This week’s pub club brings us to the heart of the city of London, writes Eleanor Mahmoud. As we approach our venue, Balls Brothers, we pass the Leadenhall Building, Bank of England and Lloyds of London before reaching our destination, nestled next to the iconic Gherkin building. Balls Brothers was established in 1860 by Henry Balls. Having had such a long presence in the City, it is fitting that I am meeting Katie Tasker from one of the oldest firms on the London Stock Exchange here.
Whilst Charles Stanley’s origins go back to 1792, long before Balls Brothers, I can attest that Tasker is far from old fashioned. She was in London’s weekly women’s magazine Stylist in 2015 for a feature exploring personal branding.
In reference to the Stylist feature, she says: ‘I arrived and they rushed me off to have my hair and makeup done. I’m an investment manager, I’m certainly not used to that!’
We are not here to discuss hair and makeup though, as Tasker is brimming with ideas of how the wealth management industry can better accommodate millennial clients: ‘I went to an event about helping younger people invest money. It emphasised that the current wealth management industry is not really that millennial friendly.’
She continues: ‘We all work “normal” hours, which prevent us from crossing paths. It made me think, should we, as investment managers, work one evening a week, so we can arrange to see these clients? Should we arrange meetings via video conferencing over lunch?’
Back to our own lunch and we decide that a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will be an excellent with the chicken we order.
Tasker has been at Charles Stanley for more than five years, having previously worked at Brewin Dolphin. She began her career in private client tax advice, after completing various placements in investment management firms whilst studying economics at university.
She now works in a team looking after 150 clients, most of whom are discretionary. Moving away from a somewhat typical client demographic, Tasker tells me: ‘There has certainly been an increase in younger clients approaching us. I’ve noticed they want to learn.’
I ask whether this has affected how she structures portfolios: ‘Younger people like to invest in things more tangible to them. For example, Amazon, Netflix and Uber, as opposed to the more traditional investments their parents might have gone for.
‘They’re also keen on social impact investments,’ she adds.
Our food arrives and we discuss the benefits these clients have when it comes to investment choices: ‘Everything I put in a portfolio for a millennial client is a long-term investment. These clients are in a unique position where they can hold investments for 30-40 years and really benefit from this.’
An adage that Tasker stands by herself, as she assures me, ‘everything held in my own pension is a long-term investment as well – I practice what I preach.’
Tasker is well supported at Charles Stanley, where she says the firm encourages investment managers to be independent. She is regularly at networking events, as well as utilising the company’s financial planning arm.
It is great to speak with someone so enthusiastic about their job, so I ask Tasker where she sees wealth management going.
It is not surprising that she says: ‘In 10 years, I would like to see the industry way more digital than it is now.’ She laughs as she goes on: ‘We need to move away from paperwork – my friends are horrified when I tell them I send 20-25 letters a day.’
I wonder if Tasker is concerned about robo-advice, but she remains confident that this is predominantly a ‘people’ industry.
‘Humans run the market. Computers could never do it 100% – it would fall apart, be entirely flat and prices would never move. Computers can’t run the world,’ she says.
And finally, what would Charles Stanley be if it were a pub? Tasker decides: ‘I’d say we are a craft beer pub. Bespoke, giving your options upfront and the ability to try out said options.’
Glass half full: ‘Am I allowed to say Brexit? I think we have to look at this in a positive way now – we have first mover advantage and can set the precedent for something that’s never been done before.’
Glass half empty: ‘Minimum portfolio sizes – I think they are the biggest barrier to us growing as an industry.’