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Jame Macleod

Perhaps more than at any other time in history of the industry, the seats at fund management&#39s top table are up for grabs.

Talk to IFAs and they will list Aberdeen and Newton among the ones to watch but South African-owned Investec Asset Management – fresh from a name change from Investec Guinness Flight – is increasingly on IFAs&#39 radar screens.

Much of the increase in attention dates from the app- ointment of Jamie MacLeod, formerly of Scottish Widows, as managing director in January last year.

MacLeod, at 32, is hungry. Even at the end of the business day and in the middle of a series of trips that have taken in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as much of Europe, his enthusiasm is undiminished.

He enthuses about a market where big players can emerge from almost nowhere, citing Perpetual 10 years ago and Jupiter in the last five years as examples.

He makes much of the fact that the top three tech funds are taking 75 per cent of the business and the top three European funds 60 per cent, so he appreciates what is at stake.

In the last few months, at least some of his strategy for emulating them has emerged.

Investec has made a spate of appointments of top names from fund management and marketing, most with impeccable credentials in the IFA market, underlining what MacLeod says is his complete commitment.

IFAs are starting to return the compliment. MacLeod says that, in the last six months, IFA business has doubled, much from the top portfolio management end, while in a rec-ent 700,000-leaflet mailing, Hargreaves Lansdown touted Investec as one of the “groups of the future”.

The operation MacLeod left, where he learnt many of his skills over nearly a decade, is not having such a good time. Widows&#39 investment operation, now known as Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, provides almost a textbook case study in how not to merge two fund management operations, with the Hill Samuel move to Edinburgh.

MacLeod has made the reverse journey and two figures central to Widows&#39 improvement in fortunes under him, Andy Sowerby and Derek Angus, have joined him. MacLeod is adamant that in both cases they called him about joining the team, not vice versa.

But Widows&#39 woes aside, he does want to benefit from current upheavals among fund managers.

Grandiosely, he says he wants to create “fund mana-ger heaven” where managers will not feel themselves oppressed by the type of bureaucratic organisation they are leaving in droves. Certainly, many have found their way to Investec&#39s door.

The list, of what he describes as high-octane, high- quality investment managers, is a long one.

December brought the bombshell news that three of Schroder&#39s UK equity team, Jeremy Rigg, Michael Rimmer and Nigel Dutson, were defecting to run Investec&#39s UK large- cap funds.

January brought the appointment of Widows&#39 head of UK sales Andy Sowerby.

February saw not an appointment but the announcement of a headline-grabbing deal with boutique Black Rock led by Albert Morillo, who had just left Widows, with Morillo and his team operating as investment advisers to Investec&#39s European funds.

MacLeod says Morillo is one of the “finest European fund managers in the world”, borne out by the fact he has had no style drift in nine years.

May brought Paul Griffiths as head of fixed income from Invesco to head the global funds, strengthening an already strong operation.

This month brought another stream of announcements, with David Aird moving from Gartmore to head the pan- European sales team, with Eric Bateman and Mike Brown joining from Templeton and Scottish Mutual respectively.

Keith Evans joined the marketing team from Royal & Sun Alliance, having previously worked at Henderson.

Gabby Yates is joining the broker desk from Hargreaves Lansdown. Derek Angus joined as head of retail distribution in South Africa from Scottish Widows where he was UK sales director. Just last week, Alistair Mundy joined as a senior investment manager from Morley Fund Management, where he managed the UK equity income trust.

MacLeod says his strategy for pulling together this potentially disparate team of people is to treat them with the utmost respect. But he will also stamp out office politics vigorously.

Within a tight compliance regime, he wants the managers to see themselves as running franchises within the overall business, “not just to be numbers on the payroll”.

The marketing strategy could not be more IFA-focused.

MacLeod says his main aim is to be known among IFAs and he does not regard becoming a high-street name as a pri-ority. He describes IFAs as the people who can turn the business tap on and off again.

He says: “Guinness Flight was known as more direct but this business will be almost exclusively IFA. We have stopped direct marketing.”

The business has also introduced renewal commission for the first time and it will only link with fund supermarkets committed to IFAs.

He is also confident that, despite apparent threats, the IFA sector will prosper.

He says: “The skill set, the advice levels, the back office, in all these areas the intermediary sector has brushed up, cleaned up and smartened up despite taking some body blows. A sector that can take body blows like the pension review in its stride, I am happy to bet this business on.”

IFAs say part of the challenge for MacLeod is to create the same noise around other parts of the business as they have around the Wireless Index fund and the Morillo deal. As part of the process, MacLeod says he will be looking to cull around seven funds but there will be launches playing to the strengths of the new personnel.

September will see the launch of the Wireless fund in Europe, headed by Nigel Dutson, building on the success of the Wired Index fund and the appetite for themes.

It will invest in 40 European companies which are benefiting from wireless technologies. This will include the likes of Nokia taking advantage of Wap technology but could extend to many other sectors, including manufacturing being shaken up by the new technology. It may include one or two companies which are not yet in profit but he insists the fund is not part of the dotcom bandwagon.

IFAs say Investec was a sleepy group before MacLeod&#39s arrival. But they think the “street-wise” MacLeod may change this.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of research Mark Dampier says: “Jamie has inherited this at the right time. If he stays there and gets the backing of the South Africans, then instead of talking about Jupiter, in a few years&#39 time, we may be talking about Investec.”

Watch this space.

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