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Cover Star Club: a spotlight on 53 wealth managers - part 2

The second part in our look back on our 2017 star profiles

Rathbones' fund boss on spotting emerging talent

A great fund manager is really easy to spot, says Mike Webb, chief executive of Rathbones Unit Trust Management, and a man who has worked with some of the biggest names in asset management throughout his career.

He joined Rathbones’ fund management arm in 2010, then in 2013 also took on the role of group executive director of Rathbone Brothers.

Over the following years, he used his experience of harnessing what he describes as the great talent within the company to turn it around, after it had fallen on harder times following the financial crisis of 2007-08.

The unit trust business was hit by net outflows of £234 million and combined with the slump in stock markets, its assets under management (AUM) fell 46% to £1.03 billion in 2008.

 

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Rathbones' fund boss on spotting emerging talent

A great fund manager is really easy to spot, says Mike Webb, chief executive of Rathbones Unit Trust Management, and a man who has worked with some of the biggest names in asset management throughout his career.

He joined Rathbones’ fund management arm in 2010, then in 2013 also took on the role of group executive director of Rathbone Brothers.

Over the following years, he used his experience of harnessing what he describes as the great talent within the company to turn it around, after it had fallen on harder times following the financial crisis of 2007-08.

The unit trust business was hit by net outflows of £234 million and combined with the slump in stock markets, its assets under management (AUM) fell 46% to £1.03 billion in 2008.

 

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Brewin's Glasgow boss on rebuilding in Scotland's second city

Being ‘too thinly spread’ is a concern many national wealth managers will have. With offices across the UK, many firms can struggle to excel, let alone maintain, in delivering consistent standards of service across the country.

Brewin Dolphin has apparently cracked the code however, winning in five different categories at Citywire’s 2017 Regional Stars awards.

To find out more, Wealth Manager visited Glasgow to sit down with divisional director Vicky Drysdale, who works at one of the prize-winning regional outposts. Drysdale only recently joined the firm, from Brown Shipley in 2016, and was thrown straight into the thick of it.

‘A lot of happened before I got here,’ explains Drysdale, alluding to the acrimonious exit of 15 staff from Brewin’s Glasgow office, lost to a mixture of redundancies and rival hires as Rathbones poached a chunk of the team. ‘But it has been an exciting time being here and we have a great team.’

 

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Coutts' wealth boss on her plans to double assets

With its expensive suitability review now in the rear-view mirror, Coutts is able to focus purely on the future, with ambitious plans to double its assets under management (AUM) by 2020.

In the driving seat is the bank’s newly appointed head of wealth and investment management, Camilla Stowell.

Stowell was promoted to the expanded role from private office head in April as part of a wider restructure across its senior executive team.

‘The way I look at it [my new role], it is exciting from my perspective because it is end to end. So looking at the products, the platform, the services, the advice and planning a structure around how those are consistently delivered to meet the clients’ needs,’ she says.

 

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Brewin's Newcastle boss on the increasingly competitive NE

William Baker Baker, Brewin Dolphin’s Newcastle office head, is a fixture in the firm, having been with them for 30 years.

An employee of Brewin Dolphin for nearly his entire career, the British Army veteran invited Wealth Manager to its city centre offices to reflect on how both the company and the industry have evolved over the past three decades.

‘I joined in 1987 and if you look at a graph of equity progress in its entirety, there was a crash soon after I came on board,’ Baker Baker says.

‘The market lost 27% of its value in three days. However, if you look back at the entire timeline, those three days are barely a wobble in the grand scheme of things. So when people ask me about how I feel about the anniversary, I think it’s important to step back and look at it all in its entirety.'

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Profile: a Williams de Broe vet on striking out from Investec

Much like the firm’s in-house rescue dog Henry, Laurence Boyle and his team were left somewhat astray when Investec Wealth & Investment Management acquired Williams de Broë in 2012.

In his own words, Boyle’s team became ‘somewhat of an oddity’ within the firm.

‘We were a multi-asset fund business within a discretionary service and that was okay at Williams de Broë because I was the boss and it was for IFA distribution,’ says Boyle.

‘But when Investec came along they had an asset management business with a multi-asset team down in London, and they didn’t have a fund business that they wanted to retain within wealth management.’

Whilst at Investec W&IM, Boyle and his colleague Rebecca Williams managed the £204 million Investec Assetmaster fund range. This was sold off to City Financial in 2015 and taken over by City’s multi-asset head Mark Harris in August 2015. Following the sale, Boyle and Williams left the company.

