As the manager of a men’s hockey team and only the third woman ever to give a speech at the 50-year-old male-only Pickwick Club, carving out a path in male-dominated fields is nothing new to Shauna Bevan.
Following 13 years at Charles Stanley, where she became head of open-ended fund research and featured in Wealth Manager’s Top 100 list of wealth management fund buyers, Bevan has now reunited with old colleagues to help grow their boutique.
Having previously worked with RiverPeak Wealth founder Nick Parker at Merrill Lynch, where she spent four years before moving to Charles Stanley, Bevan rejoined him at the beginning of this year as a director to head up the fledgling company’s investment advisory business.
Being able to work more closely with clients rather than ‘simply being part of a bigger entity’ at Charles Stanley was a big factor in her move, she says, especially considering in her previous role she was one step removed from client relationship management.
With her experience predominantly in fund research, during her time at Charles Stanley Bevan was not actually qualified to deal with clients directly.
She completed her CISI financial advice and planning exam in December, a month before joining RiverPeak in January, and like the firm’s founders Parker and James Powell, she now has the combination of financial planning knowledge, backed up by 18 years’ experience in fund picking.
A big part of joining a boutique can be the ‘all hands on deck’ approach, or ‘being at the coalface’ as Bevan calls it. It is something she is relishing.
‘When you work in discretionary management, or as I was doing, heading up fund research and running a managed fund service for Charles Stanley, you are one step removed from the client. We all get a bit bogged down in performance attribution and talking about investments with a lot of jargon.
‘When you’re sitting in front of a client talking about when they’re hoping to retire by, what lifestyle they’re hoping to maintain [and] their capacity for losses, it makes you realise you can spend a lot of time worrying about the alpha of a fund here or the style bias or drift of a particular fund there.
‘But actually clients aren’t really interested in the minutiae; they just want to be sitting in front of somebody who they trust and feel comfortable that your interests are aligned with theirs.’
The offer to join RiverPeak came about through social circles shared via Parker and Bevan’s homes in mid-Sussex, which had kept them in touch over a period of 13 years. Parker needed someone to lead growth in the investment side of his boutique, while Bevan was looking for a fresh challenge after more than a decade at Charles Stanley.
‘I said to [Parker] along the way – if you ever needed somebody to come in and take over the running of your investment management proposition then please give me a shout.
‘And that’s exactly what happened. He said RiverPeak has now got to a point where we’re growing very rapidly and we’ve got a considerable number of clients and need somebody to come on board and make the investment proposition more robust, and ensure we have the best possible outcomes for our clients. So I joined in January in order to help that process.’
At RiverPeak she has a dual mandate, responsible for both the investment advisory business and for bringing new clients on board.
‘I’m hoping to be part of the next phase of growth. So I have a dual mandate of heading up the investment proposition and also bringing in new assets and reaching out to a broader demographic, in particular the female network aspect.’
And when it comes to the latter, diversity is important. Broadening RiverPeak’s target demographic is a strategic priority, and Bevan sees this as an area where she can make a difference.
‘I think women are underserved as a client constituency. I’ve been in this industry for 18 years now and I’m always astonished at how few women there are in the professional roles and yet, out there in the real world, women are having ever increasing impact on public life, in the business world.
‘There are many successful women out there and I think as a wealth management industry we can do more to appeal to women investors.
‘It’s good for the business to have diversity within your client base and your revenue streams, it’s good for clients to have access to people with different approaches and different views. I just don’t see any downsides.’
Since launch in 2013, RiverPeak has grown to a point, as Bevan puts it, where the firm is now able to ‘sustain another salary’. She declines to specify current client assets, but claims it is ‘growing rapidly’.
When Wealth Manager profiled the business in 2014, Parker said he wanted to emulate the success of St James’s Place. While it is some way off that, the firm is expanding, setting up the investment consultancy division around this time last year. At the time, Parker said the company was not the same as other boutiques popping up in wealth management, despite giving a similar line to many others about being different from the rest.
Bevan though has clearly seen enough about the firm which differentiates it from others to want to join.
Part of RiverPeak’s USP, she says, is the fact that it is in mid-Sussex – an area which she believes has been underexploited by other wealth management firms, despite its affluence, mainly due to the fact it is so close to London.
‘Many of our clients work in London, and live in London, so we can easily travel up to meet with them. But we also have a number of clients who are very much embedded in the local community who appreciate having a wealth management capability on their doorstep.’
And given she is from the area, its Hayward Heath office is of course quite a handy place to work.
But another thing, Bevan adds, is RiverPeak’s holistic approach to wealth management – combining wealth management with financial planning to provide a bespoke service and meet client suitability requirements.
She says: ‘I think where RiverPeak is different is that our starting point is that fully integrated approach. It’s not going to my old company, for example, where financial planning would be a separate department from the investment management teams.
‘Nick, James and I are all qualified financial planners as well as being very, very experienced in investment management. I think that combination is quite unusual.’
RiverPeak targets clients with investable assets of £500,000 and more, and has an average client portfolio size of around £750,000 to £800,000.
While she did not disclose fees, RiverPeak aims to keep the overall fee for clients below 2%. It charges a platform fee, ongoing advice fees and then any underlying fund charges.
The firm currently runs five model portfolios for clients from cautious through to adventurous. Since launch on 1 January 2014 to 7 April 2017, a typical medium risk portfolio has achieved a total return of 42% compared to a return of 23% for the ARC PCI Sterling Steady Growth index.
The medium risk portfolio is split 24% UK equities, 50% global equities, 20% fixed income and 6% property.
In the pipeline is an income proposition which Bevan is currently working on. ‘We currently run five model portfolios… it’s really taking that asset allocation and giving it more of an income twist.
‘It hasn’t involved a huge amount of new work because it’s just taking the long-term strategic asset allocation that we use anyway, applying the tactical tilts, but giving it more of an income orientation. We’re hoping to have that out there very soon.’
In addition to helping clients manage their wealth, now that her children are a bit older and she has more time, Bevan is planning to engage more with female clients and encourage more women into financial services through a number of activities.
A recent study by consultancy EY reported that 73% of female wealth management clients in the UK feel that advisers misunderstand them. When it comes to the world of finance, the research also suggests women are keener than men to learn about topics they do not understand.
As part of her role, Bevan is hoping to run some workshops and seminars for women to understand and educate themselves on some of the jargon in the investment world.
‘There is no doubt, as a woman working in a male-dominated industry, when I attend an industry event it is a lot easier to approach another woman in the room than it is a huddle of men in suits. So I think it is important to have events where women can feel comfortable to express themselves, to talk openly, to learn more – that’s something I’m keen to explore.’
As well as clients, she is keen to foster relationships with other female professionals – solicitors, accountants, other financial service specialists and entrepreneurs.
And most of all, having worked for 18 years in a male-dominated industry, Bevan is keen to be a role model, talking to young women to encourage them to consider different career paths and promote women in financial services.
‘I’m still going to meetings where I’m the only woman in the room, and I don’t understand it because the world of investments doesn’t require any brute strength that can somehow be perceived as being more of a male-orientated activity.
‘I think role models are absolutely crucial. For example, if you’ve never met a female doctor you would never assume you could be a doctor if you were a young girl.
‘There’s a generation of women who will start to think “hey, I really can do anything”. That’s why it’s important for me as a woman to get out there and talk to different people about the fact that you can have a successful career in financial services and you can combine it with family life.’