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Footprints in the North: inside seven DFM businesses

We caught up seven wealth managers in the North of England to learn more about their past, present and future.

Andrew Garstang

Brand manager, Hargreave Hale, Lancaster

As they focus on taking time to familiarise themselves with the additional and complementary capabilities the acquisition by Cannacord Genuity Wealth Management (CGWM) will bring, Hargreave Hale’s team in Lancaster is also relocating to a new office in the city centre.

Hargreave Hale opened this with CGWM. The group manages over £23 billion for UK and European clients.

Following the financial crisis, branch manager Andrew Garstang, who has worked as an investment manager in Lancaster since 1984, explains that he noticed increased uncertainty among clients operating on an execution-only basis. Since then, this type of business has become less prominent in favour of discretionary flows.

Garstang says that the firm’s clients like to be able to put a face to the voice they speak to on a regular basis and very much enjoy Hargreave Hale’s personal service.

‘Whilst we do have clients worldwide, the majority live in the region and seem to enjoy the fact that they can just call in for a chat over a cup of coffee’ he said.

The Lancaster team is looking forward to using the additional expertise that the merger will bring to meet ongoing demand for bespoke investment management services in the region.

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Andrew Garstang

Brand manager, Hargreave Hale, Lancaster

As they focus on taking time to familiarise themselves with the additional and complementary capabilities the acquisition by Cannacord Genuity Wealth Management (CGWM) will bring, Hargreave Hale’s team in Lancaster is also relocating to a new office in the city centre.

Hargreave Hale opened this with CGWM. The group manages over £23 billion for UK and European clients.

Following the financial crisis, branch manager Andrew Garstang, who has worked as an investment manager in Lancaster since 1984, explains that he noticed increased uncertainty among clients operating on an execution-only basis. Since then, this type of business has become less prominent in favour of discretionary flows.

Garstang says that the firm’s clients like to be able to put a face to the voice they speak to on a regular basis and very much enjoy Hargreave Hale’s personal service.

‘Whilst we do have clients worldwide, the majority live in the region and seem to enjoy the fact that they can just call in for a chat over a cup of coffee’ he said.

The Lancaster team is looking forward to using the additional expertise that the merger will bring to meet ongoing demand for bespoke investment management services in the region.

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Neil Turner

CEO, Blankstone Sington, Liverpool

Blankstone Sington has been operating in Liverpool since 1976 and today the firm, which has a headcount of 38, oversees some £445 million in assets under management and administration.

Over the last few years, the team has seen a steady stream of advisory clients moving over to its discretionary services, as intermediaries increasingly outsource their investment management.

CEO Neil Turner said he is looking to achieve additional growth ‘through raised awareness of our core skills of bespoke investment management and our specialist IHT portfolio service proposition’.

The company is also in the process of launching a model portfolio service to cater for clients who have smaller amounts of money to invest, but who, Turner said, ‘appreciate our naturally cautious investment stance’.

Turner points out that the industry is becoming more competitive and challenging than ever, with companies facing pressure on fees at a time of margin compression from a growing regulatory burden, as well as the rise of low cost online investment management firms.

‘Competition from the rise of “robo” services, the active versus passive debate, and pressure on costs, both as a business and for the client, as well as the continued challenge of changes in regulation have had the greatest impact,’ he said.

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Nick Swales

Head of office, Rathbones, Newcastle

Since opening in 2013, the staff headcount in Rathbones’ Newcastle office has doubled to 14 and the business has got off to a flying start.

The branch is now managing over £400 million of client assets, which regional director Nick Swales describes as ‘well on the up’. He puts the team’s rapid success down to them being ‘very proactive at seeking new opportunities and providing highly personalised service to our clients.’

Over the next 12 to 18 months the plan is to continue in this vein and broaden the range of capabilities the branch offers by adding to the team. Right now Swales is on the hunt for another professional to add to the financial planning team.

‘We also have broader plans to increase the team in the future and we recently hired Andy Webb, as a new investment director, from Brewin Dolphin,’ Swales added.

The regional director is also a Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment board member and an advocate of apprenticeships for the younger generation looking to join the industry.

The Rathbones office have been running such a scheme since it launched and one of the apprenticeships taken on then is now a fully-fledged member of the team.

And what does Swales see as the challenges and benefits of operating in the North East?

