CEO of Liontrust AM John Ions speaks to Natalie Kenway about acquisitions and diversifying the business, the shifting asset management landscape and improving the industry's reputation.
In the seven years since John Ions took over as CEO of FTSE-listed Liontrust Asset Management, the business has diversified its fund range with acquisitions and new launches, moved from net outflows to net inflows for each consecutive year, while AUM has reached £10.7bn (as at 31 December).
But Ions said this growth is largely down to making "fewer decisions" and argues that this approach will be key for asset managers in the coming few years.
"The fewer decisions you have made, the better off you have been. At least half my job has been deciding what not to do," he says.
"I think there is a turning point; over the course of the next two to three years [asset managers] are going to have to make just three or four decisions that can significantly impact the shape of your business and its direction."
To explain further, he refers to the changing landscape of the asset management industry and how this has shaped the types of players he is operating against.
"There has been a sort of game shift, which will play out in the likes of Liontrust, Polar Capital, Premier and Jupiter," he says, highlighting what have been described as the ‘middle tier' of asset managers.
Ions also looks to the much larger players and questions if their size means they can really add value for investors.
"If you have more than £500bn under management, it is a struggle to see where you are really going to add value. Are you really an investor or are you more of an administrator?
"The big houses run their fund management on a cost-plus basis, which means they generally price larger bits of fund management cheaper than we can and have been able to undercut people on fees.
"Of course, now it is harder for you to allocate that trillion dollars to the marketplace - your size is forcing you back towards the index or to an area where you have got a minimal kind of risk. You are running head-on into creating that machine called Vanguard."
Ions adds that he used to think all asset managers were "playing on the same pitch", but this game has somewhat shifted, in favour of the smaller groups.
"I think they [larger groups] are actually playing a different game to me now. If I look at the big asset managers, they are huge global distribution machines and they are fantastic at that. It is not a criticism, but do they have the ability to maintain focus?"
Joined Carmignac in 2012
Brexit uncertainty a major factor
Begun investigating in April 2017
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