Same, same but different...
DFMs or DIMs (now also known as DI/ FMs) should not be considered as FSPs that are shrouded in some form of unknown mystery! They are quite simply investment managers, also known as asset managers, who provide a suite of investment support and intermediary services to financial advisers. Where things do become complicated, however, is in selecting one, as while they are “quite simply investment managers”, the differences between DFMs are vast – same, same but different!
In a nutshell, there are broadly four types of DFMs across the investment industry: Retail, Corporate, In-house and Advisory.
Retail DFMs usually take on the form of an independent business with no corporate ties restricting or guiding them towards house or internal focused client solutions. These DFMs are typically owner-managed, independent and agnostic in their approach to providing their services to advisers. Their services could include a broad-base house view suite of portfolios for advisers who want to take the guesswork out of picking funds. But many will also offer true tailored/bespoke solutions designed in a collaborative manner to meet the specific needs of an advisers’ book of clients, including solutions to cover local, offshore, preand post-retirement needs.
Corporate DFMs usually operate from one of the larger life/investment houses who support a large, tied agency sales force, but also offer their services to advisers. The adviser will typically get the internal house view solutions of the Corporate (or their multi-manager funds) as solutions that might be branded for them to create a framework of perceived independence for the advisory practice.
In-house DFMs are typically associated with larger wealth and advisory practices with multiple advisory branches (possibly having local and offshore capabilities) where they have the means to set up a separate business division within the group that is staffed with independent KIs and Reps to the advisory business. This division will focus on investment management activities to build solutions for their internal advisory division; the investment manager will focus on investment management under intermediary services, and not on advice activities.
Advisory DFMs would typically be a small practice that has both a CATI and CATII license where the advice and investment management are fulfilled by the same party. We suspect that this category will come under scrutiny from the FSCA in its rollout of RDR and their stance of TCF.
As you can imagine, the above DFM categories will, without a doubt, result in a multitude of differing services and capabilities. Besides the different portfolio construction options (core satellite, building blocks, multi-asset/split funding, active & passive, or combinations of all of these), each DFM will have a different investment thesis and method of choosing managers, funds and other financial instruments. These are all things an adviser needs to consider and be comfortable with when deciding upon a partner. Other questions should go towards:
• Portfolio optimisation and risk management – does the potential DFM partner utilise optimisation tools to mathematically/ quantitatively provide conviction to position a portfolio to a client?
• Will the DFM partner enhance an adviser’s client value proposition through providing a Centralised Investment Proposition?
• Does the DFM have the ability to reduce overall client costs, or will there be a higher fee for this level of expertise?
So – same, same but different definitely applies! MitonOptimal are a Retail DFM by definition that pride themselves on providing their adviser clients with peace of mind through their flexible and holistic investment management service offering.