‘The geographic size of the region in comparison to its population can be a challenge. However, the “village feel” is one of the best aspects of working in the North East. Everyone knows everyone – it’s a very friendly and open place to work,’ he said.

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Andrew Priestley

Investment Manager, Redmayne Bentley, Harrogate/Middlesbrough

Redmayne Bentley have had a presence in the region for over 20 years. Although 50 miles apart, the firm’s Harrogate and Middlesbrough branches operate as a joint office. With combined investment management experience of over 150 years, the team of 10 work closely to look after clients across North Yorkshire and beyond.

The Harrogate office opened in 1986 and was Redmayne Bentley’s first branch to open outside the head office in Leeds, Middlesbrough opened in 1996 and the two have worked together since 2007.

Andrew Priestly, investment manager, explains that despite the North East battling against its fair share of industrial challenges over the last 30 years, Harrogate is routinely voted one of the ‘happiest places to live’. It remains an affluent corner of the region, ‘forming a golden triangle with nearby Leeds and York’.

The team plans to continue growing its managed services and expanding funds under management, as well as ensuring it is well prepared for the increased regulatory challenges presented to them. The firm’s focus on service and performance has led to steady incremental growth in investment management fee income, rising by two thirds in the last five years.

Priestly describes the best parts of operating in the region: ‘The countryside on our doorstep and a pleasing, provincial lifestyle opportunity.’

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Rob Salter

Head of Office, Brooks Macdonald, Manchester

‘The industry is extremely competitive in the Manchester area’, according to Rob Salter, senior investment director and head of Brooks Macdonald’s Manchester office.

Opened in 2007, the 13-strong staff are making good progress in targeting new geographical areas across the North West. With plans to continue recruiting staff to support this growth, Salter’s team is excited about opportunities that lie ahead.

He explains that the firm established a graduate trainee programme to attract young talent in the region. While many people flock to the South, they are proud to have already yielded two investment managers from the scheme.

As a group, the firm has seen substantial growth, having grown assets under management from £8.3 billion to £10.5 billion in June 2017 year-on-year.

The team also choose to invest in the local community through various charities and sponsorships, such as The Christie in Manchester, Europe’s largest single site cancer centre.

The branch supported five of the charity’s key events this year, which aim to raise vital funds for patients.

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Gaynor Rigby

Managing partner, Equilibrium Asset Management, Wilmslow

Wilmslow based Equilibrium Asset Management has seen year on year growth in staff numbers, turnover and AUM…and they don’t plan on slowing down yet. The team of 63 now looks after an AUM of £710 million, this figure having almost quadrupled in the past five years.

Gaynor Rigby, managing partner, explains the best parts about operating in the region. ‘We really benefit from where we’re placed in Cheshire - it’s an affluent area and with Manchester on our doorstep we have access to great opportunities’, she says.

Eager to attract and retain talent, she is determined to make Equilibrium a great place to work – ‘if not the best in the industry!’ Their efforts to make sure the team are happy at work seem to be paying off, as they have been placed fifth in The Times Top 100 Small Companies to Work For in 2017.

The team have ambitious plans for the next 12-18 months. They are aiming to win another £100m of new assets and in order to do this are ramping up their marketing strategies. Rigby is looking forward to the future, explaining how the company has just had its best year to date. ‘Next stop is 5th gear for Equilibrium: we want to really put our foot on the accelerator and take things to the next level!’

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Neil Moles

Managing director, Progeny Wealth, Leeds

Progeny Wealth, born out of the marriage between Progeny Law, Mark Burns Legal Services and Lawrence Scoffield in April 2016, has had an impressive start.

In its first month, the boutique lured a team of five from Redmayne-Bentley and launched a discretionary arm a few months later.

With two deals, the acquisitions of Quadrant and Chestergate Financial Planning, behind him, managing director Neil Moles is already eyeing the next step for growth.

‘We have two strategies. We are looking to recruit the right people which will be a combination of graduates and experienced professionals. We are also looking to acquire, which will help us to consolidate our position in Leeds,’ Moles said.

‘I think what sets Progeny apart is the ability to deliver wealth and legal solutions under one roof.’

He added that he is looking nationwide for acquisition opportunities, but believes that Leeds is a great place to recruit talent for the business, highlighting the quality of the University of Leeds.

‘As an industry, we have got to look forward not backwards. Regulation will always improve and the regulator is doing a great job to help improve professionalism. We have to embrace that and make it a core part of our offering and proposition,’ Moles said.

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