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Stellar Asset Management strengthens AIM service through senior hires and bringing fund management in-house


Stellar Asset Management, an inheritance tax and estate planning specialist asset manager, has expanded its AIM service. As part of the expansion, Stellar has appointed fund manager Stephen English as its inaugural in-house AIM fund manager, hired AIM portfolio manager Phil Kirwan and established its first office outside of London. English joins Stellar from Blankstone Sington, a Liverpool-based stockbroker and investment manager. At Blankstone Sington, English managed the firm’s award-winning AIM IHT service since it was established in 2010. He was responsible for delivering a net return of 179 per cent since the portfolio’s inception, delivering higher upside with lower volatility over the long-term against the peer group. Kirwan also joins from Blankstone Sington, where he was a portfolio manager for the AIM IHT portfolio, supporting Stephen. 

With English and Kirwan onboard, Stellar will be bringing all of its AIM stock-picking and portfolio management in-house and ending its existing outsourced model. This will enable Stellar to have total control over the end-to-end investment process and provide consistent performance at good value for clients. 

Jonathan Gain, CEO of Stellar, says: “Since I established Stellar in 2007, we have built a successful business, grown assets under management year on year and deepened our focus on the IHT space. But, we now see a tremendous opportunity to push on even further when it comes to the AIM market. It has long been our desire to bring our AIM fund management in-house, to allow us to have greater control and widen our service for clients. 

“We wanted to find a fund manager who would bring ingenuity, intelligence and insight, and Stephen is just that person. He has a well-defined philosophy and he is excellent at articulating his vision, which was an important factor to a transparency-focused firm like Stellar. Alongside Stephen’s appointment we have big plans for product innovation and adding further platforms to our distribution capabilities, as we strive for pre-eminence in the AIM IHT market.”

English says: “When you’re at one firm for 18 years, as I was, it is an incredibly difficult decision moving on. But I have been quietly impressed at Stellar’s performance and growth as a spectator over the years. Several things truly appealed to me: the dynamism and heritage of the firm, the blend of energy and experience it has cultivated and the quality of people. 

“I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to bring the service in-house at Stellar and add value for clients. The AIM market is the ultimate stock-pickers market and with two decades of stockbroking heritage, that is very much in my DNA. In my view, much of the large cap proportion of the AIM market is replete with yesterday’s darlings and we will be focusing on finding tomorrow’s winners amongst the smaller capitalised stocks.”

Under English’s leadership, the expanded AIM IHT service will be capped at approximately GBP200 million to give Stellar the unconstrained ability to choose any AIM stocks, to maintain investment performance integrity and ultimately maximise client returns. 

English and Kirwan’s appointments also represent the opening of Stellar’s first non-London office, in Liverpool. Stellar believes that there are many advantages to be had from a presence outside of London in the AIM market, including having the Northern Powerhouse and its local companies on the doorstep. Stellar has also recruited John Fearon, a senior business development manager who will be able to support financial advisers in the North West.

In conjunction with its AIM-focused expansion, Stellar is currently in the process of adding to the number of platforms its portfolios are available on. It recently went live on the Kuber Ventures platform, adding to its existing availability on the Standard Life and Transact platforms, both of which it was the first AIM IHT asset manager to be listed on. Stellar is hoping to add two further platforms in order to provide Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) maximum choice in their interactions with the firm. 

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