When Nick Ring left the office of Threadneedle Investments on his last day in 2015, little did he know that he would return four years later as chief executive of its European business.
The 56-year-old joined Threadneedle in October 2008 as head of product, leading the company to a global role following its merger with sister company Columbia Management in 2015.
Despite being successful working in asset management the first time around, moving up the career ladder meant Ring traveled more than he would have liked.
“I’ve always put family first,” says the father of three. “In 2015, the balance sheet was incorrect. I was running a team in Boston and traveling a lot. For my kids, it really didn’t work. We had a family discussion and I decided to take a step back.”
Ring decided to move to Jupiter in 2015 to become its head of global distribution, a role that, despite its name, did not have the remit to oversee a team outside the UK. “Instantly, that drag on my time and that force of having to get on planes wasn’t there,” he says.
Ring spent four years at Jupiter, but admits he missed certain cultural aspects of his former employer.
“When you look at active investment management, it can attract different types of characters,” he says, asserting that Columbia Threadneedle has a “very low ego” as asset management firms. “I missed that. I’ve found it in other places in my career, but I took it for granted.”
Ring says a new guard coming into Jupiter in the form of Andrew Formica, who became chief executive of the listed asset manager in 2019, was the “catalyst” for him to consider moving on. It wasn’t long before Columbia Threadneedle boss Ted Truscott got on the phone to ask Ring if she’d consider applying for the Emea job, after then-incumbent Michelle Scrimgeour announced she was leaving to run legal management and general of investments.
TO READ Jupiter CEO Andrew Formica is stepping down
By the time Ring joined the company, Columbia Threadneedle had developed several new capabilities, notably solutions and an independent investment advisory function to assist its fund managers. But a strategic review initiated by Ring during his first 90 days in the role identified areas where the business could improve, such as strengthening its responsible investment offering and making more alternatives. The development of responsibility-based investment and fiduciary management expertise was also a key focus.
The answer came in the form of a £615m deal to acquire Emea’s asset management business from Bank of Montreal, which would not only fill some of the gaps identified by Ring, but also add £120bn dollars to the amount that Columbia Threadneedle handles throughout the region. .
“When the BMO opportunity came up, it felt like the perfect fit,” says Ring. But he is keen to stress that he has no ambitions to become a serial acquirer, saying the BMO deal worked because it was about meeting the needs of clients, rather than trying to please shareholders.
“If you look at some of the other mergers and acquisitions that have taken place in the UK over the last five years, I would wonder if that was the catalyst,” he says, careful not to mention any of his rivals by name.
Ring returned to Columbia Threadneedle with a strong understanding of its business and culture, but the onset of the Covid pandemic six months after taking the top job led to some lasting changes. It’s hard to imagine Ring was easily upset, but he admits he had a sleepless night the day before the company shifted its entire workforce to remote work in March 2020.
“I was anxious, but not because I was worried about our staff, even though we were all wondering what the hell was going on with our world. I was worried about the technology, the infrastructure and our ability to execute everything at the level we set ourselves. And of course, like everyone else, we coped,” he says.
Like other City asset managers, Columbia Threadneedle has launched a hybrid working model, requiring its London staff of around 1,100 to be in the office at least three days a week. Ring says the vast majority have come back to engage with their peers in person.
“There was a hesitation [about coming back] — Many people were nervous and we continue to support people who have specific problems. But once we got to critical mass, there was what my kids call FOMO, a fear of missing out, and that’s become a bit of a thing.”
It’s clear that the grueling work schedule Ring endured early in his career has taken its toll and he’s keen to lead by example in conveying the importance of a good work-life balance to staff.
“Even for someone like me, when you’re on vacation, you’re on vacation,” Ring says. “There are times when I simply won’t be available for a call. If there’s something that’s absolutely time-critical and can only be resolved through my engagement, that’s fine. But otherwise, don’t send emails , don’t look at emails.”
Part of the change in working practices is vital for the industry to attract and retain the next generation of talent, says Ring. “The DNA of people joining our industry is different than it used to be. If you asked me back in 1987 when I started how many entrepreneurs do you think I would have in my career, I probably would have said two or three . Now, someone coming out of college couldn’t answer that. That means we have to answer and reflect what’s important to our workforce.”
Ring is keen to advocate for active stock selectors.
“The reality is that not every active manager will outperform all the time,” he says. “It’s not just about performance. Now people are thinking about the integration of reports, especially at the institutional level. Given the uncertainties in the world and the enduring importance of ESG, and looking to make that difference and allocate capital to support the transition to net zero, this presents an opportunity for active managers.”
Law, University of Reading
CEO, Emea, Columbia Threadneedle
Global Head of Distribution, Jupiter Asset Management
Global Head of Product, Columbia Threadneedle
Various roles, product and distribution, Threadneedle
Various papers, Northern Trust
Executive Consultant, KPMG
Product and Strategy Development, Gartmore Investment Management
To contact the author of this story with comments or news, please email David Ricketts