A small team with big ambitions: John Dance of Vertem Asset Management speaks to bdaily
“We felt we could deal with clients investments more ethically, by providing a fair cost structure and client service,” says John Dance, when asked why he and business partner Gary Stockdale decided to set up Vertem Asset Management.
The pair met while working at Brewin Dolphin, and after a few years decided it was time to go it alone. Both had spent time working for big wealth managers, and felt constrained by the investment processes practiced in the larger firms.
“It was nothing serious, but we always felt our hands were slightly tied,” explains John. “In large organizations it can be difficult to be dynamic, and we felt that by operating on a smaller platform we could develop a more nimble and effective investment process and also a culture of accessibility within the business, whereby we can keen people fully informed about the status of their investments and what might be affecting them.”
13 months after Vertem was established, John is confident that the businesses has reached the point of sustainability. However, the route to this position has not been a simple one.
“The whole process was harder and slower than we expected,” explains John “Although we did save a lot of time by outsourcing our administration and compliance to Raymond James because it allowed us to prove ourselves and show we had a good investment structure.
“We also weren’t bringing any client business with us, so it was imperative that we weren’t out of the market for too long.”
It’s a challenging environment for investments, and as a relatively new company, John and Gary are keen to start off on the right foot with new and prospective clients.
“If the world’s economy is booming and the economy’s growing, it’s easy to please clients.
“However in the current climate it can be difficult – if the markets go down 20% and we only lose 10%, we’ve outperformed but have still lost clients money.”
Indeed, attitudes to investment have changed dramatically since 2008 during the now infamous ‘credit crunch’, and John has found that people are being increasingly careful with their money.
“In an 18 month period, asset classes fell dramatically. Since then they returned to similar levels, but at the time it was clear that a lot of people were looking at their portfolios and were uncomfortable with their losses.
“There now seems to be a greater intolerance of risk, and this often means creating portfolios that may look very different to those that clients have previously been used to.
“Conversely, clients previously averse to risk and accumulating cash are seeing no ‘real’ return versus inflation at present so we try to find investments which will beat cash savings, but will not go up and down as aggressively as equities.”
Vertem is currently a relatively small team, but John and Gary are now keen to grown the business. The pair have built up a strong client base nationwide, but are now coming back to their roots, and looking to develop relationships in the region.
“At the moment we’re trying to get our name out to build our reputation in the North East. We work specifically for the clients of financial advisers, so it is important that we are not unknown when advisers recommend us
“We’re also close to winning a new business mandate from an IFA, and if this comes off, it will completely transform the business.”