Pictured above, Alex Neilson, left, Alex Foster, right)
With a chicken caesar salad and pie of the day (which was… Friday) on the table at The Jugged Hare, Alex Neilson explains how he worked his way to Investec Click & Invest, writes Alex Foster.
‘My first experience of the private client investment world was during two summer placements with Cazenove while in university,’ Neilson says. ‘I loved what I experienced on these placements. It was fascinating to see the balance of dealing with clients and managing their money.’
‘Building that level of trust over time, so they feel comfortable with you taking control of their money – it’s a big thing.’
Neilson clearly impressed Cazenove, which took him on permanently in the dealing team following graduation. Four years later he was contacted by Investec Click & Invest. He joined the firm in December 2016, six months before the service officially launched.
‘The role at Investec Click & Invest was interesting to me. I’d only dealt with UHNW [ultra-high net worth] at Cazenove, and Investec Click & Invest presented a challenge at the other end of the spectrum.’
‘It was an attractive thing to be involved with when I joined. It was entrepreneurial, in a sense, helping build the service and then being heavily involved from the get-go when it launched.’
Having seen Invest Click & Invest develop throughout its entire lifespan, I’m keen to know what Neilson thinks the advantages and disadvantages of the service are.
‘We know there are a lot of robos out there, but we hold a real advantage in that Investec Click & Invest offers the same proposition for clients as the rest of Investec Wealth & Investment, and we’re backed by the research and expertise of the wider Investec group,’
‘It’s really important to show that just because you might be a client with a lower account size, it doesn’t mean you can’t invest [with] and receive the service of a big investment firm such as Investec.’
Although he describes the service’s offering as attractive, Neilson says it can be difficult to illustrate that to clients.
‘Marketing it correctly is probably one of the biggest challenges. We are engaging with a completely different part of the market than our traditional client base, and our competitors at this level often sell in terms of fees.’
‘We have chosen to build our portfolios with active managers, which is more expensive than passives, but we believe that our process and our research team’s expertise produce better returns over the long term.’
‘It’s a challenge to persuade potential clients about the value of the actively managed approach, and that it’s worth the extra fees. In many ways, this becomes more difficult due to a lack of education in finance from as early as school days.’
Neilson participates in Investec’s programme to teach school kids about finance, covering both the basics of investing and the common financial terminology, which currently aren’t covered in the school curriculum.
‘Simple things like interest rates, for example – people are often aware that interest rates apply to their savings, but [are] unaware of the implications on credit cards. It’s no surprise that people can end up in horrendous debt simply due to a complete lack of education in this.’
‘But I think, ultimately, it’s important to show that investing and finance isn’t all about the Wall Street appearance but is genuinely about helping people.’
Part of this attempt to disrupt the Wall Street stigma is by showing that careers in investment companies are for everyone.
‘The image of the investment world is that it’s dominated by men and lacking in diversity. We need to show that this is an industry where everyone can thrive.’
‘It might take a [generation] to change that but at least we are moving in the right direction. Jane Warren, CEO of Investec Click & Invest, is a great spokesperson and advocate for that.’