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Cover Star Club: the wealth managers we grilled in 2016 - Part 2

The highlights from the wealth managers we profiled in the second half of 2016.

Who: Andrew Fleming, CEO

Where: Waverton

When: 09 Jun 2016

Why: In his first interview since taking the top seat a year earlier, Waverton’s new boss looks back on a career in wealth M&A and what it means for the future of asset consolidation, in addition to ‘tightening up’ his current ship.

What we learned: How he plans to build on Waverton's long history: ‘One of [Britain’s] great strengths is its institutions. The church, the monarchy, the livery companies, the royal societies. They have managed to retain the best of their tradition but always managed to remain relevant. That’s what I need to do with Waverton, to build on the tremendous heritage and history of the firm but make sure in a competitive market we remain relevant.’

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Who: Andrew Fleming, CEO

Where: Waverton

When: 09 Jun 2016

Why: In his first interview since taking the top seat a year earlier, Waverton’s new boss looks back on a career in wealth M&A and what it means for the future of asset consolidation, in addition to ‘tightening up’ his current ship.

What we learned: How he plans to build on Waverton's long history: ‘One of [Britain’s] great strengths is its institutions. The church, the monarchy, the livery companies, the royal societies. They have managed to retain the best of their tradition but always managed to remain relevant. That’s what I need to do with Waverton, to build on the tremendous heritage and history of the firm but make sure in a competitive market we remain relevant.’

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Who: Justin Oliver, deputy CIO

Where:  Canaccord Genuity

When: 16 June 2016

Why: Oliver was instrumental in helping the company overhaul the quant-y bits of its fund analysis and oversight systems. He explains where he thinks tech is genuinely transformative and where it is overhyped.

What we learned: Don’t believe the hype: ‘Robo-advice is en vogue, but there will always be a place for fundamental investment decision-making and face-to-face client relationship management. Last year it was smart beta, this year it is robo-advice, and that is fine. As well as what it can bring to the party, you have to realise what the drawbacks are.’

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Who: Ian Henderson, CEO

Where: Arbuthnot Latham

When: 23 Jun 2016

Why: The incoming head of the rising banking star has a long history in challenger banks, having previously worked at sister company Secure Trust and Shawbrook. He explained how he is bringing some of that energy to bear in a white shoe business.

What we learned:  Having recently sold Secure Trust, how the business was planning to spend its £145 million windfall: ‘A huge swathe of the UK population no longer has access to meaningful advice. I think that is changing, but people have to do it cost-effectively and that is where robo-advice comes in. There is a whole bunch of communications technology that is changing the way people interact.’

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Who: Christopher Peel, CIO

Where: Tavistock

When: 30 Jun 2016

Why: The investment boss of the ultra-aggressive consolidator explains how the company hopes to become a better version of St James’s Place.

What we learned: It’s time to break out the shoulder pads and brick phones: ‘I still approach every single day like its 1986. It is all about what is moving, what is working and what isn’t. I look down from my perch around the world at opportunities, risks and my positioning.’

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Who: Chris Metcalfe, director & co-founder

Where: iBoss

When: 07 Jul 2016

Why: Having captured the kicker of outsourced adviser assets post-RDR, the company is hoping to catch a second wind with the launch of a dedicated asset management company and Oeic-based models this year.

What we learned: Metcalfe was so over Gars before it became cool: ‘Three of its managers go to Invesco Perpetual and we’re told they were not integral as they take a team approach. We don’t like the size and we didn’t think the performance has been that good. With these guys leaving, I don’t know how important they were, it may be fine, but it’s a risk.’

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Who: Dena Brumpton, head of UK private banking

Where: Barclays Wealth

When: 14 July 2016

Why: Just under a year into her stewardship of Barclays’ wealth team, we caught up with Brumpton to find out what tempted her across to a company undergoing a long-running process of reform.

What we learned: Some of the old habits of private banking die hard: ‘[We] look at who our clients are and marry up our products and services and platform with their needs. That differs very much depending on what segment you’re in.’

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Who: Jamie Shepperd, CEO

Where: Courtiers

When: 21 Jul 2016

Why: Twelve years into his reign at the top - and after 28 years with the company – Sheppard explains how he has kept the company a ‘lifestyle business’ while still notching up some impressive achievements.

