Although he only joined the firm in June, Nicholas Coghill is well acquainted with City Asset Management as his father, Viv Coghill, was chief executive before him and his mother, Hilary Coghill, is chief investment officer.
Coghill says: “Finance is in my DNA. Weekends were always fun with my mum and dad. It was like – can’t we talk about football or something?”
CAM is a boutique investment manager serving direct private clients and clients which are IFA introduced. It has a staff of over 50 people and offers a bespoke portfolio service as well as a range of portfolios and two unitised vehicles.
Coghill has spent his years working for big banks but he says smaller wealth managers that give investors access to all asset classes will be successful in a competitive post-RDR world.
After studying an economics degree, Coghill made his first foray into finance by going to work for Deloitte & Touche as an accountant before moving into investment banking.
He says: “I wanted to make the big, bad move into the investment banking world from Deloitte as I love getting out in front of clients. I learnt everything I wanted to know about accounting and finance. I understood companies and how they were run and the risk aspects of running companies.”
So Coghill threw himself in the deep end by taking a role at Société Générale to look after their corporate derivatives business.
“This involved working with UK corporates, looking at their balance sheets and how they manage their equity. That put my accounting experience to use,” he says.
Getting to know all the asset classes was the next step for him. He assumed a similar role at Schroders but covering fixed income and equities. It is here he fulfilled his aspirations to deal with private clients.
He says: “I wanted to move out of the institutional corporate world to deal with private clients. Managing wealth for people has always appealed to me. It is much more dynamic versus dealing with the corporate world, where things can take a long time to come to fruition.”
Dealing with multiple clients is crucial, according to Coghill. He joined Morgan Stanley in 2001 to deal mostly with derivatives in the bank’s private wealth management business, which covered their internal banking clients.
“I started to build up Morgan Stanley’s UK business at the retail end of the market, including wealth managers and advisers. I then oversaw team of 65 people across Europe and the Middle East across a number of product lines for all types of clients, including pension funds and life companies.
“This enabled me to see how the whole process fits together and I have had the benefit of seeing how my clients look after their clients.”
He joined City Asset Management this year following the death of his father.
He has brought his experience of dealing with different asset classes and products to City Asset Management.
He says: “We are driven by collectives but we know a lot of people, like hedge fund managers, who you can work with in terms of using their products. We have good access to senior and niche people.”
Coghill believes such expertise is essential in an environment where returns are hard to come by.
“Every firm has to look at the array of instruments available to generate returns as it harder to get returns since 2008. You need to have a broad multi-asset approach in this sort of environment.
“We have had to broaden the range of investment products we use to achieve our aims. People have come a long way in terms of looking at more esoteric investments as there is been education programmes from regulator and providers.”
Coghill says the relationships the company has built up allows it to access investments not usually available to retail investors.
He says: “Some of the asset classes and funds we invest in are not available to a lot of the big firms or direct to retail investors via advisers because the providers want long-term investors in their products. They want more of a partnership.”
Coghill believes the biggest challenge facing wealth managers is the cost of doing business and providing a service to clients.
“Cost becomes more of an issue once you come into more difficult economic environment. You have to understand what you need to do to get a client on board. It always a shock to a client saying that this is what it costs to do something for you.”
However, he says this does not mean this is an environment where you cannot generate business, particularly as a small firm.
“Big is not so beautiful in the wealth side anymore. There are a lot of clients that are out there that are dissatisfied. We all know about the problems that private banks are having in looking after the sub-ultra high-net-worth category. People do not want to be numbers and the lower end of client tends to be unprofitable for banks. The beneficiaries of this have been wealth managers.
“Success comes down to relationships and the service that clients get. There is always a risk that as you get bigger, you lose the DNA within the firm and how we deal with clients.
“We are flexible in terms of implementing investment decisions. We do not need committee upon committees. An ability to react quickly to markets is important. Not having offices across the country means that we have a centralised investment process. You do not have the opportunity to go off market and everyone has a voice here.”
In terms of the restricted versus independent debate, Coghill says the firm is looking at the restricted option.
“What we are leaning towards at the moment is being restricted, with the aspiration to be whole of market down the line. The majority of the market is coming out and saying we are restricted. It is very difficult to sit here and say we can do absolutely everything for everybody but I think over time, we will get greater clarity on the independent versus restricted issue.”
Lives: Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire
Education: University of Bristol (1st Class Honours BSc Economics)
Career: 2012-present: chief executive, City Asset Management; 2001–2012: managing director and co-head of derivative sales for Europe and Middle East, head of private wealth management sales, Morgan Stanley; 1999–2001: vice-president, corporate structured solutions group, Schroders / Citigroup; 1996–1999: vice-president, corporate structured solutions group, Societe Generale; 1992–1996: qualified accountant (ACA)– financial audit and risk consultancy, Deloitte & Touche
Likes: All sports (particularly tennis, football, shooting, cricket), cooking and travel
Dislikes: Finding my three young daughters questioning my taste in music at such an early age.
Drives: Land Rover
Book: Genghis Khan series by Conn Iggulden
Film: The Party
Album: One of my dodgy compilations with esoteric 70s and 80s artists
Career ambition: To build on the success of the company my father founded while maintaining the culture, principles and ethics that he ensured existed in the company. I want to see CAM continue to grow so we are considered as one of the leading wealth managers in the UK for the services we offer for all client types.
Life ambition: To be healthy, happy and watch my young daughters continue to develop into responsible and caring people who embrace life
If I wasn’t doing this I would …. Run my own country restaurant