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From Grammar Police to Devil’s Advocate: what Fraser Bennett brings to the Multrees team
Fraser Bennett joined Multrees as General Counsel in 2013, bringing with him 12 years of legal experience, both in private practice and in-house. His role involves a wide range of legal advice for internal stakeholders and company secretarial support.
Fraser is a dual-qualified Scots and English lawyer, a chartered Company Secretary and Multrees’ resident grammar pedant.
My core responsibilities involve mitigating the company’s exposure to legal risk by ensuring that we have robust contractual protections in place with both our service providers and our investment manager Clients. Luckily for me, I’m one of those sad people who actually enjoys reading the small print. This is not so lucky for my colleagues, however, who are no doubt fed up of me being ‘devil’s advocate’ and insisting that everything is captured in writing!
In terms of our Client contracts, we have refined our templates down to three principal agreements, which makes the onboarding process streamlined from a legal perspective. I’m conscious that not everybody has the time to digest each contract in full so we provide a term sheet to Clients summarising all three agreements at the outset of engagement.
We have various projects under way in preparation for current and forthcoming regulatory change. As Multrees’ Data Protection Officer, much of my recent focus has been in preparation for the General Data Protection Regulation. This enters into force next May and, with four months left to prepare, we are already in good shape. I also have the luxury of calling upon external law firm support whenever anything tricky comes up: an important skill of the in-house lawyer is knowing what questions to ask and the best people to answer them.
Much like Hugh Mullan said in his blog, it is gratifying to work in an environment that is both positive and collaborative, and seeing the real impact these qualities have on the Multrees business.
First and foremost my role is to protect Multrees, our Clients and Customers through contractual provisions. Keeping our templates fresh is an iterative process; I find myself making tweaks to drafting on a regular basis, be it as a response to Client feedback or in preparation for forthcoming regulatory change etc. I am confident that our pro forma documentation is suitably detailed and future-proofed, which is invaluable support for my colleagues who work very hard to achieve ambitious strategic goals. 2018 will be a big year for the company – I’m looking forward to it.
Innovation: Keeping speed with change
Custodian and administrator Multrees Investor Services is collaborating with academia to ensure clients are getting everyday innovative solutions to ever increasing challenges.
Wealth management faces enormous challenges in helping clients grow against a backdrop of technological development, new markets and increasing regulatory change. Dedication to clients’ growth is one thing, but to continually do this means being rigorous about exploring new ways of working on an on-going basis. That’s where good outsourcing partners earn their crust.
Multrees is partnering with the University of Surrey’s Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) to solve everyday problems for clients in the wealth management sector. Clive Stelfox, COO says "On the one hand we must engage in the wider strategic innovation within the industry, engaging with emerging technologies such as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) but on the other hand we need to be agile in helping our clients solve the everyday problems that they face now."
Clive says the collaboration with CoDE has given Multrees the perspective and skills to devise and deliver change at pace, and offer solutions to many of the challenges clients are facing. He adds “The success of any initiative is about whether it delivers a benefit. Since working with CoDE we have seen a big uptick in both the range of change we are able to deliver for our clients, and the speed at which we do it.”
Jaco Cebula, CTO at Multrees, explains the collaborations with CoDE puts Multrees at the forefront of innovation. “The cutting edge work we are exposed to with CoDE allows us to think beyond the immediate future and consider the longer term. It’s about giving people scope to work in a structured manner on proof of concept technologies, generating as many ideas as possible and quickly assessing which are viable and which aren’t.”
“Multrees applies agile practices to explore innovations in business models by proposing service value propositions that exploit new digital technologies,” explains Dave Griffin, a member of CoDE's research team. “This practice takes good ideas and converts them into minimum viable products that can be delivered effectively to market at speed — rather than being bogged down in over engineering a solution. And because it’s agile and constantly assessed, lessons can quickly be applied to ensure it delivers maximum value to clients. To optimise digital opportunity, we are finding this way of working to be more vital now than ever before.”
Pedal Power: Multrees team raises more than £1,200 for children’s charity
Ryan Scoular and seven colleagues took part in Pedal for Scotland 2017 – a 45-mile charity cycling ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh to raise money for Radio Forth’s Cash for Kids charity, which helps children with special needs in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife.
