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Simon Ellis

From punk rocker to global investment, Fidelity International’s head of multi-manager carried was an enthusiastic Ramones’ fan who now has a passion for multi-management and he is intent on making Fidelity the dominant force in the sector. Interview by Philip Scott

Fidelity International’s head of multi-manager Simon Ellis is quick to point out his “punk” credentials and claims to have met the now sadly deceased punk rocker Joey Ramone at a gig.

Ellis went to Warwick University to study history in the late 1970s when it was labelled a radical socialist institution.

But when he left this hotbed, Ellis had a leaning towards sales and marketing and in1980 after a meeting at a recruitment fair in Birmingham, he landed a job with Phoenix Assurance.

Following six months of work and training, Ellis was deemed competent and sent off to sell protection products to advisers. By 1984, he was working at Phoenix for Richard Harvey, who is now chief executive of Aviva.

But Sun Alliance bought Phoenix and dismantled the salesforce. Ellis says: “We were offered jobs but I was not interested. I got involved with the Life Association of Scotland as a salesperson.”

In 1987, he joined Holden Meehan as a prospective partner but this did not work out although he says it him an understanding of the issues that advisers face.

Ellis returned to LAS, but following a change at senior management level, he left and joined Henderson in late 1990. “Henderson then was the real blue riband of fund management. It looked fantastic.”

His peers at Henderson included Ian Chimes, who has just left Credit Suisse as managing director. Ellis became sales director at Henderson in 1995.

He got involved on the multi-manager side and he became passionate about the area.

But after a few years, Ellis says he had done everything he could do at the firm and he left at the end of 2003 and joined Axa in early 2004.

“Why would I want to work for a French insurance company? They were much more commercial than I had expected.”

He took on two roles as head of UK retail and CEO pan-European multi-manager.

“We made lots of change, lots of progress but again, like Henderson, Axa Investment Management had a weakness with UK equities. When Framlington went up for sale, it was a no-brainer. Axa wanted the UK team of fund managers but it also bought the business and redundancies were made, including me. I left in December 2005.

“So what next? I knew I wanted to stay in the industry. I love working in it and I also really believed in multi-manager.”

Fidelity was looking to expand its multi-manager offering and a headhunter put the fund firm and Ellis together and he joined Fidelity in May this year.

As managing director of multi-manager, Ellis is responsible for looking after the global development, excluding Americas, of Fidelity International’s multi-manager business.

“We want to become the best multi-manager in the world,” says Ellis.

He says the explosion of open architecture has been a key driver for multi-manager but there are other elements at play such as consumer demand and regulation. “But at the same time it has created too much choice and there is also a huge interest in diversification.”

Fidelity has been doing multi-manager business since 1988, with its MoneyBuilder range – a fettered fund of funds. Just under three years ago, it launched income and growth funds, both unfettered portfolios. The team behind the fund group’s multi-manager operation was built by Fidelity multi-manager team leader Richard Skelt.

Ellis recalls that back in his Henderson days, there was a sigh from the team when Fidelity announced its plans to enter the multi-manager arena. “We knew Fidelity did not do things by halves.”

This year, Fidelity set up its equity income and special situations fund of funds.

Since starting at Fidelity, Ellis has travelled to the majority of the firm’s European offices and says he has been struck by “the enthusiasm towards distribution and overall commitment at the firm”.

He says: “What we are looking at is not just bonds and equities but multi-asset diversified portfolios. It is quite difficult for anyone to say they are the best in each of the asset classes and we do not want to compromise our ability to compete.”

The challenge for Ellis lies in the Fidelity legacy. He says: “How do you capture the essence of what Fidelity is all about and harness that for the growth of the business? How do you develop the multi-manager business to the same level of success that Fidelity has had as a fund manager?”

For Fidelity to achieve its target in the global multi-manager league, Ellis says more products are required and “some fairly advanced launches” are planned for the second half of this year.

He says: “We have four UK and nine Asian fund of funds. We plan to double this in the next 12 months. That will be the beginning and they will be primarily retail offerings. We want to be loved by clients and respected by competitors.”

When not delving into multi-management, Ellis, a Manchester United fan, describes himself as “an unpaid taxi driver” for his two daughters. Aside from his cabbie duties, loves skiing and motorbikes, describing himself as a “serial Ducati owner”.

Born: Stroud, Gloucestershire, June 1959
Lives: West Byfleet, Surrey
Education: Warwick University, history degree
Career: 1980-85: Phoenix Assurance, 1985-90: LAS Group (including a five-month stint with Holden Meehan), 1990-2004: Henderson Global Investors, 2004-06: Axa Investment Managers, May 2006-present, Fidelity International
Career ambition: To establish consumer trust in multi-manager investment solutionsLife ambition: To have the love and friendship of lots of people
Likes: Football, Skiing, Cycling and MotorbikesDislikes: Intolerant people
Favourite film: The Godfather, Part II
Favourite album: The Joshua Tree by U2
Favourite book: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Most admired: George Best
If I was not doing this job I would have been… A sports photographer

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