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Strategic thinking and international experience: what Ausaf Abbas brings to his non-executive director role.
Ausaf Abbas joined Multrees’ senior management team in 2013 as a non-executive director.
He brought with him more than 25 years’ experience working in the wealth management sector, along with an in-depth knowledge of the challenges facing the industry today.
Ausaf says: “I’ve run private wealth management businesses for both Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Through these, I’ve built up relationships and contacts with many people working in the City. This is a useful part of my work for Multrees.”
One of his main roles for Multrees is to support its expanding client base. And he says it’s here that his previous experience comes into play.
“I’ve held a number of senior roles across investment banking and private wealth management. These involved strategic management and looking at the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for these businesses. I hope Multrees, and their clients, can benefit from this approach.”
Ausaf believes that there are two related challenges facing the wealth management sector at present: increased costs and a squeeze on revenues.
He points out that costs have increased substantially in recent years, particularly as a result of the increased cost of technology and regulation. “A decade ago, many compliance departments were a couple of guys working from a basement office. Today, it’s more likely to be a team of 50 highly qualified staff.”
At the same time, many wealth managers face a downward pressure on fees, thanks to RDR and the move from active to passive management. “This presents a profitability challenge for many companies. Here is where companies like Multrees, which offers outstanding service and cost-effective outsourcing solutions, can help.”
Ausaf says that one of the advantages that Multrees can provide is to tailor-make their services to fit the client’s needs. “Too many companies do the reverse of this,” he says. “They build a one-size-fits-all system and then try to market it to clients.”
But by understanding the particular challenges that clients face — both today and in the future — the team at Multrees can come up with a customised solution.
“Times are particularly tough for medium-sized wealth management firms and strategic thinking has a vital part to play in this process. The smaller niche providers have their own market, and the largest wealth managers in the world are probably ok. But it’s a lot tougher for the larger group of companies that fall between these two extremes. “
For the past four years, Ausaf has chaired the judging panel for the WealthBriefing European Awards. He mentions: “This has allowed me to review many of the different business models and new developments that are being adopted within the wealth management industry. I can see which ones are working well and how Multrees’ solutions can help to address some of the challenges.”
Ausaf has a broad international experience and has spent more than 13 years living and working in Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Japan.
He continues: “Many of Multrees’ clients have an international outlook, particularly if they are focused on ultra high-net-worth individuals. These customers tend to have a more global focus, particularly when it comes to their investments. I believe that my experience working across Europe, the Middle East and Asia can be of use.”
Ausaf says his role as a non-executive director allows him to take more of an overview of the industry. “Hopefully my experience can help Multrees grow as a business. But this is a two-way thing: this is an industry that doesn’t stand still, so I continue to learn and gain new insights from my work at Multrees.”
The Inside Track: how Chris Fisher has overseen the growth of Multrees.
As chief executive of Multrees Investor Services, Chris Fisher is able to enjoy his hands-on role within the business. He was instrumental in setting up the business in 2011, building on a proven career in asset servicing and wealth management. Through his skills and vision, Chris has helped grow Multrees into a successful outsourcing provider for the wealth management sector.
Perhaps his biggest contribution is to have realised the potential for a business like Multrees and to have helped turn this idea into a viable and thriving organisation. Chris explains: “When we launched, we could see there was a gap in the market. After the financial crisis, many bank providers to the sector began to remove services.”
Multrees stepped into this space to offer independent custody, investment administration and consolidated reporting services. “We knew there was a potential for a company that took a fresh approach to technology and offered clients flexibility and more customised solutions.”
The challenge, he admits, is maintaining this individual approach as the business has grown: “One of my priorities has been to ensure that as we’ve scaled up the business, we haven’t lost our unique service proposition, nor the flexibility to respond to the needs of our clients.”
Chris has been instrumental in helping recruit and retain many of the people who work at the company today - whether this is within the technology side of the business or the client solutions team. “My role has been to explain how Multrees offers something different to our competitors. I’ve helped persuade the right people to come and join us.” This remains critical to the success of the business: “We wouldn’t have achieved what we have without our talented, loyal and enthusiastic workforce.”
These skills have been put to good use when attracting new clients to the business. In recent years, Multrees has grown both its private and institutional business at an impressive rate.
The strategic guidance provided by his leadership continues to be important, as Multrees negotiates the challenges - and maximises opportunities - in today’s wealth management market.
Chris says for many in the industry the challenge is how to thrive in an era of low returns: “The wealth management industry is maturing quickly but there have been growing pains along the way for wealth managers. Our job is to make their life as easy as possible, allowing them to focus on serving the needs of their clients. There will continue to be pressure from robo-based operatives and passively managed funds. We hope our smart use of technology will show that we can help wealth managers deliver the right solutions at the right price for their clients.”
Chris continues: “Technology can still provide answers for many in the wealth management sector - but the trick is to choose the right technology and think carefully about how this is integrated within the business. You need to remain nimble. You don’t want to pay for a whole system only to find it’s obsolete within a couple of years.” At Multrees, Chris and his team continue to pioneer a more flexible and adaptable approach: “We want to put in place building blocks that can be updated or amended as necessary. Doing so has helped us stay ahead of the game.”
Chris concludes: “My role is not to come up with ideas. I’ve others in the business to do this. My job is to make decisions on which of these ideas will be best for the business and will continue to help drive it forwards.”