Platforms  

‘The retirement and pensions space is a massive opportunity’

In the post-RDR world, platforms are gaining more prominence, but for Pat Shea, head of FundsNetwork, he is already familiar with this part of the industry.

Although he only took over at FundsNetwork in the UK in 2012, Mr Shea launched the Asian FundsNetwork business while he was managing director of the Taiwanese business at Fidelity in the early 2000s.

“So FundsNetwork is not new to me,” he laughs. “I did that [in Asia] for two-and-a-half-to-three years. Then I landed in the UK in 2005, initially heading up our European operations and client services teams. Then in late 2012 I was asked to assume the helm at FundsNetwork and I said yes literally a month before the RDR went into effect.”

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In his current role he is managing an existing business, while previously he launched a new one.

“We were one of the early movers in the UK with the platform concept in 2000 and we captured a lot of attention and market share. What has been interesting is there have been so many new entrants in the market; one would say arguably too many for the size of the market.”

He adds: “I do question how sustainable that is. A pretty meaningful percentage of platforms is unprofitable, and yes we’ve got through the RDR, but there is more regulatory change on the horizon… [so] I [do] wonder in the long term whether certain types of businesses will have the patience and want to invest in that space.”

Taking control of a major platform at the start of the RDR has been one of the more “interesting” aspects of Mr Shea’s career, although he points out Fidelity has a platform presence in the US, Asia and Europe as well as the UK, and he has “worked in all of those markets in one shape or another in the platform space. So coming to FundsNetwork and supporting the platform business wasn’t at all foreign to me.”

Mr Shea is a career Fidelity staffer, having joined the company out of university in 1986 when his original ambition to be a lawyer fell by the wayside. “I first thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I thought I wanted to be on the investment side. Then I realised I really enjoy working with people, so merging that initial desire to be close to the investment process but applying it to the business seemed to make a lot of sense.”

His first role at the firm was as an accountant, before joining an internal consulting group, which provided exposure to international business, which in turn led to a job offer in Bermuda. “Who would say no to that,” he laughs, “so I set up a treasury and investment compliance oversight function there.”

This was the start of several ‘tours of duty’ with Fidelity. Mr Shea has now been stationed in seven different countries during his tenure at the firm, which has helped to fulfil his love of travelling. “I always wanted to be exposed to new places and different cultures, so I enjoy seeing the different aspects of different cultures. They all have their advantages and disadvantages – for example, Bermuda has gorgeous beaches and is beautiful but quite small. Hong Kong is cosmopolitan, international and one of the financial centres of the world [but] also has a lot of air pollution.”