Profile: Bordier UK chief on earning advice fees and ‘eating your own cooking’

jamie macleod

Jamie MacLeod had it all figured out when he decided his career was in finance. Since the early 1990s he has been at the helm of four different investment firms looking for the perfect interaction between developing a business and creating bespoke client relationships.

MacLeod, who currently leads the UK wealth management business of the 171-year old Swiss private bank Bordier & Cie, says: “From a relatively young age, studying commerce and business studies at school, I sensed this was a career I would find fascinating and fulfilling.”

MacLeod’s gut feeling on his future was certainly right as, at just 29 years old, he launched the investment arm of Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows Fund Management, leading the unit as managing director from 1997 to 1999.

That was followed by three years spent at Investec Asset Management in another managing director role for its UK and European retail business and subsequently with Skandia, where MacLeod built its investment business from scratch to £50bn assets under management over a seven-year period.

However, MacLeod says the real joy of his career has been watching talents grow and develop into leaders.

He says: “I have been fortunate to lead four great firms and on each occasion it has been a treat setting ideas in motion and seeing things work out.

“But the real satisfaction comes from seeing talented individuals emerge, giving them more and more responsibility, and watching them develop as managers and leaders,” says the Scottish father of two.

MacLeod is now chief executive of Bordier UK and has been at its helm for four years, guiding the brand integration of his previous firm Berry Asset Management. Berry rebranded as Bordier & Cie decided to step into the UK market just over a year ago. However, the relationship between the two firms first began in 2001 when Bordier Group acquired a 20 per cent stake in the asset manager.

Bordier UK is independently managed and holds assets for around 4,000 wealthy UK, international and resident non-domiciled clients.

As the number of clients grows, fuelled mostly by wealthy Chinese and Russians, the wealth manager is also expanding its international division, guided by recent hire Roberto Islas, who joined in March from HSBC private bank.

But while this international growth ambition is impressive, McLeod says the culture of the firm is most focused on strengthening relationships with advisers. He expects to grow the business predominantly through expanding its IFA network.

Culturally, we are very IFA-centric and most of the business comes from professional connections, including IFAs and accountancy firms. We are going to use this IFA channel to grow,” he says.

“IFAs like to know that we are a business that has developed itself without a marketing brochure. We do not have extensive sales and marketing experience or firepower. We invest our resources in skills to manage money successfully.”

MacLeod says Bordier tends to build strategic alliances with IFAs rather than boost the number of them excessively. The wealth manager currently works with around 60 IFA firms and, together with the Swiss private bank, manages assets in excess of £7bn.

A testimony of the firm’s strategy has been the recent £100m mandate that Bordier managed to secure with Almary Green. The adviser firm handed its portfolio of client assets over in the summer.

Over the last few months, Bordier has developed a tailored portfolio service that IFAs can access to model their clients’ portfolios, choosing among five different risk strategies.

MacLeod says: “IFAs love it because they can keep their business model while dialling into our system, downloading and uploading documents.”

A particularly strong view from MacLeod is that investment managers must be confident to “eat their own cooking”. He holds the opinion that investment professionals should be invested alongside their clients and, as such, he personally seeds all new products.

He says: “IFAs know that one of the material clients in this firm is the management team. It is not just other people’s money; it is the management team’s money, so that changes the focus.”

Despite his confidence in the firm’s strong business connections and its ability to retain talent, MacLeod acknowledges the job of advisers has become increasingly challenging.

He says: “We are living with the fallout of massive geopolitical events, such as the economic slowdown in China, an escalating migration crisis and a global chill in the demand for commodities.

“Assets are valued at £1 at one moment and then 80p the next, which makes planning clients’ affairs a huge challenge. It is at times like these when advisers really earn their fees and it is vital that they are in regular contact with their clients, reassuring them as to the sound longer term financial plans they have put in place.”

But while McLeod is wary that such challenges will evolve, he believes they will remain focused on certain themes.

“There will of course be new challenges for the adviser community but I do not necessarily think they will be fundamentally different to the ones we have faced as an industry over the last decade,” he says.

“With some certainty we can predict that there will be increased regulation and continuing volatility in markets. Financial planning will always present a constant challenge.”

Five questions

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Every day you are going to learn many new things.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the past year?

The fallout of massive geopolitical events. It is at times like these when advisers really earn their fees and it is vital that they are in regular contact with their clients.

What keeps you awake at night?

Two screeching tawny owls, nesting in a Walnut tree a little too close to my bedroom.

If I was in charge of the regulator for a day I would…

Publish the FCA Business Plan for the benefit of everyone it regulates.

Any advice for new advisers?

If you do not enjoy making a material difference to clients’ financial affairs, you should probably consider switching career.

CV

2010–present: Chief executive, Bordier UK (previously Berry Asset Management)

2007-2010: Founder and chief executive, Skandia Investment Group

2002-2007: Founder and chief executive, Skandia Investment Management

1999-2002: Head of UK and European business and managing director, Investec Asset Management

1997-1999: Managing director, Scottish Widows Fund Management