St James’s Place Wealth Management - Best Private Client Investment Manager

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St James's Place, winner of this year's Wealth Adviser award for best private client investment manager, has had another good year according to Iain Rayner (pictured), the firm's Joint Chief Operating Officer. 

Famously, the firm's business model is to use a network of self-employed wealth managers and financial advisers who the firm refers to as `partners'. This number has gone up to over 3,000 over 2015.

"We like to think that the way we run the business makes it the best place for financial advisers to run their business from in the UK," Rayner says. He reports that new partners are joining them from other institutions and also increasingly represent second careerists, for whom they provide academy programmes and training.

"The second careerists are often moving over from being lawyers or accountants, or we get ex-military people, all in their 30s or early 40s and looking for something different. We look for people with the right kind of skill set and approach and put them through their exams."

St James's Place now has academies in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and London.

In terms of investment offering, St James's Place's investment management approach is to select the very best external fund managers from across the globe that they then monitor on a continuous basis and can change if the need arises. Their fund range totals 35 at the moment, comprising 65 lead fund managers and 16 strategies which are exclusive to individual UK investors; turnover can be three or four changes in a year. "We make changes to the fund range if managers reach their optimal capacity, or if we feel that the expectation for future performance isn't what it needs to be or there have been changes in personnel or investment approach," Rayner explains.

"Our clients tend to invest with us over the medium to long term," Rayner says. "80 per cent of our funds, over a five year period, have beaten the benchmarks we set and 81 per cent over ten years and in absolute terms, while the FTSE 100 didn't have a great year in 2015, our investment management approach worked pretty well, thanks to diversification across a broad range of asset classes and investment styles."

2015 saw the firm buy Bristol based wealth manager and private client stockbroker Rowan Dartington. Rayner believes that the traditional attitude of the stockbroker and discretionary fund manager works well for the firm's more affluent client base.

The firm is also opening its first new office in 15 years, in London's Canary Wharf and has expanded its relationship with Metro Bank. New products allow St James's Place clients to borrow against their portfolios and the firm is developing some inter-generational mortgage products.

"Inter-generational is a big theme in our business," Rayner says. "Traditionally we have found that our clients are very concerned about inheritance tax planning and those trends are changing quite quickly. We have a baby boomer generation which is more affluent, with people who have done well in terms of pension provision and property value growth and so on, but then there are some interesting trends of people living longer and increasingly thinking about nursing home fees for themselves but also looking to pay for their grandchildren's education and helping them get on the property ladder. Financial planning priorities are changing." 

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