Financial services is a sector in constant flux, but few have been as buffeted by the changes in recent years than Martin Jennings, chief executive at Parmenion.
Jennings joined the platform and discretionary fund manager provider when it was part of Aberdeen, a FTSE 100 company, and was there when it became part of the even more complex Standard Life Aberdeen, before being sold to a combination of private equity and AssetCo, the wealth management consolidator founded by Martin Gilbert, formerly of the Scottish fund manager.
Jennings is also one of the last men standing from the earlier age of platforms; he did not found Parmenion but was an early employee of Axa when the wrap platform was created; most of those around in the earliest iterations of the platform universe have moved to retirement or pastures new.
Of the changing shape of the ownership of Parmenion, he acknowledges that being part of the Aberdeen Standard Life group that owns two other platforms was sometimes restricting, as his outfit “had to fit within the wider strategy of the group”.
He adds that many of Parmenion’s clients “asked us to do stuff, and we were unable to do it because it would be clashing with Wrap and Elevate platforms; now they were very good shareholders in other ways, but as an independent entity, we can [now] do those things”.
Some platform people are evangelists for technology and for the future. The newfound freedom has hardly gone to Jennings' head though; he says there will not be a dramatic shift away from the core services – the focus will remain on “doing what clients ask us to do”.
And among the things he has no interest in doing is “competing on price” or fighting against the rising tide of white-label platforms.
But he does give some hint as to where he sees growth by remarking that under the previous ownership, Parmenion was viewed more as a discretionary fund management solution, and less as a platform for advice firms.
He wants this to change, and his background is very much on the platform side of that line.
Jennings says his firm is in robust financial health, and despite the tough market conditions he says: “We don’t need to cut costs now. Our teams are all trained in multiple areas of the company’s operations.
"So right now, for much of the industry, and for us, it may be that there isn’t that much new business around, but if we need to we can move the new business team to other parts of the business.
"Higher interest rates and the rising cost of money impact everyone in financial services, but it may be that the biggest problems will be faced by the unprofitable recent entrants into the market.