 

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How an 'awkward' approach led this duo out of Barclays

Piers Cushing and Rob Cloete say it was their ‘awkward’ approach to investing that led the pair to leave Barclays Wealth & Investment and seek a new challenge, building a discretionary proposition for Plurimi Wealth.

The duo co-managed the bank’s Dynamic Strategy between 2012 and 2016, but say they ‘didn’t fit the mould’.

‘The problem we had was that we frequently had an opinion which was contradictory to their house view at Barclays,’ says Cushing.

‘So on the one hand, we identified an opportunity to provide clients with something they actually wanted in challenging market conditions, and on the other hand it was quite difficult to implement what we were doing within the confines of a large institution such as Barclays.’

The two resigned from Barclays in July last year and formally left in September 2016. Around the same time, the chief executive of advice firm Plurimi, Ramzy Rasamny, was looking to develop an ‘original’ discretionary portfolio management service which was different to that provided by other wealth managers.

 

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'For the first time since 1981, I have to watch politics'

James Hambro & Partners’ (JH&P) William Francklin says he is now having to factor the political landscape into his thinking for the first time in his 36-year career, following the election of Donald Trump.

Francklin joined the firm as a partner and investment manager in July, moving across from Waverton Investment Management where he spent 12 years.

A global equities specialist, with a particular focus on the US, having previously lived and worked there, he admits to being shocked by some of the missives coming out of the White House.

‘I’ve historically ignored politics, but for the first time since 1981, when I started in the business, I do think more about it now,’ he says.

‘I started looking at US equities when [Ronald] Reagan was in power. If you go back to that time until [Barack] Obama’s presidency, despite the rhetoric and some differences in foreign policy, both parties have been fairly centrist, in terms of how they managed the economy.

‘I always thought of the US as a big supertanker and the White House couldn’t affect the stock market too much. But now with Trump, in terms of foreign policy, it’s hard to analyse the risk of something completely left-field occurring.’

 

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How Brown Shipley tempted its NW boss out of retirement

When Jonathan Sherlock announced he was stepping down as head of UBS’ Manchester office, he envisaged a life of playing golf and watching football.

That was until Brown Shipley’s chief executive Ian Sackfield heard of the announcement.

Telling Sherlock, in his late forties at the time, he was ‘too young to retire’, he set about convincing the former UBS and Barclays Wealth veteran to come back to Brown Shipley in Manchester, which coincidently was looking for an office head.

Over the next three to four months, Sackfield tried wooing Sherlock with his vision and strategy for the company. At first, Sherlock was hesitant: ‘I thought “I’ll just play my golf, I don’t need all that extra responsibility.”’

Fast forward a few months and Sackfield’s plan worked. ‘Then I thought, I’m in my late forties, do I really want to spend my next 12 years just playing golf? Or will I look back and regret it?’

 

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Brewin's Cardiff boss on the Welsh opportunity

Prior to becoming head of Brewin Dolphin’s office in Cardiff, Welshman David Myrddin-Evans had only previously visited the city to watch the rugby.

However, he has now headed up the regional hub for over a decade and all the while has been able to enjoy the pride of Welsh rugby (the Principality Stadium is a 10 minute walk from the office).

‘I am utterly passionate about Welsh rugby and I am fortunate enough to be able to attend nearly every game,’ Myrddin-Evans tells Wealth Manager. ‘And I am also very passionate about what we are doing here.’

Indeed, the Cardiff office is flying high for Brewin Dolphin. The branch has over £1 billion in client funds, has a strong network of advisers in the local area and a few months back won the Wales category at Wealth Manager Regional Star Awards. When asked about why everything has gone so well Myrddin-Evans explains that the recent success has roots going back over a decade.

 

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Newscape's odd couple on their complementary contrast

Professional partnerships are frequently built on a shared worldview. As pop culture has gone to some lengths to inform us, the truly great duos – Starsky and Hutch, Mulder and Scully, Tango and Cash – are formed from oil-and-water, odd couple combos of contrasting personalities, however.  

Newscape Capital’s chief investment officer (CIO) Charlie Morris and its head of portfolio construction James Hutson count themselves firmly in the latter category.

‘If you were to split us apart slightly – and they jokingly call me ‘the robot’ here – I have a very much spreadsheet-driven, systems-driven approach,’ says Hutson of his quantitative tendencies.

‘Whereas, Charlie moves around all over the place much more fluidly than I do. So he will come up with a buzzy idea and I will look at how to implement it in more of a systems-based world.

