Ex-Arlington men Howie and Speedie set up Keills with £80m of assets

Noble, the Edinburgh-based boutique investment bank, has sold its property fund management arm to its managers.

Alan Howie and Andy Speedie, who left Arlington Property Investors to join Noble Fund Managers in July 2005, have set up Keills in Glasgow to carry out the buyout.

They are taking £80m of existing assets under management in four funds, most of which are in the Keills Property Trust – an opportunistic exempt property unit trust, which is 70% geared and focused on refurbished Town Centre offices.

The investors in the fund are private investors – including Howie and Speedie – investing through SIPPs (self-invested personal pensions) and SSASs (small self-administered schemes), and tax-exempt institutions.

We see this as an opportunity to provide continuity to all existing clients who are looking to us to guide them through the current market turmoil,’ said Howie.

‘There is a real advantage of being completely aligned with our clients and we believe value opportunities will present themselves for investment in the short term.

‘This is the third property recession that I have worked through and this experience allows us to remain focused, while others around us find themselves in a state of shock.’

Howie said he was ‘very ambitious’ for Keills and plans to grow assets under management to £1bn in two years by bringing one or more strategic investors into the business to allow Keills to launch new products.

‘It sounds like a crazy statement to make in the current climate, but the backing we have from several very large investors makes it very plausible,’ he said.

‘In terms of new products, we would not be reliant on bank funding. We are speaking directly to sovereign wealth funds about the possibility of investment. While they sometimes use debt, if the ideas are interesting enough, then they might use all equity.’

Henry Chaplin, CEO of Noble Fund Managers, said the property fund management arm was ‘not core’ to Noble.

He said the decision to sell was largely because of the downturn in the property market and ‘an expectation that business growth would be slow’.

Noble is focusing its fund management activities on funding and investing in small and medium-sized enterprises through a combination of mezzanine and equity products.