Having spent the obligatory apprenticeship working for a private bank, an IFA and a discretionary fund manager, I began setting up my new IFA business in December 2007.
I wanted to replicate the investment services that a private bank might offer. Having struggled for some time to think of a reason not to use a wrap, I started my research in earnest. I spoke with all the candidates, including Cofunds, 7IM, Skandia and so on.
I was looking for a wrap that can take stock as well as funds (I am a qualified stockbroker as well as an IFA), a company that is not the cheapest but tries to be the best and a newer wrap service that will be keen.
My first test was to ring five wrap companies asking for an information pack. One came the next day and one came over a week later. Only two out of five followed the pack with a phone call. The second test was to ring with a technical query that I thought could not be answered immediately. Only one company rang back when it said it would.
I should reiterate that I was not looking for the cheapest wrap or the one with the most bells and whistles. I wanted a wrap that had the same core values as me, service above all else.
I chose Ascentric – still fairly new, still developing its service but I have to tell you that it has the most attentive customer service that you will experience anywhere. It is friendly and keeps its promises. I still cannot get used to the idea that I ring or email it with a suggestion and someone takes notice.
It has over 2,000 funds available, most with no initial fee. It offers the ability to add FTSE stock and gilts. As clients pay me by management fee only, the ability to draw an annual charge within the account is essential. It means I can easily run a fee-based service. Reduced admin, an annual tax report, cheap dealing and the knowledge that there is no financial incentive for me when I make a recommendation to take profits or rebalance are all features and benefits made easier by a wrap. Most important is the knowledge that if the client contacts the wrap for any reason, such as IT problems, they will be handled well.
Ascentric could add more tools and there are some anomalies in its IT but it is a teenager – bright, able, enthusiastic, with a willingness to grow its business and services alongside mine.
Ian Head is principal at Fund Management