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Weatherbys' Edinburgh boss on making waves in Scotland

When Duncan Gourlay was offered a place at university to study commerce back in the 1980s, he decided to turn it down. He had started a job at the Bank of Scotland that summer and failed to see the point in leaving it for higher education.

‘The late ‘80s were quite a different place than what it is now. In those days it was easy to get a job as a school-leaver and I was very fortunate in terms of timing because it all changed in the following decade.’

 Some years later, while still working for the bank and with the encouragement of his bosses, Gourlay ended up doing a degree in financial services at Edinburgh’s Napier University. But private banking had already 
won his heart.

‘I found it such an exciting area to work in because of how varied clients can be. The concept of offering a personalised service and the diversification it involved were extremely interesting.’

This might explain why, four years ago, after having worked for institutions such as Adam & Company and Barclays, he accepted the challenge of setting up the Edinburgh office of a small, family-owned private bank.

 

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From managing Brunei’s billions to Dorking’s pension pots

In a picturesque valley deep in the Surrey stockbroker belt, the former manager of a £5.5 billion fund has just shaken hands with a client whose assets amount to less than a third of the £50,000 minimum threshold.

‘We’re not going make any money out of him,’ Craig Harper concedes, before turning to a six-by-five-feet collage of the residents of Mole Valley hanging on the wall behind him. ‘But this is what it’s all about: helping people in the community.’

It is an exceptional case however, he adds, but only because Harper has to be realistic about the economics of business, having staff to pay.

In a business where the majority are motivated by a desire to accumulate as many assets as possible, one wonders why Harper, the founder and managing director of Mole Valley Asset Management (MVAM), opted to trade the realtively low risks and high rewards of a career in the Square Mile for the trials of launching a start-up into an already clogged wealth industry.

 

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Rathbone's Newcastle boss on the road to £1bn

It has only been a few years since Nick Swales and his colleagues at UBS’s office in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne were recruited by Rathbones to open a franchise in the North East’s biggest city.

While this was a hectic time, Swales – commissioned as head of the new office – looks back on it with a remarkable calm.

‘I had no fear we would not be successful,’ he explains to Wealth Manager in Rathbones’ Tyneside office. ‘Don’t get me wrong, when I launched the office I was excited and nervous in equal measure.

‘But we were just moving across town. I have seen many firms come to the region from outside the North East to set up shop and they have failed miserably. Everyone knows everyone here so you have to keep your nose clean.’

 

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Walker Crips explains why the only way is Essex

Given it is in Zone 6 and only a stone’s throw away from London, one might ask why Walker Crips needs an Epping branch.

Office principals Bill Newton and Andrew Powell say they saw a gap in the market for investors who would rather not spend half an hour on the Central line, however.

The duo left Barclays Wealth for Walker Crips in the summer of 2014, following the path trod by their two colleagues Steven Moss and Mark Entwistle – who also now work in the Epping office.

‘We came over about three years ago from Barclays. The four of us were the core part of the advisory dealing desk at Barclays,’ Newton explains.

‘The driver behind the move was Barclays’ attitude – like a lot of the industry: the investment size and type they wanted to offer was changing.

‘Their minimums for investment were going to increase considerably, and also I think the general interest in doing advisory-type business was waning – that is something that we’ve seen a lot.’

 

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The $15bn bridge from London to Asia

It is rare that a deal only takes four weeks to complete, but that is exactly how fast everything moved after Massimo Scalabrini from Azure Wealth and Monica Lin from Hywin Capital UK met.

The duo’s partnership came to fruition at the start of the year when Hywin Capital UK acquired Azure Wealth, which was founded by Scalabrini in 2011, and the combined business was renamed Hywin Wealth.

‘We were very lucky to find Massimo and his team. It was a very friendly deal,’ says Lin, now executive chair.

‘I think the whole deal took us only four weeks, with the due diligence and the negotiations. We signed the contract at the beginning of December, we submitted a change of control application on 22 December and we got approved on 11 January.’

 

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Thomas Miller explains its post-restructure plans

Thomas Miller Investment’s (TMI) head of wealth Matt Phillips has strong opinions about many things, but human conduct and interaction is what seems to excite him the most.

A big fan of behavioural finance and the workings of the mind, he sees wealth management as a means of helping people, something he believes the industry has forgotten.

‘Have you read Thinking Fast and Slow?’ he asks. ‘It is a great book that tries to get us to understand how our brain works and the biases that occur that we are not even aware of. As a consequence, it is asking us to question our own conclusions and decision making, which might be why I am using this evidence to validate my thinking.’

