The fund manager lay captive on the steel table, eyes transfixed on the red laser moving inexorably towards his wallet.
“Do you expect me to talk?”
Mr Big Platform continued to stroke his white Persian and sighed, “No, Mr Fund, I expect you to die, but then this is not the time to discuss the commercial future of active management. You know what I want.”
Fund understood. Since Her Majesty’s Rebate Confiscation team had made them taxable, unit rebates were now more trouble than they were worth.
Mr Big needed a compelling reason (an ‘angle’, he called it) for customers to stay on his expensive platform, and time was running out.
“This Superclean share class makes operations more complicated,” Fund whined administratively. “Your huge legacy assets are just that…legacy! That’s not distribution power – as an Open Architecture platform, by definition you can’t drive sales to my funds! I can’t justify yet another share class – it would be utter madness!”
Mr Big stood and moved to the desk, regarding Fund with an air of donnish authority. “Superclean is purely for the benefit of customers,” he opined socratically, “who as you can see from the posters around the place, we love with all our hearts and some of our minds. It is also our good fortune that customers do not think.”
Fund turned to see the laser was now less than a metre away from melting his Mastercard. “God, man! Think of the reregistration issues!” he panicked.
“A little disingenuous Mr Fund, considering you aren’t playing along with the TISA Exchange project, but I’ll let that pass. The fact is I can accommodate more share classes. Platforms that cannot, will have the problems. If I were you I would pay attention to the increased heat around your private parts…”
“But how will the smaller platforms respond? How will I be able to look their CEOs in the face?”
Big snarled, his voice a crescendo, “We will crrrrush the smaller platforms!” he spat germanically, banging his fist on the table.
“My institutional clients won’t stand for it!” pleaded Fund. “I have Banks in Europe who can promise me more business through their guided ranges. If they see me giving you a better price, I’m a dead man.”
“You’re a dead man if you don’t,” smirked Mr Big as he composed himself. “If it will make you happier, I could always cobble together some guided plan or core list that you can wave at your finance team to keep them happy. Time is running out, Mr Fund”
The laser moved inexorably towards him. Fund tried one last, desperate ploy.
“Why can’t you compete on the basis of discounting your own charges and service? Total Cost of Ownership is most important – isn’t the total cost to the customer most important?”
Mr Big switched off the laser, and untied Fund. “You are of course correct. Consequently we will be turning our attention to building passive portfolios. You are free to go”
Fund stood up and adjusted his shirt cuff. “Come now, Mr Big, perhaps I was being a little hasty. Shall we say 65 basis points…?”
Graham Bentley is a platform consultant and former head of investment marketing at Skandia