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The big interview: Ignis chief Chris Samuel's grand plan
by Emma Dunkley on Jan 14, 2013 at 11:11
The last few years have been turbulent to say the least, not just for economies and stock markets, but for many asset management firms that have been forced to restructure and consolidate their businesses.
For Ignis Asset Management, the period has been one of major transformation, as those at the helm sought to turn around performance in lagging areas, while creating foundations on which new parts of the business can be built in the years ahead.
Chris Samuel, who took charge as chief executive officer in 2009, says he has a clear vision of the firm’s direction, which he believes will come to fruition between now and 2015.
His first move was to establish the firm in its current guise, by which Axial Investment Management merged with Ignis to form Ignis Asset Management, in 2009. In that year, Ignis also created a new sales team to boost its European distribution capabilities, a region that is a focal point for Ignis’s expansion plans.
‘We have worked to transform into a leading asset manager,’ said Samuel. ‘Not necessarily the biggest or most profitable, or best performing, but one where customers want their money managed by us and shareholders see us as a valuable asset, while the industry respects us for what we do.’
The transformation process has been multi-faceted, and included the institutionalisation of the firm’s wholesale business to complement its life company roots. The process has involved key hires, rebranding, the ending of joint ventures and the launch of core products, to name but a few developments.
End to joint ventures
Of ending the joint ventures that were initiated and fostered by previous chief executive Jonathan Polin, Samuel said: ‘It enables us to now invest in core Ignis, to build our investment capabilities and ensure we have a well-controlled, efficient operating platform.
‘We wanted to do what was right for the various stakeholders,’ he added. ‘It was in the customers’ best interests for them [the joint ventures] to have more resources under their own control.’ The last of these, Cartesian, became independent at the end of last year.
The move allows Ignis to focus on its core investment performance, which had been weak in some departments – namely equities. Samuel said the reorganisation of the business, along with strengthening investment capabilities, which started in 2010 and investing in growth with the bolstering of the firm’s distribution teams, has helped drive business performance.
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