What we learned: While he would like a charter to be the entry-level standard for advice, in other respects he believes the industry is over-regulated: ‘Since the financial crisis there has been a massive overreaction in the form of just bringing in new regulation. There is a cost benefit from innovation, but there is also the cost of adjustment to regulation.’

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Who: Charles Nicholson, founder & principal

Where: Charles Nicholson AM

When: 28 July 2016

Why: The former head of Sanlam’s Newcastle office went solo last year. He explained why he believes that changes to the industry’s capital intensity can’t keep a good boutique down.

What we learned: He is dubious that scale is the cure all it is presented as: ‘Different parts of the industry will move at a different pace and robo-advice will increasingly have a place in that. Firms will look to simple cost-effective solutions out of necessity, not choice.’

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Who: Lee Robertson, CEO

Where: Investment Quorum

When: 08 Sep 2016

Why: Mainstay of Wealth Manager’s sister title New Model Adviser and all-round good guy Robertson explains the company philosophy of ‘outsourcing investment management internally’.

What we learned: Robertson is not especially interested in asset bragging rights. ‘In one way we should perhaps be bigger than we are. In another way, we have grown quietly and organically, and we don’t manage money for anyone except our [immediate] clients. For me that has been a really rewarding experience.’

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Who: Mouhammed Choukeir, CIO

Where: SG Kleinwort Benson

When: 15 Sep 2016

Why: Just under six months after Société Générale announced its purchase of one of UK wealth management’s most venerable (and most frequently traded) majors, its CIO gave us the inside line on its integration with SG Hambros to become a global champion.

What we learned: If you can’t beat them, join them:  ‘The exciting part [of the merger] is that, in the end, we will be a leading private bank in the UK,’ he says. ‘We already had a strong brand and strong presence, but through the combination we will be amongst the top players in terms of size, presence and so on.’

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Who: Charles Mesquita, director

Where: Stanhope Capital (at the time, he has since moved on)

When: 22 Sep 2016

Why: The consultancy trade copped some flack in the FCA’s asset management review. Ahead of that, we put some questions about the state of the industry to one of the family office sector’s leading gatekeepers.

What we learned: Again, don’t believe the hype: ‘Fund houses have become much better at framing the sort of messages that they want you to think about them. Clients have in turn become more savvy at seeing through the marketing, but it is also an area where we are employed to offer help.’

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Who: Andrew Gilbert, head of SRI

Where: Parmenion

When: 29 Sep 2016

Why: The startlingly fresh-faced head of ethical at Parmenion saw a gap in the company’s line-up within months of joining as an analyst in 2010, talked it into putting some money behind the idea, and is now in charge of £110 million in ethical assets.

What we learned: That like policemen, you know you are getting old when private client managers look young to you. Also he’s good on sector knowledge: ‘Between 2012 and 2013, the proportion of the S&P 500 companies issuing sustainability reports rose from 20% to 70%. So the information available is expanding, as is the universe.’

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Who: Daniel Freedman, managing director & co-founder

Where: London & Capital

When: 06 October

Why: In its 30th year London & Capital has become a company that boasts £2.5billion in assets for around 1,000 clients.

What we learned: Why stock market crashes are good for the industry: 'Because it gets rid of the people who don’t do proper research, don’t have a proper investment team and don’t have the capital.'

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Who: Michael Parsons, chief executive & Drew McNeil, head of clients

Where: Wren Investment Office

When: 13 October

Why: The former members of Lord North Street’s brains trust explained why they have decided to go their own way and are clearly enjoying having the power over their own P&L.

What we learned: Fees and costs are now everything: ‘In our experience at Lord North Street, we were hiring wealth managers [to build scale] whose clients were not aware of what they were paying. We know which questions to ask and where to identify the obvious cost savings.’

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Who: Angelina Yap, head of Tier One investment

Where: Church House

When: 20 Oct 2016

Why: Wealth managers are having to go the extra mile to source new clients. For Church House this opportunity came from an unexpected direction, when ‘Tier One’ investor visa specialist Angelina Yap crossed its path.

