Escaping the heat of London, I headed to Ipswich this week to catch up with wealth managers in East Anglia, writes Libby Ashby.
There I met up with JM Finn’s David Overy-Owen and Andrew Mann, Max Weatherby and Alex Boyle of Hawksmoor Investment Management, along with Charles Sylvester at Charles Stanley.
Boyle told me about Ipswich’s flourishing business community.
‘Ipswich was better known as an insurance hub but now it has become a centre of excellence for financial services,’ he said. ‘There are a number of wealth management firms here but there is enough business for us all.
‘Having said that, I do think it would be difficult for a new company to set up shop here as we’re such a tight-knit community.’
Charles Stanley’s Sylvester agreed East Anglia was thriving. ‘The wealth management industry in Ipswich is doing well. Many people come to retire in this area and so they would like an investment manager here, not in London,’ he said.
Enjoying the sun and the fresh air on my travels around the town, I asked the wealth managers about regulation and its growing impact on the industry. Sylvester believed clients might not appreciate further increases.
‘For the last five or so years, clients have been pleased with their returns and have been happy to fill in the increasing amount of paperwork. But if markets drop, I think their patience will run out and the bureaucracy behind regulation will become tougher than it is now.’
Sylvester and I then talked about the effect of the current macro environment on client portfolios. ‘It’s challenging to find suitable investments for low risk clients at the moment. It is hard to find fixed income proxies that provide a good enough yield for a low to medium risk portfolio. Infrastructure is a good option and has been serving us well.’
Discussions turned to the future of the industry and possible changes. Mann of JM Finn believes there will be more demands on clients, which will affect the amount they have to invest.
‘With many of my clients’ children now becoming clients themselves, there could be a shift in the industry. Younger clients have far more debt because of increasingly expensive lifestyles – large mortgages and school fees for example – and so they are likely to withdraw funds from investments to help pay for these expenses.’
His colleague Overy-Owen added: ‘I think it would pay to search for clients from a different demographic. With the recent changes to pensions, that looks like an area of growth.’
Another potential change we discussed was the emergence of platform-type offerings, a more ‘DIY’ style of investment management.
‘While they may be attractive to the younger generation, I still believe that a more human service is invaluable,’ said Overy-Owen. ‘When those clients get a bit older and have more money to invest, they will want a more bespoke service.’
The Hawksmoor duo told me how they are preparing for the potential changes in the industry.
‘It’s important to incorporate investment themes in your own business – technology, for instance. We have been improving our technology systems to serve Hawksmoor’s recent expansionary phase and to cater for the growth of the business in the future,’ said Weatherby.
‘It is as important for us to think about the business long-term as it is for clients to have a long-term view on their investments. And in time, clients will want much richer reporting and technology can help with that.’
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