After a brief departure from the good, old-fashioned, British pub in our last couple of editions of Pub Club, I gladly join Coram Asset Management’s James Sullivan at Mayfair’s Windmill for a pie and a pint(s).
The Windmill is nothing if not a classic British pub. It serves pies, pints and well, not much else. Not that this was a surprise to my host, ‘they do cracking pies here – if you don’t like pies it’s no good though!’
Sullivan founded Coram Asset Management in September 2014, shortly after leaving Miton Group. After initially enlisting the assistance of RC Brown, who provided the requisite regulatory umbrella, Coram gained their own permissions which Sullivan says ‘was always the ambition’.
Since then, Coram have seen yet more change as the business was acquired by MitonOptimal International last June. Sullivan is not short of praise for the new parent company.
‘The support from MitonOptimal has been tremendous. The depth of investment resource is greater than anything I have experienced in my career to date, which one hopes should be conveyed through performance over time.’
Sullivan is full of optimism for the prospects of the business since the takeover and I am keen to gauge the direction in which he sees it going.
‘Since the summer we have been looking to grow by acquisition as well as organically, but we want to be very careful that any acquisition we make does not undermine the ethos of the business.’
He continues: ‘It is my desire to see the UK operation become the significant influence within the group.’
After much hand waving and more than a few failed attempts to grab the waiter’s attention – we order. Two pies and two pints. What else?
With our glasses filled, conversation turns to Coram’s clients in the adviser network: how do Coram approach growth in this fiercely competitive and crowded market?
‘We recognise that successful businesses modernise and adapt to the environment, and as such we’re continually looking at ways to ensure our proposition remains fresh. Not everyone wants to buy funds anymore, and therefore we must look to cater for those who wish to have more tailored, holistic propositions at their disposal.’
Sullivan continues, ‘the lion’s share of our business is through the IFA market, both in the UK and expat communities. I’m fortunate enough to have been out to Singapore, Thailand and Tokyo where we have clients.’
Pies now on our plates, our pints are refilled and passive investing is the topic to complete our lunchtime alliteration. Sullivan is happy to talk about the benefits of passive investing, both to a portfolio and in raising standards in the fund management industry as a whole.
‘I’ve never fully understood the passive vs active debate. I’ve never seen why you can’t marry the two when you have an active asset allocation.’ Sullivan tells me.
‘Passive investments raise the bar. Good active managers will always be able to justify their fees and will prosper, but it separates the wheat from the chaff to a large degree.’As lunch draws to a close I find out that Sullivan is a Manchester United fan. However, this is not a curse that he wishes to pass down to his son. ‘My boy is less than a year old and I want him to support a local team. We live is south Oxfordshire, so unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of fashionable options!’