Profile: Thurleigh chair Rosier on plans for the combined Ingenious AM

Of the list of potential partners Thurleigh could have thrown its lot in with, Ingenious Asset Management is the clear winner on one key metric: its offices are among the few that could compete with Thurleigh’s former Piccadilly bolt-hole for pure personality.

It’s a different kind of personality – located as it is in the heart of Soho’s medialand and kitted out in primary colours which have aged as well as can be expected for something once the height of fashion – than Thurleigh’s slightly down-at-heel two-room office, decorated with kitschy 1950s cigarette ads, before the two businesses began co-habiting in April, but equally distinctive.  

Thurleigh co-founder and now chair of the business within Ingenious AM, David Rosier laughingly disabuses Wealth Manager of the notion it was the expanse of op-art and trendy furniture that gave Ingenious a critical advantage in nailing the tie-up, creating a business with £1.7 billion in assets.

Publicly billed as a merger, the marriage was in reality an acquisition, with Ingenious Group founder and chief executive Patrick McKenna buying out Rosier and co-founder Charles Mackinnon’s equity for an undisclosed sum.

This was an eventuality which, to his credit, Rosier had for many years openly told interviewers was a possible end game for the company.

 

The ties that now bind Thurleigh staff to the group are strictly contractual (although Rosier notes that of the two staff who did not make the move, manager Caspar Helmore has returned to education and Luca Serino is pursuing his musical dreams with band The Fireflies).

While his chairmanship is very definitely executive, using the contact book that comes with 36 years in the industry to expand Ingenious’s charity book alongside other projects, Rosier says the decision to sell was at least partly a reflection of where both men found themselves in their careers.

‘It was a great experience building a pretty successful private client business and would have been lovely if we could have kept on growing it to pass on to the next generation. But we felt we owed it to clients and possibly more importantly prospective clients to answer the question of how long we are going to keep on doing this? I am 63, Charles is 59,’ he says.

‘That, combined with an increasing burden of regulatory costs, meant that had we kept on going we would have had to invest significant amounts of capital in the business. Until now we have had an external compliance officer for instance, and to keep up with the amount of documentation we now have to file with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), we would have had to recruit a full-time employee.

 

‘We have been pretty successful without either but we would have had to consider investing in sales and marketing if we wanted to keep on growing the business. We needed a financial partner, and Ingenious ticked all of our boxes. They were very generous in describing it as a merger, but in the end they bought the business – and we brought them expertise that they arguably didn’t have,’ he adds.

‘It has been interesting to talk to people since we joined. The investment directors have very much welcomed the fact that Charles in particular has a lot of experience in fixed income. [With] a lot of the Ingenious staff, while very experienced, the depth of their experience is in equity markets.’

Rosier is sanguine about how and why the regulator has moved to enforce suitability as an all-encompassing consideration for private client management. He adds, however, that this has unavoidably weighted the industry structure toward a higher minimum market capitalisation than has been true even in the relatively recent past.

He says had he and Mackinnon been considering making the move from a large bank to set up their own independent shop today rather than nine years ago, they would have had to do much more than put their money down and gauge support among their clients.

 

‘The difference is, nowadays we would have to raise capital. It would be possible to do it but we would have had to work much harder to find backing – from private equity, or whatever,’ Rosier says.

‘I still feel optimistic for the smaller end of the [wealth management] sector because I’m fundamentally an optimistic person. But also because however hard large organisations try to avoid treating their clients like account numbers it will still inevitably happen, and there will always be people who feel safer and happier at small organisations, and place a premium on counting for something.

‘Generally, we are required to do more and more reporting and ensure more files are sent into the FCA on a weekly basis. The whole emphasis on suitability is excellent, but to get that right and do it thoroughly is a huge task. It is [objectively] a good thing but you need to have a member of staff doing that full time. Here [at Ingenious] we have three.’

He estimates that to really be competitive, expansionary and long-term sustainable in the current market a discretionary management business needs to be able to draw on the annual fees of around £1 billion in assets, or to have deep enough pockets to keep the business running as if it did until it can get there.   

 

Nonetheless, he believes there are continuing barriers to consolidation at the bottom end of the sector, a phenomenon that seems borne out by increasing jockeying to consolidate assets in the mid-field and upper end, and less activity at the very bottom.

Now on the acquisitive end of the corporate scale – in addition to its organic growth areas in trust businesses and intermediated adviser assets Ingenious is still actively considering opportunities – Rosier says many small operators insist they come with their clients as a full package.

In contrast to the advisory sector in which many practitioners have cashed out and taken retirement rather than go back to school to train to new statutory-minimum qualification levels, many practitioners at the lower end of the private client industry tend to be young enough that they still need to work, and not yet mentally ready to give up their client relationships, he adds. 

‘It’s also about keeping hold of the recurring revenues and keeping hold of the relationships, while wanting to give up some of the paperwork.’

Real consolidation would be difficult so long as it remained conditional on taking on a great deal of personnel and key-staff risk via staff integration, he says.

 

‘In big deals, you want to keep the people in place when clients make the transition – until they decide to change the structure because it does not meet their internal return on equity, as tends to happen in big organisations. At the smaller end, it tends to be much more a people business, for good and bad.’

The combined Thurleigh-Ingenious group, which says it intends to retain the Thurleigh brand, sits between these two extremes with around 40 staff, up from little more than 10 previously. Showing Wealth Manager into the conference room, Rosier and Mackinnon’s PA Sally Price notes how nice it is to finally have other people available to handle all the tea-making duties in addition to managing his diary.    

Of the company’s £1.7 billion under management, £150 million is run for advisers on external platforms, while £168 million is run for charities. Both of these have strong growth potential, Rosier says. ‘If you look at the IFA client business, that is one person who manages all that. It’s not labour intensive.’

Performance has been decent. The Ingenious Balanced Strategy is up 43% over five years versus the ARC Sterling Balanced Index return of 31.79, and over three years 23.39% versus 24.8%.

While many might have chosen to take the cheque and take up gardening, Rosier insists he is not planning his imminent retirement.

‘I’m here as long as they’ll have me,’ he says.   

 

Tags:

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 EN

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.