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Wealth Manager: Signature - 'we have missed out on some low-hanging fruit'

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by David Campbell on Jun 04, 2013 at 07:54

‘We have missed out on a lot of what you could call the low-hanging fruit,’ says Andrew Morris, head of business development at IFA asset manager and co-founder of parent company Rowan Dartington, reflecting on the recent discretionary stampede into managing adviser assets.

Despite having run money for advisers almost since the company’s foundation in Bristol more than 20 years ago – and being more convincingly sympathetic to advisers as a breed than many private client types – the company has been somewhat left behind in the feeding frenzy of recent years.

Since dividing the third-party and private client and brokerage divisions four years ago, Signature has taken on some of the attributes of its more aggressively expansionary rivals, hiring dedicated business development staff as it plays catch-up in a ferociously competitive market.

Morris has played his part, formally disentangling himself from his historical responsibilities within the fund management team – the fact his eyes really light up when talking about investment suggests where his core interest still lies – and moving to his current business role.

But Morris remains deeply sceptical about both the sustainability of some of the loss-leading services that have been priced to capture ground and the Damascene cultural conversion of businesses that have historically regarded financial advisers with blue-blooded disdain.

‘That view has been transformed. The phones of many wealth managers don’t ring off the hook [any more]. For those who were once stockbrokers, there is not a growing market for that – potential clients will think they are not wealthy enough [or want something else].

‘They have been superb at asset gathering… [but] there are too many platforms. How can you have an industry running multiple billions of assets and still not turn a profit?’

Wealth Manager can claim at least part of the credit for the redoubled effort to sell the company’s services.

 

Having signed up with performance benchmarking specialist Arc as part of a formal internal analysis of its investment returns, Signature submitted its track record to the Wealth Manager Investment Performance Award in 2011. Having been shortlisted in the Small Firm category, the company returned for a win in 2012.

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