While much of the investment industry is preparing itself for a slower Isa season, Britannic Asset Management's retail managing director Francis Ghiloni has been busy looking at the bigger picture.
This month's global sector fund launches mark the first step in the firm's drive to become a household name within the fund management industry – a feat which Ghiloni believes will be realised in as little as three years.
Unperturbed by market conditions, he stresses that although the sceptics may feel that now is not the time to launch a new range of funds, BAM has got its sights firmly fixed on the long term.
Ghiloni says: “We think it is appropriate to launch a range of funds now and not wait for a faddish time to launch. There are two main reasons why we have launched sector funds. The first is IFA demand but also because it is a natural extension of globalisation itself.
“We manage money on a sector basis and have done for 14 years, so all our guys are sector specialists. This is just a natural extension of what we have already been doing.
“All the evidence suggests that the Isa season is quite slow this year compared to last. That should not affect the plans we have made for ourselves because we should be able to take market share from some other better known brands that do not have the track record we have.”
With £20bn under management, Ghiloni already considers BAM well beyond boutique status and hopes to see assets increase to at least £30bn by 2004.
The Britannic group,which includes Britannic Assurance, Britannic Retirement Solutions and Britannic Money, underwent an extensive rebranding of all parts of the business last month. In total, £20m will have been spent on marketing the new image by the end of this year.
Ghiloni believes BAM's short-term prospects lie in the hands of IFAs, who will be the main target of this year's campaign. The 2 per cent discount, solely for IFAs, on its new range of funds is a clear statement of the firm's loyalties for the coming months. BAM has also doubled its IFA salesforce over the past few months while drawing up plans for a new and more efficient administration system later this year.
Ghiloni concedes, however, that BAM's longer-term plans lie not just with the IFA but also in building an all round, nationally recognisable investment brand.
He continues: “We are not going to be an IFA-only business but we are trying to make sure our message gets across more clearly to IFAs. You will see a notable increase in our end-investor marketing, trying to build brand awareness. But even that will be encouraging people to go and speak to a financial adviser.
“We are not yet in a position where we believe the end investor will be calling us direct because we do not yet have the name awareness. That is what we are trying to build now and over the next three years.”
As a supporter of polarisation, Ghiloni says he would like to see the current regulations unchanged. Having worked in the industry since the start of polarisation, he believes it is only now that independent advice is receiving the recognition it deserves.
But despite his confidence in the practicality of the status quo, he has less confidence in the will of the Government and the FSA to maintain it. He says: “There is already a lack of clarity in the industry. Unfortunately, I think polarisation will end and multi-ties will be introduced. I do not think this will kill off IFAs but there will be middle ground. There will be tied, multi-tied and truly independent.”
Fund supermarkets look likely to play no small part in the breakdown of polarisation. Like most investment houses, BAM has been astute enough to recognise the potential importance of supermarkets, signing up with Fidelity's FundsNetwork at the end of last year.
However, alongside Credit Suisse Asset Management, BAM is one of the significant Isa providers to be missing from the Cofunds range.
Ghiloni recognises that brand recognition is a factor in BAM's omission from the initial Cofunds' provider line-up but appears unconcerned. He believes that the supermarkets' day has not yet arrived, with little to be lost from taking a wait-and-see attitude at this stage.
He says: “I would personally like all the noise there is around fund supermarkets to be resolved. I would rather IFAs could buy all funds from fund supermarkets rather than the situation we have currently got, where some people have stated their intention not to go on Cofunds and others their intention not to go on FundsNetwork. I do not think that is in the best interests of IFAs.”
At 40, Ghiloni is young to be heading up an asset management division. Having studied maths at Strathclyde University, he first moved into the actuarial profession, working as a trainee for Standard Life.
But after his move to a small actuarial firm which decided to launch a new fund management arm, Ghiloni soon found himself a part of the investment industry.
This new boutique was at first named FS Investment Managers but soon changed to its present name – Britannic Asset Management.
Born and bred in Kirkintilloch, eight miles outside Glasgow, Ghiloni now lives eight miles the other side of the city.
But despite BAM's strong Glaswegian roots, expansion has already led to the opening of its first office in London -a clear indication that it is spreading its wings. So would Ghiloni consider a move South? “No, I have just bought a Celtic season ticket.”