I don’t mind telling you, siblings, that keeping a topical, weekly, newsy Update going through a pandemic where there is next to nothing exciting to write about can be a schlep at times. With what tattered shreds of self-respect I have left gathered magnificently around me, I flat refuse to spend any time working on what the marketing bod working for some fund manager with hair like a lion thinks COVID-19 means for clients, or the advice profession, or the price of sourdough bread.
So it is with a giddy, soaring heart that I have far too much to write about this week and will have to leave some stuff out.
It is always the case that as a Great Upheaval comes to an end – of its first wave at least – that things which had been glued up quickly become unglued. You may be forgiven for thinking that this is what’s happened this week.
First and biggest has to be the departure of the second half of the Statler/Waldorf axis at the helm of Standard Life Aberdeen. Keith Skeoch follows Martin Gilbert out of the business, and in comes Stephen Bird of Citigroup.
It’s undeniable that Messrs Gilbert & Skeoch oversaw one of the biggest changes in the Scottish – and maybe UK – financial landscape for a very long time with the merger, and then the disposal of the lifeco to Phoenix (we never seem to talk about that any more). Good luck to them both for whatever comes next, but what’s really interesting is what the Citigroup head of consumer banking for the USA and Asia is going to make of 1825, Wrap, Elevate, the funds business and the JVs with HDFC in India. I thought Kate Burgess’s piece in the FT yesterday was interesting on this.
Between Aegon’s appointment of the ex-Direct Line consumer specialist Mike Holliday-Williams and Stephen Bird’s appointment, it feels like – quite apart from potential partnerships overseas – we’re moving (back) into a time when these businesses look to get closer to the end customer.
Such a move is also afoot at Fidelity, which is running a proof of concept of an advice arm, according to Money Marketing editor and champion of nominative determinism Justin Cash (are you, Justin? Really? Not even a little bit of equity in the mix?). To be fair, Fiddy has had some capabilities in this area for a long time in its Retirement Service Centre in the bustling metropolis that is Newport on the Isle of Wight. So, in various ways, that’s Fidelity, Aegon, SLA and LBG/Schroders all at various points on what looks very much like a similar road.
With all that going on, there’s barely time to think about Architas shipping its UK business off to Liontrust. I don’t have data on what proportion of people at Liontrust have hair like a lion as opposed to those in other, less leonine providers, but if it’s not significantly higher I for one will be very disappointed. Anyway, along with ‘close to consumer’, ‘consolidation’ is still clearly a word that will be on the consultants’ slide decks for a while. It’s always better – for shareholders, staff, advisers and clients – for Stuff to be owned by firms who genuinely want the Stuff as opposed to those who merely tolerate it, and that seems to be the score here, so fair sailing to Liontrust and if nothing else we always wish those with feline-related brands the very best. Having also scarfed Neptune and Alliance Trust Investments recently, it certainly won’t be pacing its cage with boredom.
YET MORE MOVES
And with all that going on, how will we find time to talk about the new HL preferred funds list – tl;dr: might look the same from the outside but actually a lot of interesting (for a given value of interesting) internal governance changes, cue standard-issue apoplexy from Terry Smith, move on – and the new wave of DB questionnaires going out?
We won’t. You’ll just have to deal with it.
STILL ENOUGH NEWS TO FILL THE LINKS
- It’s the start of a new quarter, which means we need your help. Please could you tell us how your favoured platforms have done over the last quarter? Takes about 5 minutes and is massively helpful. The survey is here. All respondents will get a summary of the results free gratis and for nothing. Thank you please very much in advance.
- Bit of news from the lang cat Port Authority – Steve Nelson who many of you will know becomes our Insight Director, with capital letters and everything. We spend more and more time on formal insight and research projects, and Steve is a Joe Satriani-level shredder at that, so it makes sense. Steve really likes automated best wishes notes on LinkedIn, so you could leave him some here.
- We’re awfy excited about HomeGames today. Lisa Johnstone from VWM Wealth in Glasgow is my guest. VWM is a cool business which runs as a multi-family office but one which is mainly about financial planning. We’ll be talking about how that works, and how they have rejected the retail platform market as well. One for the practitioners. Free, open, 12.30pm.
- And your music choice this week absolutely rips. Memento Mori – the lead track off Lamb of God’s new self-titled record rips so hard it gets away with having a bit of Sisters of Mercy in the intro, and almost gets away with a magnificently awful horror-movie trope video. Well worth just under six minutes of your time.
I won’t see you next week as I’m having a wee break. Please be nice to Mike. Or don’t, actually. It’s entirely up to you.