Ryan is a programmer in Multrees’ IT development team and said:
“I might not be the first person you’d expect to lead a charity bike ride as I only learned to ride a bike as an adult a couple of years ago. After a few skinned knees, I felt confident enough to cycle to work on my bike a couple of times a week – a 25-mile round trip. However, since then I’ve been looking for more of a cycling challenge and this year a team of us decided to enter Pedal for Scotland.
In its 19th year, Pedal for Scotland is Scotland’s biggest bike event, involving roughly 10,000 participants. Team Multrees, comprising of eight employees from both our Edinburgh and London offices, participated in the ‘Classic Challenge’ which took place on Sunday 10 September. This began in Glasgow and finished 45 miles later in Edinburgh - in what I can only describe as not ideal conditions!
Fortunately, the rain did not last for the entire day. There are a number of pit-stops along the way where the riders can get fed and watered, with the last one at Linlithgow Palace, 15 miles west of Edinburgh. At that point, the sun came out and to make it even more enjoyable, it was a long downhill stretch to the finish line in Edinburgh.
We all completed the ride within 20 minutes of each other and I estimate that we were on the saddle pedalling hard for just over three and a half hours. Whilst it was very tiring, knowing that the event was all for a good cause helped to keep us motivated throughout the day.
Our cycling team, which included Multrees’ chief executive officer Chris Fisher, Jaco Cebula, Ron Murray, James McLay, Keith Sinclair and our only ‘leading lady’ Ella Whitley, celebrated the achievement by discussing what our next challenge should be.
It is very encouraging to work for a business that not only promotes the fitness and well-being of its employees, but also strongly cares about corporate social responsibility. Radio Forth’s Cash for Kids charity helps children from disadvantaged areas, as well as children with learning disabilities, mobility challenges, and other physical needs. As it is a great local charity, it is something that Multrees is especially proud to support.
Multrees has been designated as a Cycle Friendly employer by Cycling Scotland and provides secure indoor bike parking and shower facilities, which is essential if you want to commute on two wheels in the Scottish weather!
The sponsorship page is still open for those wishing to donate and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us support this fantastic charity.”
Former Lord Mayor of London is helping Multrees look towards a post-Brexit future.
Sir Roger Gifford joined Multrees Investor Services as a non-executive director in March 2014. He has worked for the Swedish bank, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB), for many years and is currently Senior Banker at SEB UK.
Sir Roger has had a long and illustrious career in financial services, spanning 30 years in London and overseas, and was appointed as Lord Mayor for the City of London in 2012. He is the Chairman of the London Green Finance Initiative and an ambassador for UK financial and professional services. He is also Vice-Chairman of the Association of Foreign Banks.
“I hope to bring broad experience to the role of non-executive director at Multrees, having been in the banking industry for more than 30 years, primarily in the debt and equity capital markets.
“During this period, we’ve seen the capital markets transform but I believe it can help to take the long view when looking at how best to drive this business forward.
“The wealth management industry faces particular challenges today, and it’s important to remember that financial and economic markets tend to be cyclical. However, the drive for greater efficiency coupled with the need to be ever more vigilant, technically and governance-wise, give expert specialists like Multrees a vital role to play. I don’t believe that direction will ever go into reverse.
“One of my roles at Multrees is to represent the interests of the company’s shareholder, SEB's pension fund. This includes looking at aspects of the business from governance and best practice to sitting on the remuneration committee.
“As a business, Multrees is very much looking to the future. I believe there is a real opportunity within the sector they operate in, specialising as they do in providing services for the discretionary wealth management sector.
“I am not a ‘Brexiteer’, but I think there are areas for the City of London and the asset management sector in particular, to flourish after the UK has left the EU. Of course, much will depend on the final terms of any Brexit deal, but I think London can carve out a niche as an even larger global wealth management centre.
“Part of the role the City of London takes, with the Lord Mayor its principal ambassador, is to look at what can be done to promote the UK abroad, whether it's in legal services, insurance, shipping or banking. London has all the key elements needed: a range of specialist ancillary services, from research teams to analysts, lawyers, accountants and so on; a favourable time zone and language; an independent judiciary and with it, the confidence that assets will be securely managed and looked after.
“Since the global financial crisis, the asset management industry in London has doubled from around £3.5 trillion to £7 trillion. I see no reason why this upward trajectory should not continue in a post-Brexit environment.
“Improved technology has helped the wealth management industry flourish over the past few decades. This has made transactions quicker and more secure, and has helped the whole industry reduce costs.
