Welcome to Sales Tales, a new feature where Citywire’s head of Americas, Marissa Lewis, sits down with a key figure from the offshore distribution industry each month. The aim is simple: to catch up on all things offshore and get to know the people behind the sales pitch.
My first guest in the hot seat is Chris Stapleton, formerly of Old Mutual but now co-founder of the recently formed AMCS Group. I first met Chris back in 2013 when I had just moved to the US to start our business over here.
This time, I headed out to his home in Dover, Massachusetts, to pick his brain once again on the industry.
So Chris, what are fund selectors buying right now?
The rate cycle has been a major driver of flows the past few years, particularly in fixed income. In the offshore world, short and ultra-short duration products have been a huge benefactor of this, as have well diversified, income oriented bond funds.
Non-US equities, particularly emerging markets and Europe seem to be on a lot of traditional radar screens. Some alternative selectors are increasingly interested in style premia, machine learning, etc.
What trends are you noticing in the offshore industry?
On the buy side, I think the major recruiting cycle among the wirehouses has largely come to an end and most of these firms are now focused on advisor retention and organic growth. With the absence of big recruiting packages, advisors looking to increase their payout won’t be able to do so as easily with a one-time check, so I think there is going to be an increasing trend of big bank and wirehouse advisors taking established practices to independent firms to get a better grid deal.
On the sell side, I think there will continue to be US-based managers expanding into Ucits markets, as well as Europe-based managers looking to offer their Ucits specifically in the US Offshore/LatAm channel.
As a specialist in selling mutual funds, how do you get the best out of your fund managers?
Set your expectations and manage theirs! Before a trip or even an individual meeting, brief your fund manager on who they’re seeing, what to expect and what the objectives are. If you’ve met the client and pitched the basics of team and process already, it’s a huge waste of time for your fund manager to come in and do it again.
I always suggest copying them into as many thank you/follow-ups as you can. Even if your client doesn’t take the opportunity to write to them directly, it shows your fund manager doesn’t live in an ivory tower and bridges a nice personal touch with the client.
You just launched a new company, what are your long-term goals for your distribution business?
We’re keenly aware that the increasingly complex tax and wealth transfer environments in a number of the Latin American markets we serve creates an interesting opportunity for specialist firms such as ours to offer structuring/transfer solutions, possibly insurance based, both locally registered and offshore.
We think that firms that can offer genuine solutions to a number of the tax planning and domicile issues some of the recent amnesties have triggered will be in a much better position to strengthen and deepen advisor relationships, which will also bolster the opportunity for marketing investment solutions such as mutual funds. So exploring opportunities here is a likely next step for us.
What is the weirdest request/question you’ve ever got from a client?
A lot of the weirder ones came earlier in my career. I was once asked in an initial meeting if I would be interested in being an investor in an indie film. Another time I was asked very specifically for six XXL branded t-shirts from a very average sized client – they must’ve had a few very extra-large relatives!
What is your most memorable trip/travel anecdote?
I think my favorite memory was an event my team and I hosted in Punta del Este a few years ago where we had Uruguay’s now late, former President, Jorge Batlle, as our keynote speaker. Very undeservedly, I was sat next to Mr. Batlle and his lovely wife at dinner for what was probably one of the most amazing evenings of my life. Jorge, in the course of more than 60 years as a diplomat, politician and president, had met nearly every world leader of his era I could ask him about and had very candid insights into each of them. My only regret is not writing down everything he told me that night. Truly an amazing individual!
What was the last/greatest book you ever read?
That’s a loaded question! Lately I’ve had my nose buried in my Series 24 prep book, which admittedly is not the most riveting of texts. Michael Lewis is always good fun (just started the Undoing Project) but I’d have to say Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts probably stands out as the most enjoyment I’ve had between the lines in recent memory!