This week I headed to Bristol, battled through driving storms and turned up, completely sodden, at Bordeaux Quay, writes Anna Dumas. Here I dried off over a long lunch with Pamela Reid, executive director and branch manager at Quilter Cheviot.
I had discovered earlier that the restaurant, situated on the edge of the docks, is the only eatery in the city to have received the top award for all-round sustainability. As I eyed the menu – wild boar salami, wild venison ragu – I wondered about the criteria for this accolade. Though tempted by the idea of a selection of exotic animal meats, I opted instead for the mackerel pâté, only to be trumped by Reid, who promptly ordered the boar. Tucking in, we discussed new initiatives, branch management and how a degree in zoology can stand you in good stead as a portfolio analyst.
‘Science is very deductive,’ she told me, of her university course. ‘You conduct a series of experiments that lead you to a certain conclusion, and the more thorough you have been in your process, the stronger the conclusion. It’s a discipline that can be easily applied to portfolio analysis.’
Being decisive, she maintained, is a direct result of this training, and is one of the most important attributes for an investor to possess.
‘Every time you look at a portfolio you are making the decision to buy, sell or hold. You need to have confidence to do that. If you never make a decision, you’ve got nothing to defend. Even if you’ve looked at a portfolio once a week for a year and done nothing with it, that should still mean that you’ve made 52 decisions.’
The second most important aspect of her degree course involved an understanding of the interconnectedness of ecosystems – something the Bank of England decided, after the financial crisis, might useful for economists.
Reid, who describes her role as having ‘morphed and expanded into quite a few areas’, is responsible for generating new business ideas for the firm, a process that demands the ability to take a macro view.
‘The key aspect of considering new business ideas is analysing how their implementation might affect the business as a whole. You need a strong grasp of all of the moving parts of the company to be able to effectively consider the risks a new directive could pose.
‘At the moment, for example, we are looking at the possibility of tapping into a new client base – Tier One Visa applicants – and as with any new stream of business, there are certain risks involved, so we are looking carefully at those.’
Trying not to be distracted by the giant steaming bowl of wild venison ragu drifting towards me, I asked how she combined the above with her role as branch manager.
‘It’s a fairly light touch style of management. I see myself as the clucking hen keeping the brood in check,’ she said, adding, however, that she made it a priority to meet all of the fund managers who they invest in.
‘I do like to meet the managers. It’s in person that you can find out whether they are quasi trackers or are they really using their alpha side.’
More important, she said, is that managers don’t change their spots.
‘You need to make sure they are doing what they say they are doing. When you use a fund in private client portfolios it will have a very specific positioning and should work in clear conjunction with the other parts of the portfolio.
‘If they alter their process even slightly the balance changes and you need to readdress, so consistency of style can be just as important as consistency of returns.’