(pictured above: Alex Foster, far left, and Eleanor Mahmoud, far right, with Charles Stanley’s Ben Gilmore, middle left, and Graham Austin, middle right)
‘Can I have a sharper knife please?’ Charles Stanley’s Ben Gilmore asks our waitress, as we begin lunch at Balls Brothers in London’s Austin Friars. Luckily he’s not asking for stronger weapons due to my poor company – he has some pretty rare beef on his plate that he’s attempting to cut through without sending it across the room, writes Eleanor Mahmoud.
Thankfully Gilmore is sitting opposite friend and colleague Graham Austin, who doesn’t mind potentially flying beef too much. The investment managers are two of Charles Stanley’s latest recruits, having both joined the firm this year from Kleinwort Hambros.
‘Ben and I work as a “pod” – we’re a new team who manage our own clients and we access the wider firm’s support and research. We’ve known each other for years now, on a professional and friendly basis,’ Austin explains, tucking into his chicken schnitzel (which is definitely not rare).
‘We have numerous responsibilities centred on our clients and making investment decisions, meaning it’s been busy from day one.’
Gilmore, who now has a sharper knife, echoes this sentiment: ‘We’re much more involved with the investments here. We build portfolios from the bottom up and Charles Stanley has a solid research infrastructure in place, which we are empowered as professionals to utilise.’
Essex-lad Austin and Devon-boy Gilmore both paved the initial steps in their investment management careers by hopping up north to study at university.
Studying economics in York and management in Manchester respectively, they then returned south to begin working life in London. Gilmore joined BNY Mellon in a marketing role, before moving to JM Finn to pursue his interest in the private client world. Meanwhile, Austin had joined the graduate scheme at Deutsche Bank.
‘Both my father and grandfather worked in the City of London, so it was no surprise when I followed in their footsteps,’ remarks Austin.
The pair later met at Kleinwort Hambros, where they collectively worked for over 10 years. With that in mind, I’m interested to see what changes they are seeing across wealth management. Inevitably, talk turns to technology and whether robo-advice is going to encroach on the industry as we know it today.
‘People generally trust in Amazon and Google as brands. In fact, millennials might even trust them more than the banks,’ Gilmore begins. ‘Depending on regulatory headwinds, I think that the tech giants will make a big dent in the financial services sector – it’s certainly getting higher on their agendas.’
Perhaps the regulator would welcome the cost reduction that technology giants could bring to the industry, although the very term ‘giant’ would provoke the regulator. I make the point that surely a potential ‘Amazon Wealth Management’ would target the lower end of
Gilmore is quick to argue that we should not be complacent on this front: ‘Yes, the robo shift might start at the lower end of the market, but everyone is vulnerable. Model portfolios are vulnerable, bespoke portfolios and differentiation will act as a protection.’
On the other hand, Austin believes that people will always want people.
‘I agree that technology brands are going to cause disruption. However, I believe that most clients will still want an element of human involvement in the management of their finances, particularly those with larger sums
Pints finished and coffee on its way, Gilmore concludes: ‘Technology can’t be ignored. We have to embrace how it can deliver more for clients.’