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Wealth Manager: Close CIO Curtin on the company's response to RDR

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by James Phillipps on Jun 07, 2012 at 00:01

From eyeing up private equity deals in the former East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall to chasing investment opportunities in post-Soviet Siberia, Close Brothers Asset Management’s intrepid Nancy Curtin has pretty much seen it all.

Indeed, it is safe to say that very few chief investment officers have the sheer breadth of experience working across multiple asset classes that she brings to the table.

After starting out in her native America as a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley, she later moved across to Credit Suisse First Boston in New York.

But after repeatedly being asked by people where they should invest their money – ‘at the time I was doing IPOs, swaps and the like, so I was restricted on talking about it’ – she decided to move over to the buy side.

This led her to join Rho Asset Management, a family office, where she was a senior portfolio manager running assets across a number of strategies. As the family was German, everything had to be hedged into Deutsche Marks, which she says gave everyone there an insight into the currency markets and in turn made her think far more about the bigger macro picture. But political events across the Atlantic were soon to give her a more hands-on insight to that bigger picture.

‘When the Berlin Wall came down, the chairman came in and said we must go and take a look,’ she says. ‘He said we should invest in private equity in East Germany because there are all these companies that need finance.

‘I moved to Berlin and was riding round East Germany with a translator, saying “I want to invest in your business”, they probably thought I was from Mars.’

In the end, it did not work out. The reunification saw the Deutsche Mark adopted by the East but at a very uncompetitive 1:1 exchange rate with the East German currency, a move that made valuations unattractive.

Instead, Curtin ventured further east, striking up private equity deals in Poland, Hungary and what was then Czechoslovakia, which were all also opening up to outside investors.

A move to Baring Asset Management saw her continue in a similar role, until ‘the stock markets came and everything went up, which was kinda cool’.

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