I must admit, when Sarasin & Partners’ Jamie Fletcher suggested meeting at Shaws Booksellers I did momentarily question whether he had gotten the wrong end of the stick, writes Steve Plowman.
That thought quickly passed (after a quick Google search) and upon arrival, I was pleased to find Fletcher strolling into the entrance of a pub, not a book store, and we sat down to enjoy some lunch.
Fletcher, 27, has spent a decade at Sarasin having decided that he would be better served jumping head first into the world of wealth management rather than pursue academic interests at university.
‘It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision not to go to university, it was more that an opportunity came up and I decided I wanted to go for it,’ Fletcher explains.
He continues, ‘I did some work experience at Sarasin when I was 17, and after that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in investment. I then joined the company straight from sixth form, and have been here ever since! I was originally in settlements but always had an interest in investments, so I completed my IMC. Eventually I got the chance to move over to a project team that was working on a new portfolio management system, and started my CFA at the same time.’
Fletcher, who has twice been named in Wealth Manager’s Top 100 fund selectors feature, analyses the menu as if it were about to be placed on Sarasin’s buy list before eventually deciding on the salt beef sandwich. I follow suit and I am keen to get to grips with the firm’s fund selection process.
‘Every decision we make on the fund selection team is made as a team,’ he says.
‘We use a process we call ‘devil’s advocate’, which is a meeting we have to go through if we want to add a fund to the buy list. For example, I will have to present my case to the team, whose job it is to basically rip me to shreds, without hurting my feelings too much!’
Playing devil’s advocate myself, I ask Fletcher if it can be difficult to accept such criticism of work which he has invested so much time in.
‘We all work as generalists, which is really helpful in terms of being able to work well as a team and especially to challenge each other. When someone has their own field of expertise then you are more inclined to take their word for something.’
He continues: ‘I have recently looked at emerging market equities and CTA’s – so completely different things and it definitely keeps it interesting.’
As we finish our salt beef sandwiches (they were superb, if you were wondering) I ask my host which funds are really exciting him at the moment.
‘We are thinking quite carefully about styles within our equity exposure at the moment. Within our fund of funds we are quite heavily tilted towards value and this worked really well towards the end of last year. One of the funds is JB Euroland, which is a concentrated value European equity fund, which outperformed the index by 22% last quarter.‘It can be a difficult conversation, because we are in a context of value underperforming for about the last seven years, and it can be scary when something works so well!’