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Coverstar club: wealth managers we grilled in 2018 - part 1

We featured more than 60 wealth managers from the length and breadth of the UK on our cover last year

We featured more than 60 wealth managers from the length and breadth of the UK on the cover of our weekly magazine last year.

Here is the first edition of our round-up of a vintage crop of Wealth Manager cover stars.

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We featured more than 60 wealth managers from the length and breadth of the UK on the cover of our weekly magazine last year.

Here is the first edition of our round-up of a vintage crop of Wealth Manager cover stars.

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Who? Rupert Forrest of Raymond James

Where? Leeds

Why you should care: The principal of Raymond James’ local outlet is charmingly self-deprecating about the size of his business which remains a minnow, but clearly articulated the business case for a new generation of micro-managers able to operate under a bigger umbrella.

Key quote: ‘If you look at a business like Killik & Co, and how that has developed without just blindly following an expected business model, that is very much something that I aspire to.’

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Who? Julia Warrander of Affinity Private Wealth

Where? Jersey

Why you should care: In addition to her position as veteran co-chief investment officer at Affinity, Warrander is a powerful advocate for improving the exceptionally low diversity of wealth managers and points out businesses have a strong case to act out of self interest

Key quote: ‘I’ll go to a meeting, where you’ve got a visiting fund manager, and I’ll sit around the table and sometimes there are 10, sometimes 20 people at that breakfast or lunch and, more often than not, I’m the only woman… [Women] don’t represent even close to half of the number of employees, and yet we make up half the population.’

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Who? Marianne Ismail of European Wealth

Where? London

Why you should care: European Wealth had an eventful 2017/18 with the business changing hands and pursuing a change of strategy, and more recently a change of name, to KW Wealth, in line with its new parent group. Incoming chief executive Ismail explains where the business is headed.

Key quote: ‘When [former chief executive] Morton decided to leave, I was the only person who was there to take over. But I was also ready to embrace the challenge. I love helping businesses grow, and I’m particularly interested in strategy and how you actually make things work.'

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Who? Nick Hooper of London Investment Management

Where? London

Why you should care: The former Credo manager was only a few months into his career as sole trader and still operating out of his spare bedroom, but points out that with a small but significant group of clients the business had been profitable from launch.

Key quote:’ The regulators have done a brilliant job of cleaning up the industry and making sure that everyone has the same information. But profitability has been squeezed as a result. It’s interesting how businesses are separated between corporate finance, which is still making a lot of money, and looking after individuals, which is the side I am on. I think the future of the industry is a total expense ratio of 1%.’

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Who? Peter Doherty of Tideway Investment

Where? London

Why you should care: Tideway’s managing partner achieved a sort of sector-specific virality with a lacerating Linkedin critique of the investment consultancy industry – much of it echoed by recent competition and regulatory reports into the sector. He explains how he is bringing a similar iconoclastic approach to private client accounts with a form of liability driven investment.

Key quote: ‘Our pensions business has effectively seeded our wealth and funds business… The LDI [liability-driven investment] type approach means you end up with a strong risk buffer. You get a medium duration and some risk at the back end. [For pensions savers] that is logical and that works. And for an increasing number of discretionaries no longer able to efficiently take part in direct bond issues [as average deal sizes have ballooned this decade], it works for them as well.’

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Who? Shane Williams, then of UBS

Where? London 

Why you should care: The since-departed architect of UBS’ robo-service explains how his digital native tween is well ahead of the curve of some in the City and how to incubate new tech in a business as monolithic as UBS.

Key quote: ‘The thing about having a big wealth manager behind you is there is a path to complexity for the entrepreneur. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re with UBS SmartWealth and then you have an exit event, then actually your needs might become more complex. So you might need structured products, for example, that means you might want to move onto having an adviser and access to a lot more products. They have got a path through to the traditional wealth management business.’

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*In August, UBS sold SmartWealth to US-based start-up SigFig.

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Who? Richard Philbin of Wellian

Where? Tunbridge Wells

Why you should care: The former Architas head explained the many parallels between his current home at Wellian – where he serves as chief investment officer – and his beloved Manchester City, and explained what was really behind an exit from his best-known employer, at the time widely perceived as acrimonious.  

Key quote: ‘I worry that should I get hit by a bus, then I have no legacy. It’s trying to build something that either wasn’t there before, which gives us an edge over our competitors, or so that advisers remember us for what we do and why we do it.’

