Quilter Investors chief executive on designing funds advisers want rather than giving the hard sell
Anyone who thinks rebranding is marketing speak for simply changing a company’s name, think again. As Quilter Investors chief executive Paul Simpson will testify, there is much more to it. Not only does it entail strategic and marketing decisions – thinking about what the company stands for and the best way to convey that – there are also plenty of practical tasks to tick off the to-do list, like updating product literature, reports and the website.
Simpson is fresh from the rebrand in June that saw Old Mutual Wealth split in two under a “managed separation” from parent company Old Mutual. Old Mutual Wealth became Quilter, with the multi-asset arm being the first business to launch its rebrand, as Quilter Investors. The other part – the single strategy business – rebranded as Merian Global Investors, having been bought by its chief executive Richard Buxton, members of his management team and private equity firm TA Associates.
Some may have the luxury of easing themselves into a new role over several months, but not Simpson. After joining Old Mutual as a fund manager in 2006, he was appointed to his current role at the start of 2018, but the changes were announced back in November 2017. “Quilter Investors was the first to rebrand; we led the way. We had to figure out in some way what we had to do,” Simpson says.
“It has involved a lot of technical detail and changes to the content on the website. When you rebrand, you can get bogged down in things that are difficult and time consuming. We’ve worked to establish our identity and our DNA.”
In its previous guise, Quilter Investors spent recent years perfecting its multi-asset range, creating funds for every occasion with ranges including Cirilium, Creation and Generation. Last year the firm’s Spectrum range became Creation, with more flexibility to invest in direct equities.
Prior to that, the Generation fund range launched in 2012 was revamped three years later as a solution for the new era of pension freedoms, aimed at people going into drawdown while remaining invested. Simpson cites that as an example of how it innovates to meet the needs of advisers and clients.
2006-present: From fund manager at Old Mutual Asset Managers to chief executive of Quilter Investors
2003-2005: Portfolio manager, Millennium Capital Management
2001-2003: Head of market neutral trading, HSBC
1998- 2000: Head of equity arbitrage, Rabobank
1986-1998: Various risk management and equity arbitrage roles at Security Pacific/Hoare Govett, Deutsche Bank, then UBS
It’s also an example of how the Quilter group’s vertically integrated business model, which comprises platform, asset management and advice businesses, works in practice. Adviser feedback from the group’s financial planning network, Intrinsic – to be rebranded Quilter Financial Planning – highlighted a demand for a multi-asset decumulation solution.
“So, we designed what was, at the time, an innovative solution for those who don’t want to invest in an annuity – creating an income for them when they still have access to the pot. Conversations between the businesses go on all the time – and I’m happy to call us a manufacturer,” says Simpson.
As a manufacturer, Simpson says the need for income remains the focus for new products. “We’re not far enough down the line to say we have definite plans but that’s certainly the area we’re looking at,” he says.
Some people enter financial services straight out of university but Simpson found the industry via a very different path. He worked for several years as a policeman in Yorkshire. However, by the time of the 1980s miners’ strike, Simpson realised that standing outside collieries in the rain wasn’t the way he wanted to spend his working life, so eventually he changed tack.
“I did an MBA in 1986 – it was the time of Margaret Thatcher and the Big Bang. Every bank in London was shifting up their risk management, so I applied and ended up in the City. I worked predominantly in big American banks on the sale side.” Simpson says it was almost a crash course in finance.
“It was early days for risk management; there were no established methods, IT was limited and the risk department was like a training department – it gave me a very useful grounding,” he says.
Advisers may be wondering if there are any more fundamental changes in store for the funds other than the Quilter Investors tag, but Simpson says the answer is no.
“We have insulated the funds from the rebrand so that there is no impact on advisers and investors. We know that customer service mustn’t get worse and it may get better,” he says.
With so many funds out there from other providers, why does Simpson think advisers would choose Quilter’s over anything else?
“Our long-term partnerships and the fact that we are aligned and allied to the advice process. We are not here to sell funds on performance; advisers tell us the products they need and we build something for them,” he says.
Overall, Simpson describes the rebrand as “a good exercise”. “It has allowed us to create a foundation for the firm as we now have our own identity,” he says. “We have a retail focus in many ways – it’s an advice-led business, we believe in face to face advice and we provide solutions to clients. Having our own brand pulls together the parts of wealth management under a common vision within an established name in the market.
“We want to be one of the most trusted brands in financial services and that takes a lot of effort.”
Much of that effort is going into aligning the structure of the company and its culture.
The thing that ties them together for Simpson is quality. It’s a word that pops up several times when he speaks about how he’d like Quilter Investors to be perceived by advisers, their clients and the firm’s employees.
“Our tag line is institutional quality for the retail market. We want to be known for quality asset management with institutional quality process, an attractive culture and as an environment where talented people will want to go. This is a people business,” he says.
“We want to be a high quality culturally diverse business that is an interesting place to work. Advisers will not see any difference [as a result of the rebrand] but the people working here will.”
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?
Performance is temporary but quality is permanent
What keeps you awake at night?
Liquidity – or rather the lack of it.
What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?
The pension freedoms and the uncertainty created by Brexit.
If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…
Stimulate new competitors and disruptors in financial services.
Any advice for new advisers?
Focus on suitability for clients