Driving Ambition: An interview with Liontrust CEO John Ions

In the first of a new video series, Rajan Datar speaks to Liontrust Asset Management's CEO John Ions about some of the key factors behind the company's recent successes.

by Benjamin Davies
Last Updated: 04 Sep 2019

As part of a new video series for FinnCap, journalist Rajan Datar toured the country in an all-electric black cab to interview an array of the UK’s leading business leaders – all selected from FinnCap’s Ambition Nation Listed 50 – to find out what the key factors are behind their success. The first interview was with Liontrust Asset Management CEO, John Ions.

In the ten years since Ions took over, the business has diversified its fund range with acquisitions and new launches and moved from net outflows to net inflows for each consecutive year, but this growth is largely down to simplifying things and trying to "not be too clever" says Ions.

"It's very much on having a clear focus. We refer to it a lot in the business, the relentless pursuit of the basics. To make sure that if we do our day job, day in day out, to the best of our ability, that will give us an edge over everybody else." 

Ions also admits it is Liontrust’s relatively small size that aids the speed and flexibility of its decision-making processes.

"Our size enables us to communicate very well across the business. Take a bigger organisation, if you're a fund manager and you've got £50bn of assets to run, are you a fund manager or are you an administrator? You're saying, ‘How do I deploy this capital in the market without making a mistake?’, at a time when the regulatory pressures and the focus is very much on you not taking risks, so it drives you further and further back towards the index." 

Looking ahead to the future, Ions believes biggest risk for companies is "sleepwalking into failure" and therefore preparation is key.

"The business that I and the management team run has to be a business that is a year ahead of where Liontrust is now. To put it another way, anybody can run Liontrust in the next six months because we know we have strong processes and focus to what we're doing. But very similar to fund management it's the stocks that we pick now that will produce the returns in the future.

"So it's very much about looking at how you position yourself for where the environment's going and where you want to take your business and not to get distracted in that decision-making process." 

Register now

To hear more stories of ambitious growth register now for the Ambition Nation Summit 2019 2 October, 8.30am-11am, London W1.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.

Andrew Strauss: Leadership lessons from an international cricket captain

"It's more important to make the decision right than make the right decision."