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Who? Cynthia Poole and Anthony Scott of Raymond James

Where? London

Why you should care: Raymond’s James UK director of relationships and head of business development explain how it has become a powerhouse of UK wealth in the near two decades since launch, and how they continue to address the changing needs of managers and their clients.

Key quote: Scott: ‘Regulation always drives change. Change will drive levels of dissatisfaction and therefore make people look around, particularly if they aren’t happy. A lot of people joined companies that were relatively small in the 2000s, but a lot of those smaller companies have grown considerably bigger and are more process-oriented and prescriptive. What we are offering is a compliant antidote to homogenisation.’

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Who? Alan Hudson, AFH Financial

Where? Bromsgrove

Why you should care: The chief executive of what is arguably the UK’s leading wealth consolidator explained how he had transformed a regional advisor into a national chain, and how the current asset base is just the start of his ambitions.

Key quote: We have a three to five year aspiration to have £5 billion in AUM, £75 million in turnover and a 20% Ebitda margin,’ he says.

‘We are on target to reach our five-year target and will likely increase it once we reach it. We think the market is polarising between investment management-led and financial planning-led wealth management models. We want to be the number one financial planning-led wealth manager in sector.

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Who? Chris Payne and Tom Milson of GWM Group

Where? London

Why you should care: The former Lloyds Private managers on why a desire to stay in Mayfair led them into a partnership with a global wealth business GWM.

Key quote: Payne: ‘We really wanted our group identity to shape the business. We are the board, we make all the decisions, we are responsible for recruiting, putting the proposition together, and deciding on marketing strategy – and we decide which clients we take on and which ones we do not.’

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Who? David Durlacher of Julius Baer

Where? London

Why you should care: The Swiss private bank secured something of coup in 2017, hiring a swathe of Barclays’ key regional specialists to establish a series of regional outposts in Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh in one swoop. Its international chief executive explained how this was just a start.

Key quote: ‘We will look at opportunities over the next few years. We want to be sensible in how we invest in the business and make sure it makes a real impact. There are other wealth centres such as Bristol and Birmingham.

'It’s all people driven and we need to be seen to be hiring the best people in the regions. We know that our reputation is the people who are facing our client base, and our reputation is arguably more important than the strength of our balance sheet.’

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Who? James Keen and Charles Dixon of Mountstone Partners

Where? London

Why you should care: James Keen, who left a fairly cushy position as Brooks’ head of London to launch Mountstone Partners in 2014, explained why he tapped up his successor Dixon, who explains why he was receptive when his former colleague came calling.

Key quote: Keen: ‘Most of the larger firms are becoming generic products. Many of them do exactly the same thing, just in a slightly different way. We found that clients get a bit disenfranchised with that model and want something that’s more personal, more boutique and have a better level of service. One of the tenets we’ve set out to our clients is that we are not going to get too big.'

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Who? Paul Hogarth, Tatton Asset Management

Where? Wilmslow

Why you should care: If AFH is only arguably one of the UK’s leading consolidators, the chief executive of Tatton would be one of those keen to offer a counter suit, having taken the business public and welcomed majors such as Lombard Odier, Schroders and BlackRock to its register in 2017.

Key quote: ‘When our sales team or development consultants are talking to IFAs out there, they can see we are in this business with tremendously strong financial backing and therefore they can invest their clients’ portfolios with that feeling of extra security.’

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Who? John Bowes and Andrew Wilson of Lockhart Capital

Where? Leeds

Why you should care: The Towry alumni explained how they have translated their experience of the national wealth major into a more personalised experience and how they have struck a delicate balance between cautious scepticism and overleaping ambition in their first year of business.

Key quote: Wilson: ‘One of the best moments since we launched was when the penny dropped that we had a business with legs and really got underway; that was really evident by the end of September or October.

‘Another highlight came at the end of November when we realised that we had broken even and we could pay ourselves, our staff and keep the lights on. You can’t underestimate how important that was to us, because people had taken a risk on us with their livelihoods and it’s a massive responsibility.’

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Who? Keith Edwards and Antony Clark of Casterbridge Wealth

Where? Salisbury

Why you should care: We dropped in on the duo just as their hometown was adjusting to its place at the centre of an international spy scandal, following the Skripal poisoning in March. Almost as remarkable was the start-ups’ win of a Citywire Regional Stars Award the month before however, against some stiff competition from the national majors.    

