Since taking the top job at Interactive Investor (ii), Richard Wilson has grown the direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform into a giant, now second only to Hargreaves Lansdown in scale.
Following its acquisition of Alliance Trust Savings (ATS) last year, which boosted its assets to £35 billion, it entered the advised platform market for the first time. This presented a new challenge for Wilson’s ii, given ATS’ recent financial troubles.
However, he says he is not daunted by this prospect, perhaps reassured by the knowledge of being able to sell on the advised business. Wilson states he is ‘not ruling out any options’ for the platform.
After buying ATS last October, you have entered the advised platform world for the first time. Do you have any nerves about this move?
Given the appetite for fixed-cost provision in our technology platform, it was an opportunity only ATS could provide.
We need to be humble with our customers, but even more so in the IFA space, so I resisted making strategy statements. Our job is to listen to what our customers want.
We have set up a process where we can set up meetings for IFAs with ATS management but only if customers want – we do not own the business yet. [The transaction is still subject to regulatory approval].
Are you committed to the advised platform market?
Our core franchise is in D2C, and the IFA business is a new opportunity that we will carefully assess in terms of how we are best able to support it.
Would you consider selling the ATS advised platform?
I wouldn’t rule out any options. It’s way too early to come to any conclusions.
ATS uses three different underlying technologies: the stockbroking business Stocktrade uses Figaro (currently ii’s main tech provider); the D2C arm uses Active Bank; and the advised platform GBST. Do you plan to change this setup?
For the Sipp and fund business [IFA platform] GBST Composer remains a relevant consideration, but we will exit Active Bank for the D2C platform [and move to Figaro].
The challenge a lot of large firms face is getting it wrong hurts. There are many replatforming technology stories, whether it be Aegon-Cofunds or Barclays Smart Investor, where there were drastic consequences for getting it wrong.
Stocktrade was the ingredient that complicated ATS’ life, they have done a lot to address that but it hurt. It is in good shape now but has a complicated operating setup.
ii is the only platform of its size charging fixed fees, what do you think about platform percentage charging?
It is nonsense. Firms charge percentage on assets because they can, not because there is a higher workload or increased costs.
Your platform is currently owned by private equity house JC Flowers. Are there any plans to change this ownership structure?
At some point, given the nature of the private equity market, we expect to have some change to that, but that is years rather than months away. For our type of business, the public markets are the natural place to be but we will see when we are the nearer the time.
What is your favourite album?
The musical soundtrack to Hamilton.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you at work?
Showing up to work in New York on a public holiday.
What is your pet peeve?
People who are late and don’t say so.
Who is your ideal dinner party guest?
Do you have a financial adviser?
I don’t have a go-to adviser but I use different sources of advice for different purposes.
RICHARD WILSON CV
2017-present: Interactive Investor, chief executive
2015-May 2016: The Co-operative Bank, chief administrative officer
2014-2015: Newedge [multi-asset brokerage], chairman
2010-2014: Newedge, chief executive