‘We are a firm on the move,’ says Charles Stanley’s chief executive officer, Paul Abberley.
This gives an indication of the mood at Charles Stanley at the moment, with the company ready to move forward as it completes a long and extensive restructuring programme.
‘The first couple of years was working to create the foundations for the strategy. It’s now about implementing that strategy on a day-to-day basis. It’s all about growing revenues, looking at opportunities to serve existing clients and finding new clients - doing all of that while running the firm efficiently,’ he said.
While the private client investment management division is still the largest revenue generator and the financial planning service is being expanded through new recruits, Charles Stanley Direct (CSD) is an area of focus for Abberley in anticipation of future industry disruption.
‘My main worry is what might happened beyond three years because of the potential of digital disruption,’ he said.
He says that there are three reasons for the company having set up CSD. The first is the fact clients like it, the second is because of the revenue, and thirdly ‘because it gives us a seat at the table in terms of digital delivery of products and services to clients’.
He added: ‘We will only be successful if we’re good at that stuff. It keeps us match-fit in the digital space. So if the mainstream industry suddenly goes in the digital direction I want to make sure we have the knowledge, the skills and the staff to pivot in that direction.’
In September, the firm launched a range of risk-graded funds on CSD for DIY clients. It has now also launched a new app for IOS and Android, where clients can log into their accounts through their device’s fingerprint reader.
‘This is something that’s incremental but it’s a big step forward. The policy is to have a rapid evolution of the functionality for the clients and our staff but without having to start all over again.’
Also at the heart of Abberley’s strategy is increasing productivity and embedding that into the culture of the business. This requires incremental changes to improve both the client and staff experience. Therefore, Abberley is focusing on ‘standardising, where non-standardisation is not necessary’.
‘In the past is everything has been separate, individually tailored, in an extreme version of a cottage industry. What we’re trying to do now is to standardise where we can. The key factor is to distinguish which bits of a process actually need to be distinctive in order for the investment manager to offer a distinctive service.’
He explains that a focus has been on making sure silos do not get in the way of end-to- end efficiency. ‘Part of driving operational efficiency is building a culture where people are more comfortable and work together. We will get a snowball effect once this gets moving.’