He refers to a study which recorded a change in people’s behaviour when they get past a savings amount that is equivalent to their annual salary.

‘Your risk metric suddenly changes and you want to validate that with someone,’ he says. ‘This is what our business model is based on and it is not just the fear factor. It is actually that we can help people build long-term plans, because the human being thinks in 18-month packets.’

 

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Sanlam's south west boss on the foundations of vertical integration

Since Peter Finnigan joined the company via Sanlam’s purchase of Principal Investment Management just over nine years ago, the office which would become the core of the group’s south west team has more than doubled its assets under management, from £120 million to £270 million, run on behalf of around 600 clients.

Group wide, the UK business currently manages around £9 billion.

‘Being part of Sanlam provides a lot of opportunities and clearly the business is growing fast,’ he notes. ‘My personal target is to grow assets to £500 million [locally] over the next five years, which obviously would be before we take on any additional individuals or teams. We would consider everything and if there is a deal to be done we will take on good people with good prospects.

‘[Growth] has been very much organic, with around 50% coming from advisers and 50% from direct clients. We do cover the entire region from here – just yesterday I was seeing a client in Penzance, which is quite a trip. And we will also service clients out to Wales, Swansea and Exeter.’

 

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Kleinwort Hambros' boss on how to manage five banks

Welding together Kleinwort and Hambros – two of Britain’s most historic banks, founded in 1786 and 1839 respectively – was always going to be a challenge.

But from the start Eric Barnett, group chief executive officer and the man tasked with their integration, said that something was immediately important to him: not losing sight of the end goal.

‘There is a danger when you do a merger that the integration and the merger becomes seen as the end in itself,’ he said. ‘You have to stop thinking like that, this has to be seen as a stepping stone on to something more.’

 

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RC Brown's father and son team on generational change

‘I only go to the office once or twice a week now,’ says RC Brown founder and chair Bob Brown. ‘I sometimes do my personal finances there because the broadband is faster and I can’t work my wife’s computer,’ he deadpans.

Twenty-seven years on from the launch of the Bristol-based asset manager, Brown says he is enjoying the perks of a semi-retirement, with a minimum hands-off guidance of the firm’s operations, and clearly relishes not being obliged to earnestly discuss the dustier points of wealth industry arcana. 

Originally an institutional manager, the first clients of the company were trustees and charities. A private-client arm was added almost a decade ago, at the time when Brown was beginning to take a step back from the business.

‘I have never dealt with a private client, I am not even allowed to,’ he says over lunch with Wealth Manager and his son – and RC Brown investment director – Oliver Brown, adding that he has not felt the need to keep up with the CPD which would allow him to put private client manager on his business card. This does not seem to be a state of affairs likely to lose him any sleep.

‘I was lucky. I spent most of my career focusing on investment,’ he says. ‘I don’t miss having clients – money stays where you put it, but they tend to get in the way.’

 

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JM Finn on why the future is with financial planners

JM Finn’s new thumbprint security feature on its wealth app is part of a quiet evolution at the company, designed to future-proof the business.

It has been a busy two years for Steven Sussman, who took over as CEO in 2015. A veteran of 20 years, since taking the top job he has expanded both its product suite and the range of services it offers clients in what has been a gentle overhaul of the company, which has roots dating back to 1945.

A rebranding has also been quietly taking place this year as JM Finn gears up for Mifid II and beyond.

‘The rebrand is very exciting for us as we’re one of those firms under the radar.We dropped the “& Co” from our name, which reflects our evolution. The feeling was we that wanted it to be a statement of the new and a broadening of our offering. It’s evolution, not revolution,’ Sussman says.

‘We are proud of our technology and have invested heavily in it – not just our client portal, but also our client library where they can store their statements and contract notes so all of their paperwork is available – we think it is a very valuable service.’

 

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The evolution of WH Ireland through its buy list

Technically, John Goodall has made little apparent professional progress in the last decade: he remains in essentially the same position in the same team and his business card still identifies the same job title he has had since shortly after joining WH Ireland in 2007.

In a rather more measured sense, the form and function of his role have changed as drastically and as rapidly as that of his wider employer over the period however, as the company has sought to retain the best of its stockbroking past while embracing a closely-regulated future as a fund manager.

‘I think that is exactly right,’ he replies, to the suggestion that the course of his career, from a FTSE 350 broker analyst to multi-asset strategist recognised as one of Wealth Manager’s Top 100 fund buyers of 2017, closely mirrors the changes he has seen happen around him.

 

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