Vital though it is, is there is more to being a good manager than simply getting more decisions right than wrong more often than others?
At a time when the modern investor is likely to trust an internet company more than a financial services firm, generating a genuine feeling of trust is vital to creating a connection. This is particularly true for retail fund managers. Too often most fund managers appear like clones of one another. Over prepared and underwhelming.
It is not unreasonable to imagine many investors almost forget there is a human manager behind their funds. This is likely most true for regular ‘retail’ investors who rarely meet with the people managing their funds. To come out from behind formulaic, jargon-rich responses to explain a testing period and, in doing so, explaining openly and clearly the investment process goes miles to (re) building trust.
There’s little excuse for fund managers not doing this in today’s digitally diverse world. Whether it be good written and relevant communication perhaps backed up by video and other social media, the modern investor expects to hear from the person directly managing their money, not some proxy.
Nevertheless, the length of track record remains important. Adrian Lowcock of Axa Wealth, made this point to Trustnet magazine recently. He advises investors to look beyond the fund to the manager’s long-term performance and how consistently they have performed throughout their career. “Look at when their best performance was delivered. Some managers have a couple of good years early in their career, which you find driving their track record for a long time afterwards,” he says.
Ultimately their performance will out. Back this up with good communication and marketing and you can create a winning formula. But let’s not forget that past performance is not a guide to future performance.
David Brent, general manager of Wernham-Hogg paper merchants might have said, “there’s no ‘I’ in fund manager. Though many do act as if there’s a ‘me’ if you look carefully.” However, the investment team, operational, legal, sales, marketing and other business support behind the manager play a big part in the making of a good manager. If a manager can trust in, and acknowledge, the support crew to enable him or her to manage the fund, then they will remain focused and motivated.
In the Trustnet article Mark Dampier, head of research at Hargreaves Lansdown, acknowledged that the best ones will generally be supported by the best investment houses, which give them space to express their ideas. “Like the best heart surgeons, who will have done hundreds of operations, the best fund managers will be the most experienced. Like surgeons, they will display individual flair, but ultimately work by sharing ideas.”
Let it not go unsaid though, the best surgeons cannot do their job without the support of a much bigger team of doctors, nurses and other support staff.
Throwing in a bit of honest and relevant communication, and even humility if needed, can go a long way to make good, great.
“Mr Tulloch has been a towering presence in the Asian markets for many years and in recent times his inherently cautious approach has served investors well, with the firm’s performance eclipsing his key rivals at Aberdeen. "Manager changes should always prompt investors to reflect on whether they need to revaluate the case for holding a fund, but there is no need for a knee jerk reaction. In this case the firm has set out a long transition period and it is important to bear in mind that Tulloch will remain a member of the team, so isn’t disappearing into the sunset. The team-based approach and strong record of David Gait provides a high degree of comfort."