Walking in past what is essentially a washing line of stuffed game birds, rabbits, hares and stags’ heads, The Jugged Hare in the Barbican is simultaneously a taxidermist’s and a carnivore’s dream, writes Suzie Bliss.
So, it suited me just fine. Only joking, I’d hardly consider myself a carnivore…
The venue was the choice of self-confessed foodie Laura Hobbs, investment analyst at Saunderson House. Not to be put off by the immortalised animals, I trusted that Hobbs’ venue choice would provide us with a good lunch, and that it did.
Saunderson House has historically always been entirely advisory, however, last year it launched a discretionary offering.
‘[The discretionary service] has grown a lot faster that we thought it would,’ she said.
Currently the firm oversees around £5 billion in client assets. All asset allocation and fund selection decisions are made by the large, 10-strong investment team, led by Chris Sexton.
Hobbs is the newest member of the research team, joining nearly two years ago. Quite a few of the team have been at Saunderson for over 10 years. Head of research, Andrew Birt, tops the chart amassing a 15-year tenure, having joined the firm as a graduate.
We quickly got down to the real business – deciphering the menu that alongside meaty classics, also proffered dishes fully adhering to the phrase ‘nose to tail’. This included dishes of braised pig’s jowl, game offal bomb, venison haunch steak – all of which had the option of being doused in a rich, bone marrow gravy. This part of the menu really was swimming out of our depth.
Hobbs is no stranger to tackling unchartered waters. Starting her career in the investment industry was a bit like diving head first from the 10-metre board. Having graduated with a degree in geography from Bristol University, she had no financial background when she accepted a job at an energy trading desk.
‘I was thrown in at the deep end but it gave me a different perception on the role. It was a steep learning curve. It helped me realise that I liked working with people and liked markets,’ she told me.
After two years in that position she decided it was ‘a bit too niche’ for her and moved to Barclays Wealth & Investment Management to become a discretionary portfolio manager. Within three years there she was managing a book of £250 million and was on the Wealth team’s fund selection committee.
At this point a waiter came to take our order, perhaps because we looked more than somewhat bemused by parts of the menu, he kindly dispelled some of our quandaries. On discovering what the infamous jugged hare actually was – a traditional stew of hare served quite literally in a jug – we decided it sounded delicious and ordered it to share.
Each analyst at Saunderson is given two specialist sectors and Hobbs’ focus is on US and Japanese equities, and she also looks at ethical fund research.
Sitting in a very British pub we could not be further away from Japan, but that is not to say the sector is not whetting Hobbs’ investment appetite.
‘There is a fantastic domestic story, with Tokyo the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games. We believe that, after many false starts, we are really starting to see change in Japan. From an investor’s perspective, corporate governance seems to be improving quite rapidly,’ she explained.
Hobbs thinks current valuations in Japan look reasonable following a period at the beginning of the year when it was undervalued and then rallied in March.
Saunderson House currently holds an overweight position in Japan. After I had happily polished off some venison faggots before making a valiant headway into the steaming jug of hearty stew and side of buttery mash, I thought that it would not be long until I’m overweight too.