood.

‘I’m hopeful the new personalities that come to wealth management come with a consumer-orientated, rather than a financial markets, background. We are at a stage in the industry where we have to concentrate much more on how we deliver services to the wealthy client,’ he said.

All these senior figures had been in their roles for significant periods of time, and George Kirby, consultant at Knadel, agreed a period of change is healthy for the industry.

‘The desire to make a change is understandable both from the CEO and company point of view: to prevent the drive from the top going stale, particularly where the business is not owner-managed,’ he noted.

Outside talent

Like Dovey, Kirby thinks wealth management companies should consider bringing in talent from the outside. ‘New, external views would be good and bring challenge where it may have been lacking,’ he added.

Although investors dislike uncertainty, these changes in senior leadership can be viewed as a positive. The RDR, centralisation, and changes ushered in by the Budget mean the wealth management landscape has transformed greatly in just a few short years. A fresh pair of eyes could help these businesses recognise what their clients need, and how best to achieve this.

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