CGWM doesn’t have a relationship manager model. Instead, the investment managers and investment directors, who manage their clients’ portfolios, are responsible for their own client relationships. “They are the people clients pick up the phone to,” Esfandi said. “They are fully supported by the centralised investment team but we find this direct relationship much more effective – and our clients are happier for it as they know who is responsible for their investment selection/performance and can ask questions directly.”
Esfandi says the career longevity of many of the CGWM staff is a source of pride.
“Among front-office colleagues there are many people who have been at the firm for 10, 15, 20 and 30 years or more, building continuity and the sort of peace of mind that it brings to investors,” he said.
“We have a new generation of clients we have to appeal to. The industry has been far too frugal in spending on tech and we have to appeal to the next gen’s customer experience. We are doing a lot of work on our hybrid offering. We have to do that,” he said.
“We are very clear that we are an integrated wealth manager, meaning we provide both investment management and financial planning services for our clients. Our clients are facing ever more complex investing and financial planning challenges and we focus on delivering the blend of specialist expertise they need under one roof,” Esfandi continued.
“We’re really ambitious about building our hybrid model – enabling clients to select the combination of digital self-service (such as electronic onboarding or suitability paperwork) and personalised guidance from a wealth manager that is right for them,” he said.
“CGWM’s specialisms appeal to a broad range of clients, whether that’s our UK small cap equity expertise, our US service, our ESG portfolio service, global equities or the inflation plus service we will soon bring on from Punter Southall Wealth. From acquiring firms like Punter Southall Wealth and Adam & Co we are able to broaden our specialist areas,” Esfandi continued.
A large challenge for wealth managers is framing clients’ expectations, especially in times when inflation erodes wealth.
“It's about honesty and good communication. For all wealth managers, the prospective scope for returns is narrowing. This is against the backdrop of high inflation, increasing interest rates and the economy facing a few tough years ahead. That said, the need for financial planning and investment management solutions has never been greater – and we remain calm and focused on steering our clients through these difficult times,” Esfandi said. “Being open and informative is the only approach to have with clients – we hold regular client webinars with our team of experts and produce a lot of accessible content that explains to clients what is happening in the markets and why. We need to provide them with the reassurance that although we are experiencing volatility, their money is in safe hands.”
WealthBriefing asked Esfandi what he might have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.
“I think if I could go back in time, I might have invested more in technology a bit sooner and accelerated the expansion of our financial planning business earlier. It would have been nice to have a crystal ball to predict just how pivotal financial planning would be for us. But we’re in a good space now and are set to double the size of our financial planning team when Punter Southall Wealth comes on board,” he said.
Esfandi is in expansion mode. The Middle East came up in the conversation.
"Our international funds business is doing really well and we have had good traction in the Middle East. With that in mind, we are exploring the concept of expanding our footprint in the region – nothing is set in stone, but we consider it to be a growth area,” Esfandi added.