Iboss’ Metcalfe: How I reinvented the wheel

Nearly 10 years after launching, Iboss continues to go from success to success. Co-founder Chris Metcalfe puts this down to fortuitous timing and the value of having a good reputation behind the brand.

Iboss' Metcalfe: How I reinvented the wheel

Picking a name for any new business is always a challenge. Fund management groups love taking inspiration from planets and acronyms. So when creating the brand for its new wealth management firm, co-founder Chris Metcalfe let the staff choose the name, putting it to a competition.

And the name that came out of the hat? IFA Back Office Support Services. While not being one to immediately roll off the tongue, it was quickly abbreviated to Iboss and, nearly 10 years later, the firm is sitting on more than £1bn of assets under management.

Reinventing the wheel

Metcalfe created the original concept of running model portfolios for adviser firms two years earlier for an IFA practice he worked for. “At the time we had a number of advisers in our practice basically having to reinvent the wheel every time they saw a new client, or even reviewed an existing one,” Metcalfe says.

“There was a lack of uniformity for clients with similar risk tolerances and similar investment time horizons.”

Flashback to 2006 and Metcalfe says the choice of multi-asset options and any kind of model portfolios was very limited. He notes there were the odd fund of funds and multi-manager propositions, with John Chatfeild-Roberts’ Jupiter Merlin Fund the most popular, but at the time the phrase model portfolio service did not exist.

“So we created our own from scratch,” he says. “We standardised asset allocation at a core level and populated the models with funds we had researched.

“At the time there seemed to be a scattergun approach to fund research, with the prevalent practice being to simply pick a bunch of five-star rated funds, with the star rating often just relating to past performance. We wanted to go beyond this and launched the Portfolio Model Service (PMS) in March 2006.”

When the IFA was sold and became Iboss in 2008, the PMS had accumulated some £50m assets under influence, running money for six firms. Today the PMS has grown to £900m, while the Oeic service that Iboss launched in February last year has already risen £160m, taking the overall total to over £1bn.

So, does Metcalfe think the timing of the launch in 2008 was fortuitous?

“Very much so,” he says. “Quite a few things have come together. Technology has been advancing and what you can do on platforms has evolved considerably. At the same time there have been huge regulatory changes taking place, with many firms struggling to react to all the new requirements, especially from RDR.

“Then there have been the market conditions. In 2008, we launched into the teeth of a storm but very quickly this massive headwind became a huge tailwind. So assets naturally grew at the same time.”

Metcalfe says Iboss attracted a lot of business from referrals from other advisers in its early years, which he admits took him by surprise.

“We thought there would be more of a competition element from advisers but they were happy to recommend us. There seemed to be a realisation that, swamped with regulation, someone else could do their asset allocation and fund selection.”

Metcalfe thinks this is one of the reasons the firm has prospered over the past decade, one which has seen tenfold growth for Iboss.

“When we first launched there was more of a push-back from one or two individuals within firms who wanted to keep control of that aspect of their jobs,” he says.

“However, this has disappeared over time as firms have realised they can do things more profitably.

“They are under pressure from the regulator to deliver the best outcomes, and the combination of model portfolios and a white-labelled quarterly interactive review service has certainly helped do that.”

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