Key quote: Clark: ‘I think at a number of the companies I worked for, the bigger the company, the smaller the client focus. There’s a lot of talk about the client being the centre of attention, but I found it was increasingly lacking, the bigger the company became. Here, if there’s a query the client gets an answer as soon as possible.'

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Who? Matthew Sharp of Psigma

Where? London

Why you should care: One of the guiding lights of the company’s managed portfolio service explains why he would not knock day trading and how the company is expanding into the UK’s regional markets.

Key quote: ‘We are in a strong position and at the £3 billion level we’re not so big that we can’t be nimble, but big enough that we can absorb regulatory costs, which have been increasing generally, and invest in our technology, so it is a nice size.’

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Who? Andy Butcher and Ed Froggatt of Raymond James

Where? London

Why you should care: The men behind the recently launched RJ Hampstead office explained why they were already seeking new premises after less than a year in business and how restrictive non-compete clauses may actually be one of the secrets of long-term success.

Key quote: Froggatt: ‘The hardest part of launching our business was probably making the decision to actually do it. When you have a sense that you have a proposition you think would appeal to your clients, it’s just a matter of having the foresight and determination to go through with it. There are a lot of people who talk the talk, but never realise their ideas.’

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Who? Duncan MacIntyre of Lombard Odier

Where? London

Why you should care: The Swiss bank’s UK boss explained how he was planning to deliver on its expansive plans for UK growth, having already overseen a doubling in its sterling assets since 2016, and the role Frida Kahlo has played in his life story.

Key quote: ‘London is and will remain, in our opinion, a core world wealth centre. People come here for the resident non-dom tax status, they come for the safety and security of the UK jurisdiction, or for educational purposes, or all the diversity in London ≥ it is a hugely diverse city that attracts people from every nation under the sun.’

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Who? Kevin Doran of AJ Bell

Where? Manchester

Why you should care: Something of a surprise signing to the broker platform when he joined in late 2017, his hiring was taken as a signifier of how serious the company was about its plans to crack UK wealth management. He explained how he planned to deliver on that ambition.

Key quote: ‘I think there are better ways of doing asset management. I don’t want to be someone who just participates in that change, but I want to be the catalyst for that change. It’s very easy to do passive low cost investment solutions. Passive almost outsources all investment management decisions to index providers. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.’

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Who? Christian Armbruester of Blu Family Office

Where? London

Why you should care: The retired prop trader told us how being ‘burnt-out’ by his earlier career acted as a genesis to his decision to launch Blu Family Office in London’s Richmond and how that in turn has led to a widening of its services to other families.

Key Quote: ‘For me it is about doing my father proud and when families come to work with us, we form the same bond I have with my father, because I do not want to let them down. Most of them have gone through a lot of the same experiences we went through, in that they received expensive, hard to understand advice that may not even work.’

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Who? Paul Warner

Where? Bath

Why you should care: MitonOptimal’s head of portfolio management since the 2017 purchase of his former firm Minerva, Warner told us how the marriage had created a South West regional outsourcing champion.

Key quote: ‘It’s about working more with people who are like-minded. We like the people here, I guess that’s always important isn’t it? And we’ve always been bottom-up [at Minerva], we never had a proper top-down approach.’

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Who? James Nield of Thesis

Where? Chichester

Why you should care: Fresh off the £47 million MBO launched by Nield and a team of colleagues, the director of its head office explained how the new ownership were re-orientating the firm to a growth strategy and bankrolling an ongoing programme of capital investment.

Key quote: ‘The previous shareholders were very supportive. Without them we would not have a business, but they had a slightly different angle on things to the new ones, [they were] more motivated by dividends. The new shareholders are more growth-oriented.’

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Who? Yariv Haim and Elroy Dimson of Sparrow Capital

Where? London

Why you should care: In what may be one of the most remarkable career switches to feature in our pages, Haim went from zero experience of asset management, as head of business development for Israel’s MH Eliashar Distribution, to head of the proprietor’s family office in the space of a year.  

Key quote: 'It was a hectic year and learning everything from scratch was not an easy feat, as you can imagine. But I think to a certain extent, if something was an advantage, it was the fact that I did not come from the industry. It kind of allowed me to be a completely blank canvas. I was not susceptible to any misconceptions.’

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