View more on these topics

Simon Wombwell

If Scottish Widows Investment Partnership head of UK distribution Simon Wombwell ever tires of life in financial services, he always has the option of applying for the manager’s job at his beloved Sheffield Wednesday.

The Swip supremo has passed his grade two FA coaching badges and is always ready for a new challenge.

He certainly took one on when he joined Swip 18 months ago with a brief to turn it into the premier league performer it really should be, given its size.

The strength of the brand and the potential of the business tempted Wombwell out of a 12-month break from the industry which he had taken after leaving Newton.

He says when he first joined Swip, it did not really have a retail business but parent group Scottish Widows was recognising, like many other life companies, that the growth of open architecture meant its asset management arm needed to be able to compete with the pure fund management houses because it no longer had the captive distribution of the old model.

“The reason I joined Swip was because I felt it offered a fantastic opportunity because of the way the industry is changing. Companies such as Swip and others owned by insurance companies have got to stand on their own two feet. They need to embrace change, develop and grow their external assets.”

Wombwell was all too aware of the somewhat negative reputation that life company fund management arms often have but was not deterred by this because he was confident that senior management of the life company was fully behind the changes he planned to make.

“You are seeing the rapid evolution of the investment arms of insurance companies through necessity. They have significant amounts of money under management. The advent of open architecture means the quality of our products needs to be able to compete in the marketplace.”

Wombwell says the reputation issue also spread to life companies’ ability to attract and retain top talent but again he feels Swip has proven capable of doing this.

“The criticism levelled at organisations such as our own is our ability to attract and maintain good investment people. We have managed that with the likes of Nigel Bolton and Robert Waugh, though.”

Wombwell says the fund management arm is pretty much autonomous on a business level and completely so when it comes to how they run money.

Responsibility for Swip sales had always laid with Scottish Widows salespeople so one of the first changes he effected was to bring in his own retail sales team of six along with a broker support unit.

The product range also had to be radically overhauled. The minimum investment levels on the funds was brought right down so more investors could access them and the firm started paying renewal commission for the first time.

Wombwell says the decision to pay trail was easier for Swip because the firm had so little IFA business on its books.

Next up, many of the funds had to be reclassified because they were either not in the right IMA fund sector or they were not listed at all, meaning that they were not even seen by many advisers when they were carrying out their sector screens to pick out the top performers. The marketing material was also overhauled to focus more on IFAs.

Wombwell had his right-hand man, head of third-party relationships Scott Dakers, ensure that all Swip’s funds were available on the main platforms such as Cofunds, FundsNetwork and Selestia. The changes have delivered significant sales volume growth.

Wombwell says: “A combination of the product development, sales support and wider availability of the funds has seen it go from a very small market share to 3.5 per cent and that is continuing to increase dramatically.”

“On the investment performance side, a lot of that had been done before I joined. Now we have very highly rated UK and European equity teams, which complements our historic strengths in fixed interest and property.”

The launches have looked to harness these skills. Swip has in the past year launched a suite of absolute return funds and a global Reits portfolio, which has the management split between Swip UK and European property and long-term partners Frank Russell, which runs the Asian and North American portion of the fund.

“The absolute return funds in particular have been very well received. We knew that there was a demand for these types of products but we did not appreciate the breadth of that interest. Overall, we are ahead of where we want to be and year on year we have seen a sixfold increase in fund sales,” says Wombwell.

He accepts that there is a lot of hard work still ahead such as the need to maintain the improved fund performance and win over advisers still wary of life company fund management products.


Born: Lincoln, 1961

Lives: St. Albans with wife and two children (daughter 12 and son 10)

Education: Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham – BA (Hons) business studies

Career: Swip – head of UK distribution, Newton – managing director retail, Confederation Life – account manager, Hannover Pensions IFA.

Likes: Playing sport, particularly football, tennis and golf, Sheffield Wednesday and foreign travel.

Dislikes: Bad manners – and the band.

Drives: BMW

Favourite album: American Idiot by Green Day

Favourite book: Anything by David Gemmell

Favourite film: Any James Bond film

Hero: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – both are very successful but give a lot back – and Lance Armstrong for his courage in overcoming adversity.

Career ambition: To keep doing new things

Life ambition: To be happy

If I were not doing my current job, I would be… Anything on a sunny beach

Recommended

Pet detective

Now that the dust is settling on the Chancellor’s smash and grab raid on trusts, you need to start thinking about your clients’ inheritance tax planning in a number of new ways.

Aegon offers US-style annuity alternative with income pledge

Bonds proved to be an unpopular choice when the Adviser Fund Indices were last rebalanced on May 1. All three benchmarks were underweight in fixed interest, when measured against the comparable Association of Private Client Investment Man- agers and Stockbrokers’ portfolios. Fixed interest has since come back into favour with retail investors following the sharp […]

Principle still applies for non-advised business

Lifesearch claim that consumers who buy protection products without advice cannot seek redress form the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is not the case. The fundamental principle, which applies both to advised and non-advised sales, is that firms should treat their customers fairly and provide them with clear, fair and not misleading information. We require firms […]

Mark Page: “A good time to be a European fund manager”

With European markets picking up in early 2015, Mark Page, Artemis European Opportunities Fund manager, discusses the ‘macro’ drivers and whether the improvements are sustainable. Largely driven by economic stimulus by the European Central Bank, European stockmarkets have performed strongly so far in 2015. Mark discusses the relative merits and sustainability of ECB policy with […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up

Comments

    Leave a comment

    Close

    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm

    Email: customerservices@moneymarketing.com