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KATHERINE GARRETT-COX

Katherine Garrett-Cox is back in the spot-light with Aberdeen Asset Management&#39s recent £150m acquisition of Glasgow-based fund manager Murray Johnstone.

Aberdeen is strengthening its position North of the border but Garrett-Cox will be staying in London – the source of so much high-profile strife when Scottish Widows Investment Partnership was formed and Garrett-Cox left with her entire US equities team.

Garrett-Cox was one of Hill Samuel&#39s star managers, heading the US equities team managing funds of £3.9bn. She left when it was merged to form Swip and the joint operation was relocated to Scottish Widows&#39 headquarters in Edinburgh. Around 30 top managers left Hill Samuel, including top-performing European fund manager Albert Morillo.

Garrett-Cox had been at Hill Samuel for seven years and says she was due for a change of scene. She says: “There were a variety of reasons for leaving Hill Samuel. My husband has a very good job in the City, which made things more complicated.

“But I also did not really buy into what Swip wanted to achieve. I want to work for a company where asset management is its prime focus. That was never going to be the case at Swip.”

Garrett-Cox joined Aberdeen Asset Management in September. The company runs most of its funds thr-ough London.

It used to manage all its US funds through parent company US insurer Phoenix. Garrett-Cox was headhunted to realign the US funds to Aberdeen. She is now responsible for all of Aberdeen&#39s North American equity investments, including unit trusts, offshore funds and segregated pensions and life fund assets.

But her ongoing project is to steer the Global Champions fund which was launched in August. The fund is thematic, covering sectors such as healthcare, technology, media, and telecoms with a strong US content. Garrett-Cox has been on an extensive marketing campaign, which is an aspect of the job she says she really enjoys.

She says: “It is fun to meet the investors. It can be quite challenging because they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. But I think they really appreciate meeting managers face to face.”

Garrett-Cox&#39s main focus is to improve the performance of Aberdeen&#39s US funds. She says: “It is being kind to say it has been grim. To turn their performance around is my bigg-est challenge and I will needa few months before we see a change. But I know what I am capable of. I have been hired to turn around US performance and that is what I will do.”

Garrett-Cox says she fell into the profession more by accident than design. She left Durham University in 1989 with very little idea of what she wanted to do and went for interviews at various businesses. But what took her interest most strongly was an interview at Fidelity and she began her career in asset management as assistant to a fund manager.

She began to realise it would take a long time before she would get her hands on any money to manage so she left to join Norwegian insurer UNI Storebrand where she managed American life funds. From there, she moved to Hill Samuel and says she had a baptism of fire, having to turn dull retail products into exciting, dynamic plans.

Since moving into the US sector, she has not wanted to change. She says: “If you consolidate your position and get to know the companies involved, you have a huge advantage.”

So what keeps her interest in the US going? “There is no language barrier. Well, not in most parts. The people are very outgoing and enthusiastic and it is enormously rewarding. There are not many markets where you get the range and depth of companies that you do in the States and most of them have an entrepreneurial nature.”

Garrett-Cox is clear which side of the fence she sits on with regard to fund managers. She says: “I am a huge advocate of following the fund manager, as are my clients.”

Her own outstanding performance figures has earned Garrett-Cox the nickname Katherine the Great. But this sort of attention does have its effects. She says: “I am mortified by it. I am not a natural attention-seeker. You have to have an image as a fund manager but I don&#39t like it when it spirals out of control.”

Fund management remains a male-dominated industry but Garrett-Cox says she has not encountered problems on this issue.

She says: “I have never exp-erienced any problems as a woman in the industry. The great thing about fund man agement is that it is a meritocracy.”

Moving to Aberdeen Asset Management has been a breath of fresh air for Garrett-Cox. She says: “I have never worked so hard but I have not enjoyed myself so muchfor years.”

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