Company Profiles

Driving Business Through Pandemic - Interview With Bordier UK's Jamie MacLeod

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 11 May 2021

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This news organisation catches up with one of the "dynamos" of the UK wealth management sector - Jamie MacLeod, CEO of Bordier UK. He discusses how the firm handled the pandemic, his views on the UK sector post-Brexit, investment performance, and what the future holds.

Jamie MacLeod recently celebrated a decade at the helm of St James’s-based wealth manager Bordier UK. Chief executive of the UK business throughout, and a member of the Bordier & Cie global executive board, MacLeod spoke exclusively to this publication as he reflected on a decade like no other and contemplated the challenges facing the industry.

MacLeod has a lot of experience under his belt. He was a driving force in building Scottish Widows’ investment management business. He was appointed managing director at Scottish Widows Fund Management and head of global business and client services for Scottish Widows Investment Management at the age of just 29. In 1999, at the height of the dotcom boom, he joined Investec Asset Management to head its UK and European retail business. Appointed managing director of both Investec Fund Managers and Investec Management, he was also a member of its global executive. In 2002, he joined Skandia Group, and as CEO, founded Skandia Investment Management. He formed Skandia Investment Group in 2007 and, as CEO, led a £50 billion investment business. In 2010 he acquired a 20 per cent shareholding in, and became CEO of, Berry Asset Management, the forerunner to Bordier UK.

With all that experience, and after the past extraordinary year for the wealth management industry, this news service interviewed someone whom it knows retains a strong competitive streak and strong views about the industry.

Q: How has your own business experience, the time spent building teams and coping with setbacks, prepared you for the challenges of the pandemic? 
MacLeod: It has often been said in business circles that people achieve their greatest success one step beyond failure. I have had my share of both in my 23 years as a CEO in investment and wealth management and have learned that setbacks are never far away and are very often close companions of your greatest successes.

A year on from the onset of the pandemic I feel more connected to my business partners and team than I ever have. Whilst our focus has, of course, been first and foremost on our clients, we have, at the same time, been very engaged to manage the wellbeing of our own staff. No team, no company!

We have worked harder than ever to engage the entire team in small and larger groups – and the contact and engagement has worked very well. This ensured that we were aware of their concerns, the personal challenges they were facing, and could give them the support they needed to ensure that they remained positive, motivated and best placed to maintain good mental health - at all times. That focus has really defined us over the course of the year.

Conversations have been about more than simply business or the company; there have been many points to discuss and, as a privately-held family firm, operating autonomously within the UK, we have been able to support our team in a meaningful way on many levels. Small things often make the difference, and we have engaged in all sorts of activities over the last year to ensure that we stayed together as a team and maintained morale. We sent gifts at Easter and hampers in celebration of St George’s Day and St Patrick’s Day, we organised a Burns Night Haggis supper, cocktail parties, and hired expert chefs to prepare individual gourmet festive feasts, delivered to every member of the team, for our first virtual Christmas party lunch. We have stayed really connected throughout.

Q: What do you expect to be the enduring impact on the financial sector from the disruption caused by COVID-19?  Do you see working from home as the most significant change we have experienced? Do you worry that the younger generation entering the workforce will find it difficult to adjust?
I am not worried about how the working environment may or may not look in the future. The Bordier team has shown me what they can deliver for our clients and their ability to adapt - not just in the last year but for the last decade. Whilst some roles clearly lend themselves better to an office-based environment, many of us have found that we can work perfectly well from home - and I work with people I trust to get the job done. We have a flexible blueprint for returning to the office as things are still in a state of flux, and we are therefore adapting our plans month by month.

One of the activities I am looking forward to most on returning to the office is re-engaging with our commitment to reducing homelessness in London. The team has been actively involved in numerous programmes over the years, offering practical assistance and support on the ground, distributing bags laden with items to support the health and personal hygiene of those on the street. That’s been really important to the team over the years. We have supported some eight charities over the course of the last year, with every event organised by our social committee raising funds for a good cause, our 70s-themed wine and cheese tasting included.

Q: How would you judge the Bordier client experience over the course of the pandemic? Virtual meetings accepted, how has your service delivery differed? As we exit lockdown and look forward to life with most of our freedoms restored, how do you see your client service model evolving?
We are judged by our clients, so I have always insisted on seeing every communication where a client has complimented us - likewise if there has been a misunderstanding, error or an issue on client service, these are all scrutinised by independent compliance consultants to ensure that we have followed best practice and can learn from the occasions on which we have come up short. Our clients have shared with us that, as a firm, we have looked after them very well over the last year - as we always have.

Our goals and values are as they have always been – namely to provide our clients with a sector-leading service experience, to deliver value for money, offer a range of cutting-edge investment management solutions and consistent risk-adjusted performance over the longer term. All in all, I believe we do a very good job for our clients and our introducers.

Our culture of consistency and excellence is evident in the performance of our portfolios, the service we deliver, the clarity of our reporting and the quality of our advice - but we don’t stand still. We have intensified our communications with clients and introducers over the course of the last year, more than doubling our normal volume of communication, and that has been very well received.

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