That is because he had over 600 meetings in the UK last year drumming up business for this young boutique investment house which has already built up over £125m in assets under management.
“This figure puts us into the pack of the discretionary fund managers. Then if we get to £200m plus at the end of this year, we are knocking at the door of the biggest guys on the Isle of Man in terms of private client wealth.”
He and his investment director Glen Cochrane, who is on International Adviser’s intermediary panel, have great aspirations for the Isle of Man as a wealth management centre that competes for business with the same credentials as the Channel Islands and mainland UK. This duo has already built up two businesses together, one from a start-up position, so their words do have resonance.
Their approach chimes with new initiatives from the Isle of Man’s latest chief minister, Alan Bell, who Greenwood says he sees very much as a like-minded businessman.
Highly symbolic is Bell’s plan to build at the island’s airport a new private jet terminal, which Greenwood says currently comprises land at one of the old hangars and a 20-year-old jeep to convey people to and from there.
“It has divided opinion because some people who are not party to the business community see it as pandering to the wealthy.”
A lack of available upmarket property or building plots due to the island’s protective planning regime is another known deter¬rent.
However, Greenwood anticipates in the future more “accessibility in planning” while arguing there is no shortage of space and done in the right way a deal could be struck to satisfy the local Manx man’s wish to build on a level playing field.
Creechurch’s head office in Douglas, a short saunter from the government minister’s building, fits perfectly with the image Greenwood is conjuring up. Refurbished about 18 months ago, it was on the verge of being condemned before local tradesman transformed it into a very plush affair with deep pile carpet, solid wood panelling, and beautiful office views of the Irish sea. There are also company suites in London’s Mayfair and Manchester.
Given his views it is perhaps not surprising that Greenwood has roots in Yorkshire and his father was a builder. But he was schooled on the island and started his career with Natwest, which became Coutts, where he worked for eight years.
Fast forward to January last year when the full team of ten came together at Creechurch, having been licensed in the previous year. A small number of clients found them, to the value of £25m, but the rest came from the sheer hard work of numerous face-to-face meetings.
All clients need to have investable assets of at least £500,000 and Greenwood gives an example of someone working in the City of London, introduced through a professional connection tax consultant, who has around £4m in a variety of structures including a qualifying non UK pension scheme (QNUP) and self invested personal pension (Sipp). Having gone to the big players and offered uninspiring off-the-shelf solutions, he turned to Creechurch, looking for something a little different.
“We simplify the structure and go out of our way to make the process very smooth, because these are very busy guys. What one client once said to me was he was a wealthy guy, but he wanted to be treated like a very wealthy person. We do service on a high personal level.”
Attention to quality
There is good evidence of joined-up thinking in Creechurch’s attention to quality marketing and literature, making use of fine detail photos of the glorious peacock bird and its multi-coloured feathers.
A piece of high end sponsorship also sees the Creechurch name appearing on the helmet and car of one of the drivers in the Porsche championship that supports the British touring cars this year. That gives Greenwood an opportunity to go and see all the motorsport events at such venues as Brands Hatch from the clubbable atmosphere of the Porsche enclosure.
Greenwood departs for another of his many meetings as Cochrane explains how he moved to the Isle of Man from Northern Ireland, aged 13, jesting that he is slightly disowned by his family for his lack of emerald-isle accent.
“I think they wanted a fresh start. My father had a business in Northern Ireland and he had lived through a lot of the troubles there – he wanted something better for the family. You have to be a bit guarded growing up in an environment like that.”
On the career front, he had no desire to get into financial services but the dealing room interested him and he found opportunity to learn the business at Coutts.
Their paths first converged when Greenwood was setting up the Isle of Man’s Jardine Matheson business and Cochrane applied to get involved. This therefore marked the beginning of their combined skill set in creating a fresh idea and bringing it to market.
“Creechurch is our third reincarnation in trying to build a financial institution. Jardine Matheson was from zero and we had some good success there. Thomas Miller was a different animal – their main business is managing the assets of mutual insurance companies – with an existing core of investment professionals, very institutional minded.”
The twist with Creechurch, majority owned by an Isle of Man businessman, Douglas Barrowman, is to get back to an old fashioned personal approach akin to that of Coutts but also keen to marry up some modern investment techniques.
Cochrane designs the investment strategy, describing himself as someone who challenges the consensus opinion with evident keenness in having a team around him who are made up of differing investment views.
The approach is core satellite and top down, so the focus is on the macro picture and score cards for the asset classes to determine the positives and negatives.
“We are risk-averse because historically we have run institutional mandates. We are minded to be conservative but when we have conviction on a trade we will stick by that.”
Not only that, as new entrants to the investment market, the wish to take the fear away from investors was reinforced by setting up a custodial relationship with RBC Guernsey, one of the largest fund custodians in the Channel Islands.
Cochrane conducted a beauty parade prior to appointing them and he was impressed that on a number of counts, including credit rating and liquidity, RBC came out as one of the safest organisations for client money.
“The client contracts directly with them and if they don’t like us they can say goodbye, and our investment management agreement can be severed but their account stays there.” He says this model is similar to how it works in Europe where investment management firms do not own assets as such.
Geographically, the intention is always to have Creechurch’s headquarters in the Isle of Man performing the function of an engine room, but with the client activity focused on the UK and in time, other parts of the world such as the Far East.
The next exciting salvo is an application for FSA authorisation, currently in the pipeline, to enable Creechurch to market portfolio management to UK based advisers who are currently battling with the RDR and considering options for outsourcing the investment side of the business.
Greenwood highlights how this initiative will open doors onto wrap platforms such as Transact and Ascentric, where UK permissions are required, while Cochrane concludes: “We believe there is a huge opportunity in the UK once we have that licence to market in the UK and to build that business out.”