“It has also helped make discrete businesses, like Multrees, become more viable. Many global private banks used to be sprawling businesses offering a whole range of services. Today however, more and more are concentrating on the core aspects of their business and outsourcing ancillary services, be it treasury management, custody or investment administration services to specialists.
“So I’m optimistic about the future of Multrees, operating as it does in a thriving sector. As I’ve worked in London and overseas over many years, spending a considerable period of time in Japan, I also hope to bring some useful contacts, making introductions that will benefit Multrees, its shareholders and its clients.”
The right job at the right time: why a former Fidelity CEO and Barclays executive joined the Multrees team.
Hugh Mullan joined Multrees as a non-executive director in March 2015, bringing with him extensive senior level experience in running retail investment and investment management businesses.
His previous roles include UK CEO for Fidelity Worldwide Investment, as well as executive positions at Barclays Wealth, Schroders and Citibank.
“As an outsourcing services business, I was attracted to Multrees by the prospect of joining a dynamic and growing company. In particular, one that’s working at the cutting-edge of many technological changes within the industry.
“My experience and expertise dovetailed neatly with what Multrees was looking for. After stepping back from a full-time executive position, this was exactly the kind of exciting role that I had been seeking.”
Part of Hugh’s role at Multrees is to help develop, broaden and maintain the service and technological capability it offers: “I was the Chief Executive Officer of a global investment and distribution business and so I understand the challenges that a company like Multrees faces.”
Hugh’s executive experience has also seen him manage complex change programmes: “Multrees’ clients face a number of evolving challenges and opportunities. Part of my role is to help them manage this change, as well as to identify how Multrees itself can adapt and evolve as a business.
“I have a lot of experience in this area: researching complex markets which are influenced by a whole range of factors. I explore how businesses position themselves to meet these future challenges. This doesn’t just involve strategic thinking; it includes making decisions about the best way to take a business forward, and taking responsibility for these decisions.”
Alongside his technical expertise, Hugh has the requisite regulatory and compliance experience. “One of my roles at Multrees is to head up the Audit and Risk Committee, which is particularly important as the wealth management industry faces a number of challenges. Externally, change will be strongly influenced by the regulatory environment and technical developments, and this is where firms like Multrees can excel. Many companies don’t have the resources or time to research all the latest tech options – for example, the emerging use of blockchain for trading and record keeping. Instead, they may prefer to utilise the services of a company like Multrees that offers this expertise.
“These external factors aren’t the only thing driving change in the wealth management sector. Our clients’ demands are also changing, as are the expectations and requirements of their customers. Ultimately, we are designing products and services that help meet these changing needs.
“For example, a traditional high-net-worth client may in the past have been happy for a private bank to look after their portfolio without providing frequent updates. But customers today expect far more transparency: they want up-to-date information on how their money is invested, often using mobile phone or online interfaces. We help our clients to deliver this level of service.”
For all the emphasis on efficient information channels, wealth management remains a people-centric business. Hugh continues: “This is one of the main reasons why I joined Multrees two years ago. I knew many of the senior team here from previous roles, including the founder, Chris Fisher. I have a lot of respect for their capability and talent, and felt this would be a great team of people to work with.”
Hugh’s decision to join the company came after taking a year-long break from the corporate world, which saw him spend a month in the Outer Hebrides and travel to the Rockies and Patagonia.
“This was an opportunity for both myself and my wife to focus on what we wanted to do after an intensive executive career. The opportunity to join Multrees as a non-executive director felt like the right role at the right time for me.
“I hope my experience and expertise will help Multrees continue to develop and grow as a successful business.”
Strategic thinking and international experience: what Ausaf Abbas brings to his non-executive director role.
Ausaf Abbas joined Multrees’ senior management team in 2013 as a non-executive director.
He brought with him more than 25 years’ experience working in the wealth management sector, along with an in-depth knowledge of the challenges facing the industry today.
Ausaf says: “I’ve run private wealth management businesses for both Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Through these, I’ve built up relationships and contacts with many people working in the City. This is a useful part of my work for Multrees.”
One of his main roles for Multrees is to support its expanding client base. And he says it’s here that his previous experience comes into play.
“I’ve held a number of senior roles across investment banking and private wealth management. These involved strategic management and looking at the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for these businesses. I hope Multrees, and their clients, can benefit from this approach.”
Ausaf believes that there are two related challenges facing the wealth management sector at present: increased costs and a squeeze on revenues.
