(Pictured above: Eleanor Mahmoud, far left, Samantha Owen, middle left, Alex Foster, middle right and Craig Brown, far right)
This week’s pub club found Eleanor and myself gout and about in Bury St Edmunds with Samantha Owen and Craig Brown, portfolio managers for Beckett Asset Management. Yes, you did read that correctly. Though a disease more common with the middle-ages than today, as Brown points out, these lavish working lunches can have a lasting effect on oneself if not undertaken with a healthy approach. This is a mind-set which Brown and Owen take into every aspect of their work too, writes Alex Foster.
Owen and Brown’s route into their positions today could not have been more different. Owen joined Beckett Asset Management (BAM) 19 years ago, blissful in the immediate locality of the office in the East of England, where she was born and bred. Alternatively Brown built his experience at Barclays and Citi Bank in London, before joining BAM in 2015. Despite their varied backgrounds in the industry, this army of two evidently have a fantastic cohesion.
‘We’re a pretty efficient pair,’ says Brown. ‘We do a lot of writing and I’m good at getting everything down on paper, whereas Sam is good at editing, which is important as given free reign I would end up writing endless detail every month.’
Being such a small team, I am keen to understand how they manage so many clients between just the two of them. ‘The vast majority of clients go into one of our models,’ states Owen. ‘We’ve largely moved towards a model approach, which we like because of scalability.’
I wonder if there is room for expansion in regard to adding further models, to which Brown replies: ‘We’re really excited to be launching a new portfolio soon, created especially for clients who want to take more risk. It’s long only equities, will be fully invested and largely thematic.’
‘After the launch of the new model strategy, we will have five models investing across the risk spectrum, plus our social impact portfolio.’
As the food arrives – monkfish, seabass, risotto and chicken salad – Owen begins to unpick how their social impact portfolio has grown.
‘The social impact portfolio has been largely client driven so far, but we are really hoping this type of investing becomes mainstream,’ Owen explains. ‘We’re very pleased that we now have over £8 million invested in the strategy seeing as we started it from scratch in late 2015.’
With an ever-increasing number of DFMs integrating ESG criteria into their portfolios, I’m keen to know what really sets their commitment to ethical strategies apart.
Brown says: ‘Firstly, we’re not interested in the managers who just remove two stocks from the fund and rename it ethical, we look for managers who have ethical and sustainable investment at the core of their process.
Secondly, our USP here is that we actually define what we mean by social impact. One of the biggest blocks to this type of investing is the subjective nature and range of definitions; we tell clients our definition of the portfolio and they can decide whether it’s right for them.’
Owen expresses further how their commitment to ESG criteria is not limited to just the social impact portfolio. ‘We have done a lot of work to dispel the myths around returns and sustainability being mutually exclusive,’ remarks Owen. ‘It makes a lot of sense to invest sustainably. We see it providing a trajectory for long term growth.’
As coffees arrive, Owen leaves us with one final comment: ‘We believe it is beneficial to get over the compartmentalisation of ethical and mainstream investing and realising that there are plenty of ethical funds that fit into mainstream portfolios.’
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‘Oil price increases – the concern is how this begins to impact consumers, global trade and therefore global growth. Increased tension in the Middle East does nothing to help this.’
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‘The Fed’s “symmetric inflation objective” – this provides comfort that the Fed won’t be hiking rates too aggressively, which should be helpful for risk assets in the near term.’
Contact Alex on email@example.com if you fancy showing us your favourite lunch spot - pub or otherwise!