What we learned: An interesting insight into the psychology of Chinese emigres:  ‘The philosophical element, if we take a step back, is that the Chinese are trying to hedge their future globally. They are seeking residency rights in the States, in the UK, Canada and Singapore. That is their insurance policy, and they have been very smart about it, those who can afford it.’

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Who: Sarah Soar, investment head

Where: JM Finn

When: 27 Oct 2016

Why: The head of investment management at JM Finn explained how she is tackling the gender imbalance, but doesn’t believe in the principle of compulsion.

What we learned: Give me the child at seven and I will show you the man: 'I’ve spoken at schools because that’s where it needs to start. We need to encourage more young women to come into the industry and see it as a good career – law used to be like that, but now it’s changed. We need to start now, but it is two generations away.’

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Who: Andrew Herberts, head of PC investment

Where: Thomas Miller Investments

When: 03 Nov 2016

Why: Fresh off the restructure of the company’s £3 billion wealth division necessitated by its 2014 purchase of Broadstone, the firm’s head of private clients explained why the overhaul yielded plenty of ancillary benefits.

What we learned: M&A isn’t easy, but it’s necessary: ‘Scalability is a key way to survive. But as firms get larger there is a concern over losing choice by going to a more industrialised model, which technology is exacerbating. Services and product become less to do with the client and more to do with the manufacturing process.

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Who: Robert Race, head of Manchester

Where: WH Ireland

When: 19 Nov 2016

Why: After several years of scandal and consequent restructuring, WH Ireland has moved from reform to expansion. The company’s Manchester boss explains why he believes asset consolidation is behind the curve above the Watford gap.

What we learned:There is all to fight for in Manchester: ‘The issue with Manchester is that it’s a very fragmented and therefore very competitive market place. You tend to find the very good people are quite well dug in with their existing firms.’

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Who: Tim Price & Killian Connolly, directors

Where: Price Value Partners

When: 17 Nov 2016

Why: In probably the funnest and fastest-paced interviews of the year, the value veterans offer up their iconoclastic assessment of investing in a time of monetary activism, and why they believe value’s time has come again.

What we learned: The company found common cause in the FCA’s asset manager review: ‘[Investment has] a bell-curve distribution – at one end you have ultra-low cost efficient beta providers – Vanguard, essentially – and at the other extremity you have high value-add index-agnostic. In between you have the huge bulge of closet index trackers – which in the fullness of time, should be cleared out.’

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Who: Stuart Phillips, CEO

Where: The Private Office

When: 24 Nov 2016

Why: Soon after its acquisition of London adviser PQR Financial Planning, we spoke to Leeds-based The Private Office to catch up with its boss Phillips.

What we learned: It pays to be picky: ‘You meet a lot of people in this industry and it’s a sad indictment that I don’t think I could work with a huge amount of them.’

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Who: Guy Healey, head of PB & Roger Clark, head of WM

Where: Brown Shipley

When: 01 Dec 2016

Why: Two of Brown Shipley’s new boys explain why you can’t allow 150-odd years of brand heritage to stand in the way of change, and why the road to success is paved with wealth planners.

What we learned: The danger of decadence demands permanent revolution: ‘There is always going to be someone out there with a new idea; you don’t have to support that idea, but you do need to understand it and why it’s relevant or not for your clients. So that, when the client raises it, you have an answer.’

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Who: John Betteridge, allocation chair

Where: Rowan Dartington

When: 08 Dec 2016

Why: As a turbulent and frequently troubling year headed into the final stretch, the wealth veteran offered a frank assessment of 2016 and its difficulties for asset allocators.

What we learned: Amen, brother: ‘There have been a couple of times in the last year that I wished I retired. It was the morning of 24 June and the morning of 9 November. I knew there would be all sorts of sh*t flying around.’

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Who: Neil Beaton, CIO

Where: LJ Partnership

When: 15 Dec 2016

Why: As so often this year, we spoke to Beaton following a transformative acquisition at his business. Unlike the others whoever, he has zero interest in the dismal science of microeconomics when he could be talking to clients.

What we learned: Boo, scale: ‘It’s not my quote, but I have always appreciated Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. We are not trying to add assets to become the largest asset management business in the world, which means that we have a little more freedom in how we allocate our clients’ funds.’

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