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CONNECT magazine - Fiduchi proves that small is beautiful.

CONNECT magazine - Fiduchi proves that small is beautiful.

Anna Thorne discusses what lies ahead for Fiduchi over a working lunch with Robert Ayliffe and Christopher Dungan.

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Rob Ayliffe, Executive Director, joined Fiduchi a year ago, to help drive the future development and growth of the business as well as it's international expansion. A fresh, dynamic outlook is the key to this company – driven by its people – as it moves to the next level and into new markets.

Rob explains, “we are a Jersey-based boutique business. We do not have the luxury of calling upon a wider international group to help refer us new clients. We have to work much harder and think very carefully about how we best leverage our resources to maximise the profile of the business and generate new business opportunities in our target markets. We have found that using social media and digital platforms has been a powerful way to help us achieve this, allowing us to punch well above our weight to increase our profile in new markets. People are starting to hear about us, and we're getting noticed."

"However, we are a people business and people ‘buy’ from people."

It is a given that we have the technical knowledge and experience to deliver the services required. But, potential clients and advisors want to know who they are going to be dealing with. This means that frequent travelling overseas is inevitable to ensure those vital initial face-to-face meetings can be held. (The air miles are building up quickly!). Furthermore, if you look at our website or follow our digital campaigns, you will see that our people are at the forefront of everything we do. With more and more of our clients being further afield, they can see who they are dealing with and put a face to a name,” said Rob.

[Photo: CONNECT Working Lunch] Robert Ayliffe and Christopher Dungan talking to Anna Thorne

Rob is joined at lunch by Fiduchi’s new Director for the Middle East, Christopher Dungan, who expands on the point: “When we are looking at growth markets, there is often a new generation coming in to run businesses set up by their parents, and we need to move with that. They will be social media savvy, so ensuring we have a corporate Facebook and Twitter account is essential.”

‘People’, ‘personal’ and ‘relationships’ are words which come up often during lunch, and they are central to Fiduchi’s offering. The industry may change, and services become more complex, but as a small, independent firm of 40 people, they have the flexibility to meet clients’ expectations in a competitive market.

“Clients always expect excellent service from their service providers. However, over the last few years, the structure of the industry has changed. There has been a lot of consolidation, and many clients have been caught in the middle. Service may have dipped and/or fees increased, causing clients to realise the value of relationships with the people they deal with.

Christopher Dungan
[Photo: CONNECT Working Lunch] Christopher Dungan

“Many clients crave truly independent firms, and there are only a small number of us left! They want comfort that their service provider will be free to focus on managing “their relationship” without interference from head office or an investor shareholder who is focussed on their own financial return rather than the service levels clients receive. We do not have this intrusion so we can focus on building long-term relationships with our clients,” said Rob.

Both men have worked in big organisations and have seen first-hand the impact this can have on client service. The autonomy that a small firm offers is a refreshing change.

“Autonomy goes hand-in-hand with quick decision-making. If there is something that fits for a client then we can move fairly quickly,” said Christopher.

Rob continues this point: “That nimbleness and ability to act is very powerful in this environment.”

Having joined Fiduchi in July, Christopher will be taking this ethos of flexibility and personal relationships with him when he moves to Dubai in December to run the nascent Fiduchi representative office. The Middle East is an important growth market for the company and one he knows well, having lived and worked in the region previously, focussing on it his entire career, whether based in the Gulf or in Jersey.

“Many large businesses in the Middle East are family owned, and traditionally there has been quite a mix of corporate and family wealth. That is beginning to diverge for various reasons, including generational changes and the introduction of some tax regimes. If I look at what we do, the private wealth, the corporate services and the yacht services, there is a good deal of overlap, and they all apply in the Middle East.

“Currently we are looking at helping significant families structure their non-Middle East wealth, including real estate and yachts; simultaneously, we are beginning to help those families with the structuring of specific business concerns, such as the end of service gratuity arrangements, which are so prevalent in the region. We are also helping clients move into the Jersey Private Fund space, mostly with exposure to UK residential and commercial property."

“There are historical links to the UK, and these remain very strong – there has always been an inflow of capital from the Middle East, using Jersey, which is a very well-known and highly regarded jurisdiction in the region, as a platform is just a natural fit,” said Christopher.

“It is a very relationship-driven market and the further east you go the truer this is. You can’t say we have a strategy for family office and a separate strategy for funds when actually your opportunity could be one or all of those put together. The size of our business and the way that we are structured means that we have the flexibility to do that,” said Rob.

Robert explains the expansion into the Middle East.
[Photo: CONNECT Working Lunch] Robert explains the expansion into the Middle East.

Why the Middle East in the first place? “We are driven by where our clients are so that we are coming from a position of strength – it is speculative otherwise. In the Middle East we have existing clients and are associated with an international network with offices there that we can leverage,” said Rob.

Traditionally, Fiduchi’s business has grown off strong connections in the UK and parts of Europe. The UK continues to develop and will remain an important market, particularly in certain niche sectors, such as employee ownership trusts where they will be expanding their support for clients in 2019.  

Ongoing changes in regulations together with the maturity of the UK market means, however, that finding new business can be difficult. New wealth is being created in the East, and both Rob and Christopher have the required international experience to foster those links. Rob worked for many years in Singapore – moving back to Jersey a year ago with his family – and knows well the value of understanding the Asian market, business culture and face-to-face meetings.

Closer to home, Fiduchi has appointed a new head of private wealth in Associate Director, Heidi Thompson to drive that part of the business forward and have added a new recruitment string to its bow with the introduction of a graduate training scheme. Echoing many in the industry, Rob said that finding good quality staff is currently a struggle. The funds and corporate sectors have shown steady growth which, while welcome, means there is a huge demand for experienced staff.

For graduates joining Fiduchi, the advantage over schemes with larger firms is the breadth of service that they will build up. “While there’s nothing wrong with specialising, one of the advantages of our firm is that we have that overlap between service lines that provides a broader base of experience dealing with different types of clients. Increasingly, there is agrey area between a private client and a corporate client. We thereforeneed to develop our people so that they have experience in different areas to better serve whichever client they are working with.,” he said.

The fact is that no matter what the client is looking for Fiduchi believes it can tailor its services accordingly.

“What is really satisfying,” says Christopher, “is when all the services come together and, for me, that is what we are looking for in the Middle East – an holistic approach.

Rob concludes “In this ever-changing world, we need to take our business further afield. We need to be adaptable and open-minded - it’s a challenging but exciting time!”

Read the CONNECT November working lunch interview here: https://fiduchi.co/2qGSI85

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