W hile most of the fund management world has spent the last three months scrabbling to find some Isa customers, IFAs may have noticed – or rather not noticed – that Deutsche Asset Management has been rather quiet.
Deutsche's silence has by no means been a mark of inactivity. Behind the scenes, managing director Neil Jones has been quietly masterminding the firm's relaunch into the retail market – with the task of turning Deutsche Asset Management into a top five player in the next five years.
Having been with the group since 1997, working up from the sales desk to head of the UK retail business, Jones' first move will be to scrap the brand which he has spent the past five years building.
In a few months, Deutsche Asset Management will become DWS Investments – a name synonymous with quality in continental Europe but three letters which, as yet, mean absolutely nothing to the UK investor.
“We don't feel we are losing any significant presence in the UK by moving to DWS,” says Jones. “Deutsche Bank is clearly a European-centric organisation and, as far as retail fund management is concerned, we already have a leading position -a number one position in Europe. And there is a lot of evolved branding behind DWS Investments.
“The UK is increasingly becoming an integrated part of Europe and I don't think it will be too long until we have a truly pan-European asset management industry. It seems implicitly to make sense, given where we already are, that we rebrand in the UK in the same way.”
Born and bred in Liverpool, Jones is a proud supporter of the Reds but he has had a foot in London since his university days in the late 80s.
Having graduated in physics from Brunel University, financial services may not have been a natural career path but his peers say there is more to Jones than his scientific background. As well as a respected motivator and manager, he is known in his office for his talent as a poet – keeping his colleagues amused with a regular supply of witty stanzas.
He says he is excited by the challenge of building the DWS brand, pointing out that the firm has numerous routes for expansion. With the expertise of Deutsche Bank behind it, Jones believes DWS will eventually offer the complete spectrum of asset management solutions – from active equity to cash to hedge funds.
He says: “Given that we have already got a pretty strong range of products in all the principal equity markets and that we do not have that much fixed income, it would seem sensible that fixed income gets put at the top of that list.
“Clearly, the cash market is attractive, given our banking heritage. DWS have got some very interesting, differentiated cash funds which we think retail investors in the UK might be interested in. In addition, we have the capability to manufacture global sector funds. Those are three areas we are looking at but we also want to make sure the current product range is optimised and that performance continues to be delivered.”
Jones says the firm's principal strategy will be to grow the retail business in the UK organically. However, with a company the size and scale of Deutsche Bank, he admits it is never possible to rule out the possibility of acquisition.
“The cornerstone of our retail strategy at this moment in time is organic growth. There are no plans to do a retail fund management-centred deal in the UK. But does that mean we will not be looking at opportunities as they emerge in the UK?No, it does not.”
He explains that historically Deutsche has been quite an acquisitive business. It bought Morgan Grenfell back in the early 80s, it bought Bankers Trust and it has recently bought Scudder.
All those are asset management deals and Deutsche Bank, he says, is committed to having a very strong global asset management business. “Given the position we are in, we are always going to be looking at opportunities in the marketplace to grow in a non-organic fashion.”
As the firm went public with its rebrand plans last week, several months of planning finally began to come to fruition. In reward, Jones tells me he is off to Australia directly after our meeting. Despite being married to an Australian, the trip will be his first visit Down Under – although he hopes not his last.
As an avid fisherman, his long-term plans involve long lazy afternoons, peacefully passing the time on the bank of a river, perhaps even in Australia.
“I have this philosophy that God made the world round so you could not see too far over the horizon. So at the moment my horizons don't stretch to anywhere beyond the next three to five years career-wise.
“Ultimately, I would like to move onto a career which involved plenty of fishing and not much company other than my rod.” At 34, however, the financial services industry may get a few more years out of Jones yet.
Lives: London and Knutsford, Cheshire
Born: Liverpool, 1967
Education: School in Formby, Liverpool. BSc in physics at Brunel University, London
Career: 1990-1993 Clerical Medical Investment Management sales; 1993-1997 Rothschild Asset Management sales; Deutsche Asset Management since 1997, from sales team to MD of UK retail business.
Career ambition: To consolidate DWS Investments as the number one asset management business in Europe and achieve at least a similar level of status in the UK.
Life ambition: To move on to a career which involves lots of fishing.
Likes: Fishing. “Yomping around the moors in the Peak District”
Dislikes: Waking up in London to find all his clean shirts are in Knutsford
Car: Lexus RX-300 (plenty of room in the back)
Peers say: “Neil is a very focused and determined individual”