January 27, 2013 9:45 am

A bad week for the fund market

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Trust is an overused word in the fund management market.

Attend any industry conference and you can be sure there will be a panel discussion or a keynote speech on the importance of putting clients first and the significance of building trust with end investors.

That message, however, took somewhat of a battering last week.

On Tuesday an equity trader at Schroders – the UK’s largest listed asset manager – was arrested as part of an insider dealing investigation by the Financial Services Authority. Just days earlier it was revealed that a senior executive at Barclays Wealth America was found to have destroyed an external report that pointed to woeful mismanagement at the fund unit.

Andrew Tinney, chief operating officer of the Barclays Wealth arm in New York, destroyed a report – compiled by consultancy Genesis Ventures – which was said to have shown that senior executives at Barclays Wealth America were “actively hostile” to the idea of compliance with banking rules, fostered a culture of fear and intimidation at the company, and pursued a strategy of “revenue at all costs”.

Mr Tinney then misled banking regulators and his superiors by pretending that the report had never existed. Barclays confirms that Mr Tinney no longer works at the company.

Schroders, meanwhile, was forced to issue a statement that one of its employees had been arrested in connection with an investigation into insider dealing and market abuse.

“On Tuesday 22 January, a Schroders employee was arrested by the FSA and City of London Police on suspicion of insider dealing. The individual has been suspended with immediate effect,” the company said. “The FSA has informed us that the allegations relate entirely to this individual’s personal actions. Schroders is not subject to any investigation.” People familiar with the probe have identified the individual as Damian Frank Clarke, an equity trader.

A Schroders spokesperson added: “Based on the information available to us, we could not have identified this individual’s actions.”

That maybe so – but it does not help instil trust among investors, while Barclays’ strategy of chasing revenues at all costs does little to persuade clients that their needs are being put first.

Schroders says it immediately called its clients “across the world” to provide reassurance and that clients have been positive about its “proactive communication approach”.

Barclays, meanwhile, says that although a hard copy of Genesis Ventures’ report was destroyed by Mr Tinney, the consultancy had also presented its findings to senior management at Barclays and that “changes were being implemented as a result”.

Shiv Taneja, managing director at fund consultancy Cerulli Associates, doubts whether these measures will be enough. When asked how damaging the two events will be to the fund market, he says: “The short answer is very.” Historically, he says, when there has been talk of a breakdown in trust it was more often than not between investors – mostly retail – and their advisers. “There was an implicit belief, misguided obviously, that asset managers in the main were a decent bunch. That, I suspect, is a myth that has been busted.”

Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, former head of the European Fund and Asset Management Association, is less pessimistic and does not believe the two events will have a “particular negative impact on the broader market”.

“We know some executives misbehave or do not act with the highest level of integrity, but I believe the evolution of the regulatory environment means that there are probably less of those excesses today – and when they do occur they are more easily identifiable.”

Identifiable they have been, and although this is a small blessing, the fund management market must remember that, while trust takes many years to build up, it can also disappear as quickly as the careers of Messrs Tinney and Clarke.


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