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Restructures and acquisitions: 12 wealth firms to watch in 2016

In what promises to be another eventful year for the wealth industry, we highlight 12 firms which could make telling marks.

Last year saw a wave of acquisitions, new launches and business restructures across the wealth management sector and this shows no sign of slowing down in 2016.

Just three weeks into the year, we have already seen a board reshuffle at Brewin Dolphin, Davy Group enter the London market and Swiss boutique Bellecapital acquire Williams de Broë’s discretionary arm from Investec. So what more can we expect?

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Last year saw a wave of acquisitions, new launches and business restructures across the wealth management sector and this shows no sign of slowing down in 2016.

Just three weeks into the year, we have already seen a board reshuffle at Brewin Dolphin, Davy Group enter the London market and Swiss boutique Bellecapital acquire Williams de Broë’s discretionary arm from Investec. So what more can we expect?

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St James's Place

St James’s Place continued to shrug off questions over its fee transparency last year, but the biggest news came in the summer when the firm, led by chief executive David Bellamy (pictured), bought Bristol-based wealth manager Rowan Dartington for £34 million.

Bringing an eventful year to a close, in December, SJP revealed it had cancelled its membership of all trade bodies – including the Investment Association and Wealth Management Association – as it no longer found they offered value for money. The question now is, how much will its newly acquired discretionary arm power growth?

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EQ Investors

John Spiers’s new firm, EQ Investors, is one to watch in 2016 after launching two new services this year. The company, acquired by Bestinvest founder Spiers (pictured), launched a bespoke investment management service as well as the digital service, Simply EQ.

When he appeared on the cover of Wealth Manager in 2014, Spiers said: ‘Now is the greatest opportunity I’ve seen in wealth management.’

Given his track record, will EQ’s direct-to-consumer platform grow into a major industry player?

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Towry

By May, Towry officially completed its takeover of Ashcourt Rowan, which it acquired for £120 million, boosting its assets to £11 billion. A number of staff departures and office closures followed, as chief executive Rob Devey (pictured) started the integration of the two businesses.

In a surprise move, the company’s private equity owner, Palamon Capital Partners, scrapped plans for an IPO and instead put the business up for sale.

It was reported that Towry was on the market for £600 million. Will someone make an offer in 2016 and if so, who?

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Kleinwort Benson

Last year saw a tense bidding war for BHF Kleinwort Benson as Chinese conglomerate Fosun International and French Oddo & Cie both eyed the group.

Following much speculation, Fosun pulled out of the fight after Oddo & Cie entered a ‘white knight’ bid.

Oddo & Cie started the year by completing a €100 million (£76 million) capital raising ahead of the deal, which is expected to finalise by the end of the first quarter.

The question is, when Kleinwort Benson has new owners, what plans will they have for the private bank, and will the brand be retained?

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Quilter Cheviot

Old Mutual’s £585 million acquisition of Quilter Cheviot completed in February, with the deal prompting a board reshuffle as personnel from previous owner Bridgepoint left the firm.

Senior figures from Old Mutual Wealth – chief operating officer and deputy chief executive Jeremy Charles, chief risk officer Kevin Lee-Crosett and chief finance officer Mark Satchell – were all given seats at the table.

Chief executive Martin Baines (pictured) told Wealth Manager the acquisition is a positive step as he is a fan of the vertically integrated model, but will investors agree?

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Charles Stanley

An overhaul like no other – this marked 2015 for national wealth manager Charles Stanley. After former Wealth Manager cover star Paul Abberley (pictured) took the helm at the end of 2014, the firm has seen what its CEO deemed the most significant changes since its creation in 1792.

The restructure included the sale of non-core assets as the firm entered into discussions to enact an management buyout of its employee benefits arm and sold its corporate broking arm to Panmure Gordon.

Abberley also continued to consolidate the group’s branch network while wealth managers are being transitioned onto profit-linked pay deals.

How smooth will the firm’s contracts transition be – and will persistent rumours that the business is up for sale prove true or false?

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Brewin Dolphin

There has been no end to the news coming out of Brewin Dolphin as the wealth manager continued restructuring through consolidating its branches, investing in new technology and launching a direct-to-consumer proposition.

In December, chief executive David Nicol (pictured) said the period of consolidation was over and he is now focused on expansion. This was just weeks before a restructure of the executive committee was announced, which resulted in the departure of investment boss Stephen Ford.

Wealth Manager also revealed the firm is launching two new investment services targeted at divorcees and entrepreneurs selling their businesses.

So after a turbulent two years, will Brewin get back on track and will its D2C offering become an engine for growth in an increasingly competitive market?

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Tilney Bestinvest

Tipped as a potential buyer of Towry, Tilney Bestinvest finished the year with the acquisition of Birmingham wealth adviser Webb Holton & Associates, a number of hires across its regional offices and the restructure of its Scottish operation.

Now that the integration of Tilney and Bestinvest is complete, senior management is looking to grow and take on new teams.

Earlier in the year, Wealth Manager also revealed that the firm is looking to expand in the South Coast, East Anglia and Aberdeen regions, but will a Towry bid also be on the agenda?

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Rowan Dartington

Even before St James’s Place bought Bristol-based Rowan Dartington last year, the latter was on a path of expansion. Following the acquisition, executive chairman Graham Coxell (pictured) told Wealth Manager that it would be business as usual, but growth would be high on the agenda.

Keeping this promise, one of the first moves in September was the hiring a WH Ireland duo to launch a Birmingham office.

Coxell is also expecting significant additions to staff across offices to support the development of the proposition. Will further regional expansion be on the cards now that the firm is part of the SJP juggernaut?

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Sanlam UK

Sanlam started the year ready to move forward as it tidied up its structure by merging all UK businesses into a single corporate entity headed by Jonathan Polin (pictured).

Polin was appointed chief executive of Sanlam Private Wealth in October, moving over from Ashcourt Rowan where he transformed the firm’s fortunes before selling it to rival Towry for £120 million.

Over the last two years, Sanlam has been at the forefront of consolidation in the industry. In August, it acquired adviser firm FA Watts Investment Managers, adding £150 million of funds under advice. This followed the purchase of wealth management firm Caerus Portfolio Management earlier in the year.

So will Polin lead a further acquisition drive in 2016?

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Tcam

Alex Montgomery (pictured left) and Haig Bathgate (right) led a management buyout of Turcan Connell Asset Management, backed by Crispin Odey, in October. The pair described the move as a ‘natural progression’, putting them at the helm of the business, which they rebranded as Tcam.

The duo expect to grow the business more easily now that they are not part of a law firm. There has already been some change within the company as senior investment manager David Robertson and head of charities Richard Hyder left to join Psigma.

Just how quickly can Tcam grow now it has been cut loose?

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Aberdeen Asset Management

Aberdeen has not been one to sit back and watch as other firms go on M&A and hiring sprees. The firm, led by chief executive Martin Gilbert (pictured), recently completed its acquisition of Parmenion Capital Partners and Self Directed Holdings.

Bristol-based Parmenion has £1.9 billion assets under management, but the deal also included robo-adviser Wealth Horizon.

Aberdeen has been increasingly looking to diversify and owning both online and traditional wealth management businesses leaves it well positioned for tapping the pensions freedoms market.

Just how quickly will these businesses grow under the Aberdeen banner and will the fund manager look to add more assets in the wealth sphere?

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