Asset management firms need to strike a delicate balance between providing access to its fund managers and giving them enough time to do necessary research.
There are a number of wealth managers who will not invest in a fund if they cannot meet the manager first, but does this actually guarantee good service?
‘If a lot of analysis is qualitative not quantitative then meeting the manager is crucial. It allows you to identify what it is about the fund that is different,’ said Shauna Bevan, a director at RiverPeak Wealth. ‘It is part of a fundamentally people-oriented business.’
For John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, the personal information he can get from such meetings is important.
He said: ‘What’s in their mind? How do they feel about the fund flows? Some of the softer things that the factsheets might not talk about.’
While investors can rely solely on due diligence when picking process-driven funds, more complex strategies are where Moore finds it important to meet: ‘There are times when positioning is more interesting – differing trends and themes mean you want a greater level of interaction.’
Technology of course makes it easier to have contact no matter where a fund manager is based.
On the flipside, calling managers away too often is also a risk in itself, according to Redmayne Bentley’s Stuart Leigh-Davies. ‘I’d rather they went out to meet companies, not be in front of people like me.’
Moore agrees, not only in terms of the fund manager’s time, but also his own: ‘You don’t want them to be constantly on the road. It is about getting the right balance. People are precious about their time so they need to think about what it is that is being said.’
So what is the alternative? Leigh-Davies is happy to see other members of the team: ‘I want to be able to speak to someone at the asset manager who – if not running the fund – understands the fund inside out and understands the thinking.’
He highlights the model at JP Morgan in particular, where portfolio managers can talk in detail about stock picks.
Bevan is also willing to see a product specialist, as long as she has met the manager at least once. Interestingly, this was not the case when she previously worked at Charles Stanley. ‘We took a fund off the list because the manager stopped doing update meetings. We weren’t prepared to compromise our process.’
Sometimes, then, you cannot replace meeting the manager in person. As Bevan added, ‘Ultimately they are responsible for the financial security of my clients, so I need to know I can trust them.’