Columbia Threadneedle to double European business by 2020

Columbia Threadneedle Investments has big expansion plans, planning to double its European business by 2020.

In an exclusive interview with Fundweb, chief executive EMEA Campbell Fleming says: “It’d be good to see the mainland European business at the company grow as big as the UK is now.”

Though he declined to provide details of the current European business size, Fleming said Columbia Threadneedle’s UK business today makes up around 45 per cent of the total at the investment company. 

”We are particularly interested in getting more market share in Europe,” Fleming adds.

He believes Italy is a “good capture”, as it has embraced open architecture, as well as Germany which remains “core” for Columbia Threadneedle. 

Some of the other market places in the EU remain closed and too bank-led, whereas in Italy the market is “expanding”, he says.

“If you look at the Italian marketplace in terms of independent advice it probably looks more like the UK and US than it does France,” he says.

Fleming also has ambitious growth plans for the Asian business, which he would like to see becoming “as big as the European business,” while he wants to see the Latin American business becoming as big as Asia.

”We have grown a lot of money out of the Middle East and Africa over the last five years,” he says. The two regions, along with Europe, make another 30 per cent of the total business, he says. 

”We opened in Korea, and we are looking in North Asia, China, as well as Asia Pacific. We keep watching Australia, as it is the third largest saving market in the world.”

Fleming adds: “If in some of those new regions an opportunity came up to expand our distribution or manufacturing capability regionally and we felt there are people who would fit here and work well then we’ll think about it.”

However, he is resolute in terms of further acquisitions in Threadneedle’s core markets.

Fleming is not “actively” pursuing acquisitions and sees the firm “definitely growing organically”.

However, he says: “If a European insurance company under Basel 4 and Solvency II says it wants to get out of the asset management business then we would probably be a firm they might come and speak to.”

He sees the insurance space as an opportunity as 30 per cent of the firm’s assets are from insurance companies. “We understand how to run an insurance company in the long term,” he says. 

The £95.1bn investment house has just rebranded as Columbia Threadneedle Investments combining the business with US-based affiliate Columbia Management. The new business has £324bn in combined assets.

Despite the rebranding, the firm says no changes will occur on investment teams, strategies or processes, and the corporate structure will remain the same.