Bill Gleeson Meets ANDY POMFRET: Costs Will Mean Period of Mergers and Acquisitions; Business Editor Bill Gleeson Meets ANDY POMFRET, Chief Executive of Rathbones

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Byline: Bill Gleeson

IT'S a hard act to follow, admits Andy Pomfret. The 44-year-old, recently appointed chief executive of Rathbones is, of course, referring to the fact that he has stepped into the shoes of the post's former incumbent, the ubiquitous Roy Morris.

``We still see plenty of Roy as he is a non-executive director here and he still has a desk in this office. ''

There is, however, one big difference between the new man and his predecessor: Pomfret is primarily based in London.

However, he denies that this amounts to a shift of control of the 250-year Liverpool-based business, even though both the chairman and chief executive are based at the fund management group's New Bond Street offices.

``It won't change our overall strategy, which is to put as much as possible into our Liverpool office.

``We have been putting back office function into Liverpool for the last three or four years and we will continue to do that. We have had to expand our premises here. We have taken a quarter of the floor beneath us. ''

Working one or two days a week in Liverpool, Pomfret is grateful for the air link between City Airport in London's dock lands and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. ``I can leave London at 8. 30pm and be in my Liverpool flat by 10pm. It's not so good the other way as it departs at 6. 30, which I find a bit early.

Pomfret has been with Rathbones for the past five years in the role of finance director. He came to that job from Kleinwort Benson, where, during 13 years, he was in corporate finance, venture capital and, most recently, finance director of the fund management side. He was part of a large-scale exodus from the group when it was acquired by Dresdner. ``There are very few of my colleagues still there, '' says Pomfret.

Looking to the years that lie ahead, the new chief executive foresees a period of mergers and acquisitions in the fund management industry driven by the ever-rising costs of compliance and dealing.

``We expect there to be some consolidation in the private client investment management market. Rensburg and Carr Shepherd is a case in point.

``Its being caused because it's ever more expensive to keep systems up to date with regulation which seems to grow exponentially.

``We would hope to acquire other businesses like ours as we are very focused on what we do. Our fund managers and our staff find that a better environment to work in than a huge conglomerate.

``We can also make sure that all our systems work properly for our clients. Take capital gains tax, for example. Our CGT system is designed for the private client market. Whereas the big firms have CGT systems more suited to their institutional clients.

``There are a lot of people in this industry with big system issues. Some want to outsource or insource, but they have old systems. We have kept up to date.

``We could put 30% more volume through our system with just 10% more spending on our IT. Things like that are driving consolidation. So we see ourselves as a consolidator, but I'm not so naive to say that we won't be consolidated. I hope it won't, but you can never promise.

``About 30% of our shares are owned by staff and their families, so it would be difficult to buy us in an aggressive way. …