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Wealth Manager: Quilter explains how it has kept continuity through changing hands

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by David Campbell on Jan 19, 2012 at 00:01

Although Quilter has seen its ownership change hands several times, the investment management business has retained clear continuity among its staff.

Charles Hepworth, head of the firm’s managed portfolio service (MPS), and Ben Mountain, head of investment fund research, are a testimony to this, having been at the firm for 17 and 12 years respectively.

‘There is a very long service for the majority of the staff here because it is a very stable offering,’ Hepworth says.

Mountain says: ‘Also, the culture here is very good. I have been allowed to grow in my role and develop. I report to the CIO [Duncan Gwyther]. He is very hands off – but hands on when he needs to be – and he allows us to explore our own avenues of research. If it is not in keeping with what he feels is suitable for the firm as a whole, we won’t pursue something, but it is not as dogmatic as “we are only covering this”. It is quite flexible in that sense.

‘My management style is to allow my team to express their views and look outside the box to find new attractive ideas. It may not always come to something, but giving people the freedom to develop is important. As we are looking at multiple asset classes and geographies, something is happening all the time. New managers are always coming up.’

Preserving a firm’s culture following an ownership change represents a significant challenge in UK financial services, yet Hepworth says Quilter’s core senior management team has achieved just this.

While Quilter can trace its heritage back to 1777, its parent company has changed a number of times. Most recently, after two years under the parentage of Citigroup between 2006 and 2008, the firm is now owned by the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney joint venture.

‘There was always a fear that some of the owners would try and put their stamp on it, but we have retained our own culture ever since I have been here,’ says Hepworth.

He joined Quilter’s Birmingham office in 1994 from regional stockbroker Albert E Sharp alongside current chief executive Martin Baines, who had been recruited to grow the office. He joined as a private client manager, but later moved into broker fund management.

‘Between 1994-95 to 1997-98 there was a huge requirement for IFAs to offload discretionary management to authorised investment managers. They were getting pressure from the regulator to do that, which is not dissimilar to now,’ Hepworth recalls. ‘We took on quite a lot of monies in the broker fund market relatively quickly. Eventually they were shut down through the regulator’s decision to actively close them, so we needed another route of assets to grow. In 2001, I took over the managed portfolio service.’

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