He points out that costs have increased substantially in recent years, particularly as a result of the increased cost of technology and regulation. “A decade ago, many compliance departments were a couple of guys working from a basement office. Today, it’s more likely to be a team of 50 highly qualified staff.”
At the same time, many wealth managers face a downward pressure on fees, thanks to RDR and the move from active to passive management. “This presents a profitability challenge for many companies. Here is where companies like Multrees, which offers outstanding service and cost-effective outsourcing solutions, can help.”
Ausaf says that one of the advantages that Multrees can provide is to tailor-make their services to fit the client’s needs. “Too many companies do the reverse of this,” he says. “They build a one-size-fits-all system and then try to market it to clients.”
But by understanding the particular challenges that clients face — both today and in the future — the team at Multrees can come up with a customised solution.
“Times are particularly tough for medium-sized wealth management firms and strategic thinking has a vital part to play in this process. The smaller niche providers have their own market, and the largest wealth managers in the world are probably ok. But it’s a lot tougher for the larger group of companies that fall between these two extremes. “
For the past four years, Ausaf has chaired the judging panel for the WealthBriefing European Awards. He mentions: “This has allowed me to review many of the different business models and new developments that are being adopted within the wealth management industry. I can see which ones are working well and how Multrees’ solutions can help to address some of the challenges.”
Ausaf has a broad international experience and has spent more than 13 years living and working in Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Japan.
He continues: “Many of Multrees’ clients have an international outlook, particularly if they are focused on ultra high-net-worth individuals. These customers tend to have a more global focus, particularly when it comes to their investments. I believe that my experience working across Europe, the Middle East and Asia can be of use.”
Ausaf says his role as a non-executive director allows him to take more of an overview of the industry. “Hopefully my experience can help Multrees grow as a business. But this is a two-way thing: this is an industry that doesn’t stand still, so I continue to learn and gain new insights from my work at Multrees.”
The Inside Track: how Chris Fisher has overseen the growth of Multrees.
As chief executive of Multrees Investor Services, Chris Fisher is able to enjoy his hands-on role within the business. He was instrumental in setting up the business in 2011, building on a proven career in asset servicing and wealth management. Through his skills and vision, Chris has helped grow Multrees into a successful outsourcing provider for the wealth management sector.
Perhaps his biggest contribution is to have realised the potential for a business like Multrees and to have helped turn this idea into a viable and thriving organisation. Chris explains: “When we launched, we could see there was a gap in the market. After the financial crisis, many bank providers to the sector began to remove services.”
Multrees stepped into this space to offer independent custody, investment administration and consolidated reporting services. “We knew there was a potential for a company that took a fresh approach to technology and offered clients flexibility and more customised solutions.”
The challenge, he admits, is maintaining this individual approach as the business has grown: “One of my priorities has been to ensure that as we’ve scaled up the business, we haven’t lost our unique service proposition, nor the flexibility to respond to the needs of our clients.”
Chris has been instrumental in helping recruit and retain many of the people who work at the company today - whether this is within the technology side of the business or the client solutions team. “My role has been to explain how Multrees offers something different to our competitors. I’ve helped persuade the right people to come and join us.” This remains critical to the success of the business: “We wouldn’t have achieved what we have without our talented, loyal and enthusiastic workforce.”
These skills have been put to good use when attracting new clients to the business. In recent years, Multrees has grown both its private and institutional business at an impressive rate.
The strategic guidance provided by his leadership continues to be important, as Multrees negotiates the challenges - and maximises opportunities - in today’s wealth management market.
Chris says for many in the industry the challenge is how to thrive in an era of low returns: “The wealth management industry is maturing quickly but there have been growing pains along the way for wealth managers. Our job is to make their life as easy as possible, allowing them to focus on serving the needs of their clients. There will continue to be pressure from robo-based operatives and passively managed funds. We hope our smart use of technology will show that we can help wealth managers deliver the right solutions at the right price for their clients.”
Chris continues: “Technology can still provide answers for many in the wealth management sector - but the trick is to choose the right technology and think carefully about how this is integrated within the business. You need to remain nimble. You don’t want to pay for a whole system only to find it’s obsolete within a couple of years.” At Multrees, Chris and his team continue to pioneer a more flexible and adaptable approach: “We want to put in place building blocks that can be updated or amended as necessary. Doing so has helped us stay ahead of the game.”
Chris concludes: “My role is not to come up with ideas. I’ve others in the business to do this. My job is to make decisions on which of these ideas will be best for the business and will continue to help drive it forwards.”