‘If we had just talked about Buxton, we wouldn’t have him here today’: Ide on OMGI’s growth plans

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Richard Buxton (left) with OMGI chief executive Julian Ide. Buxton’s recruitment is part of Ide’s plan to turn the firm into one of the UK’s largest fund groups.

Old Mutual Global Investors chief executive Julian Ide has seen his firm grab the headlines recently, with the merger of Old Mutual Asset Managers and Skandia Investment Group and the hire of Schroders’ Richard Buxton being the two highest profile events that spring to mind.

The moves form part of Ide’s growth strategy but the chief executive’s plans for the asset management house do not stop with making it a top-five player in the industry. Mindful that the firm still has some way to go to achieve that goal, Ide is keen to build up the culture of OMGI as well as its assets under management.

“Excellence, competitiveness, professionalism, integrity, equality and diversity are the sort of words I would use to describe the culture I’m trying to create,” he says. “What we’re trying to do here is create an environment where people can perform the best way they can.”

Ide describes OMGI as “absolutely a talent-based business”. The firm has established and well-respected managers such as Buxton, Stewart Cowley and Ashton Bradbury and Ide is seeking to recruit from all backgrounds across the business.

Earlier this year, Ide established an internship programme. This offers placements to five people, although it could be expanded as the business grows, and Ide stresses that he sees this programme as being beneficial to OMGI as well as its interns as he aims to instill a working culture that gets the best out of all staff.

“It is not just because we want to get some young people in here and teach them something. In a sense, we want to learn something from them as well,” he says.

“One of the things I say to people is, ‘I don’t care where you come from but I do care where you’re going’. I think we have to be blind to everything other than what people can contribute. The reason I say this is not because I have some fantastic social vision but because that’s the best way to get people to work well.”

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This ethos extends beyond the firm’s interns and right up to its managers. Ide’s approach to running the company places a great amount of freedom on its fund managers. OMGI does not have a chief investment officer, for example, in the belief that telling fund managers how they should view a stock or the market runs the risk of destroying their motivation.

“There is a sort of intellectual honesty about fund management. A manager makes a trade and that trade is then being chased every day by the market. Every second of every day the trade is being chased so you have got to be pretty clear why you are doing something,” he points out.

Along with this, however, is the expectation that people at OMGI embrace the responsibility being given to them. Ide banished expectations that he would be a micro-manager when one of his first acts as CEO was to bring in a dress-down policy. Since then his focus has been on freedom to perform coupled with responsibility.

He says: “In a lot of organisations people have a view that if they keep their head down, no one will notice them. But not here, because people have to come up with the goods. You can make mistakes, by the way. The mistake you cannot make, however, is not having a view on anything and not taking responsibility.”

Ide’s respect for the “intellectual honesty” of asset management is one of the reasons he ended up working in the industry. He says he “came to it by mistake” after spending seven years working in law before realising he did not want to climb his to way up to being a senior partner.

“I realised I did not want to do that but I did not know what I really did want to do,” he says. “Asset management was not the obvious thing but I sort of stumbled into it and discovered an industry that is fascinating and has fantastic people in it – highly intelligent people who also have to put their money where their mouth is.”

Since leaving the law, Ide’s career has included senior roles at Merrill Lynch Mercury, ABN Amro Asset Management and Credit Suisse Asset Management, before joining Old Mutual Asset Managers as chief executive in 2011. He then oversaw the creation of OMGI following the merger of OMAM and Skandia Investment Group.

Earlier this year he outlined plans to make OMGI one of the top five asset managers in the UK, and his strategy is built around growing the business organically, hiring top-quality managers and looking selectively at acquisitions. Although Ide concedes that the business is some way from meeting that target, he is adamant the firm will have moved even closer to it by the end of the year.

He cites the hire of Buxton from Schroders as one way of helping his firm towards his goal but notes that even this high-profile win would not have happened if it could have damaged the culture he is trying so carefully to build.

“Richard is an outstanding portfolio manager with a great track record and a fantastic investment process,” he says. “But we have some great managers already so it would not have been right for him to be seen as the big new hope for this business. Clearly he brings a lot to us but, as he said himself, he’s also here to learn from us.”

Further hires of the right managers are also in the pipeline, especially for the firm’s offshore business, which is run mainly on a sub-advised basis. However, Ide says there is quite a short list of people he would consider bringing on board.

“One thing I will not ever do is hire second-rate managers,” he says. “Any other manager we get in will be outstanding in their field – they will not all look alike but they will share those core values. It is just too disruptive otherwise.”

Right now, Ide’s focus is on fulfilling the plans OMGI has already laid out. Despite claiming to be significantly ahead of schedule on these plans, the chief executive understands the need to keep building up the firm’s culture, infrastructure and performance track record.

But this does not mean Ide expects the group to lose some of its early dynamism.

“It’s early days but we are pretty clear we are going to succeed in this business,” he says. “We will be audacious. If we had sat around in a committee and just talked about Richard Buxton, we wouldn’t have him here today.”

Born: Guildford, Surrey

Lives: London/Dunsfold in Surrey

Education: Charterhouse and Cambridge

Career: 2011-present: chief executive, Old Mutual Global Investors; 2010-2011: head of institutional business, BBVA Asset Management; 2007-2010: chief operating officer, distribution, Credit Suisse Asset Management; 2003-2007: head of third party product and marketing, ABN Amro Asset Management; 1993-2001: Merril Lynch Mercury 

Likes: Family, travel, reading

Dislikes: Pomposity

Drives: Ducati motorcycle

Book: Where do I start? Currently reading: Thames: Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd; Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East by James Barr; and Civilisation: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

Film: The Shawshank Redemption

Album: How to dismantle an atomic bomb by U2

Career ambition: To build a leading asset management business in the UK

Life ambition: To bring up a happy, balanced family

If I wasn’t doing this I would be… A motorcycle racer