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Cartesian Capital trio embark on sales drive after Ignis split

THE trio that owns Edinburgh fund manager Cartesian Capital Partners has embarked on a sales drive on both sides of the Border after completing its separation from previous joint venture partner Ignis Asset Management.

Cartesian has a relatively small £120 million in assets under management after the cutting of ties with Glasgow-based Ignis relieved it of around one-third of its funds, although this was relatively low-margin business.

Andrew Kelly, a partner in the business alongside fellow investment manager Jeremy Hall and company secretary Susan Rafferty, said that the focus during the recent transition period was on retaining clients.

"We made sure that investors were kept up to speed. We got good support from them."

He added: "The vast majority of the third-party money came over."

A key negotiation was ensuring that the firm's funds remained on the investment platforms that are a central part of modern retail financial services.

After completing an 18-month transition in July and hiring Helen Adam, a 23-year veteran of Stewart Ivory, Bankers Trust and RBC as its chief operating officer, the emphasis at Cartesian has now switched to bringing in new investors.

Current clients of the house, which was established in December 2005, include a local authority pension fund and a Scottish life assurer as well as those who have come via wealth managers or private individuals who own direct stakes in its funds.

"We are finally getting around," Mr Kelly said. "We have had meetings with some of the big investors in London. A lot are familiar with us and it is a question of getting back around again."

Cartesian also plans to seek out assets closer to home.

"We need to get access to people in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness. It should be home territory for us," Mr Kelly said. "We are gradually building up that contact structure. It is a priority."

Cartesian runs a UK Opportunities Fund, which is a conventional fund investing UK equities. It has two funds, UK Enhanced Alpha and the UK Absolute Alpha, that can short, or bet against companies their managers think are going to struggle, as well as holding shares in those they think will do well.

Cartesian also runs a mandate for a US institutional investor.

"We are profitable," Mr Kelly said. "The base fees are based on some pretty prudent assumptions."

He added: "Being based in Scotland or not in London is a big help in terms of keeping costs down."

There are performance fees on three of Cartesian's portfolios, which doubled revenues in four of the past seven years.

"Clearly we live or die in delivering our clients good performance," Mr Kelly said. "If you do not do that, you have got a problem. That is fine, it keeps us focused."

The firm, currently based in the capital's Melville Street, is hunting for new premises in anticipation of adding to its current five-strong workforce over the next 18 months.

"We need to evolve," Mr Kelly said.

He added: "We are fired up about owning our own business. We are constantly being approached by people who want to work with us, who get the enthusiasm."

Mr Kelly, like Mr Hall a former staffer at Edinburgh rival SVM, is a strong believer in the strength of the UK economic recovery.

"The UK is a pretty healthy place," he said.

He anticipates growth figures outstripping expectations in the coming months as consumer confidence rises.

But he does believe there could be share price falls in lackluster companies that were swept up in last year's equity market surge.

"I would say the market in aggregate is fairly valued," Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly, a qualified actuary who used to work at insurer Standard Life, said independence would have a muted impact on the company because its funds were registered south of the Border.

But he cautioned that the uncertainty created by the referendum could deter companies making investments in Scotland.

"If you do not have the substantial detail how can you take that decision?" he said.

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