Mike Pinggera leapt at a move to Insight as the firm’s head of multi-asset group once he saw the platform and distribution resources the firm had to offer. He says: “Insight is a huge and successful investment manager and I was at its head office at the centre of the universe rather than at the satellite of an international bank. It was a great set-up and, as a fund manager, the level of support and distribution is exactly what I wanted.”
He took on the role in January 2009 after spending his entire 20-year-career with Credit Suisse. He joined Credit Suisse Buckmaster & Moore in 1989 and after a few months “milling around” ended up on the international sales desk.
“Working on an equity sales desk now is completely different to what it was 20 years ago in that we were expected to come in each morning as a team and were expected to generate research and ideas every day. That is a great learning discipline when your boss asks you to come up with an idea. It teaches you to look for them everywhere.”
Pinggera says a good example of spotting ideas was when his boss came in one morning and told his staff the economy was struggling as when he was out shopping with his wife he had noticed lots of people and not many bags. “It was exactly right. Retail sales were abysmal that Christmas but it was little things like that made me open my eyes.”
After spending five-and-a-half years on equity sales, Pinggera moved to Credit Suisse in Gibraltar. He says moving from advisory sales to discretionary asset management was quite a change at the age of 24, especially with a book of £200m disc-retionary and £800m of advisory money.
Pinggera moved back in 1999 when the Buckmaster & Moore team left to go to Laing & Cruickshank. When he came back to private banking, he focused on special mandates.
“Special mandates are basically people that do not fit into boxes and what was interesting was that they became the norm. We started to see more clients diversify to spread risk and look for opportunities from everywhere. A couple of years later, the head of portfolio management in London resigned and the business asked me to take that role, which I thought was a natural position to take.”
Pinggera was asked to manage the newly merged private client and institutional business at Credit Suisse. He held the role of head of multi-asset class solutions at Credit Suisse until the end of 2008 when the call from Insight came.
“At no point in my career have I been looking for a job and, as with previous job changes, an off-the-cuff comment led to a quick chat with one person and then another with someone else. Once I had the chat and had seen the resources here, it was obvious this was somewhere I wanted to work.”
Pinggera replaced the joint multi-asset chiefs Patrick Armstrong and Ana Cukic- Armstrong. He says: “Everything being in place was the attraction. I was running money on day two of the job after doing the admin stuff like taking photos. I was live by midday on my first day in January with my Bloomberg machine and the next day I was going through portfolios.”
Pinggera says he spent the first quarter getting to know his team and the portfolios he was managing. “I am not one who likes change for the sake of change. I want to understand what we have and what we are good at and I aimed to make the most of that. If you can do that you will always be successful.”
He says he challenged everything going on in the portfolios, such as specific investments and fund objectives.
Pinggera says he is happy with the current product range and the breadth of the mandates gives him the opportunities to do as he wishes. “The platform gives us the scope to use derivatives, direct or collective investments and we can easily price and monitor. We have four funds with lots of commonality across the range and it gives the fund managers the time to go hunting for ideas that drive the portfolios forward.”
Pinggera and his team manage a total of £1bn in assets and look for investments across the seven baskets of equities, fixed, real estate, commodities, total return, opportunistic and cash.
He says the firm is very much multi-asset rather than multi-manager and the group holds the view that beta is cheap and will therefore not occupy their portfolios without a reason. “If an investment gives us broad-market beta and a little chance of outperforming, we are more likely to take that exposure via something cheaper than an actively managed fund and that is a trend I think will grow. On top of ETFs in the passive world, you have also got total return swaps, derivative contracts, structured products and many more ways to express the view.”
He adds that some lessons had to be learned from last year. “Those lessons were to do with position management in portfolios rather than the structure. These were exceptional events and you have to be careful of making sweeping changes because of exceptional events. If they happened every year, then you change your process but you should not be managing for the exception, we should be prepared for it. As a result, we have tightened up on the position management and added discipline to the process.”
Priorities also had to be looked at towards the end of 2008 following the structured product debacle. “Everyone knew about counterparty risk but perhaps it was not as high a priority as people thought it was. There is nothing wrong with structured products, they did what they said on the tin. Where the difficulty has occurred is when people did not read the tin. From where I sit, they are powerful and useful tools for us.”
He does not set long-term goals for the business. “I don’t count the days, I enjoy each one and if it is 20 years before I notice the clock, so be it. From a business perspective, I believe that clients do not view their personal investments on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The important thing is they see progression in the long term.”
Born: 1970, London
Lives: Reigate, Surrey with wife and three children
Career: 2006-present Insight Investment – head of multi-asset group, 1999-2006 Credit Suisse Asset Management – head of multi-asset class solutions, 1994-99 Credit Suisse Private Banking London – head of trusts and charities & head of portfolio management, 1989-94 Credit Suisse (Gibraltar) – head of portfolio management, 1989 Credit Suisse Buckmaster and Moore – international sales desk
Dislikes: Office politics
Drives: Slower than most of my sector peers (I also own a BMW)
Book: When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein
Film: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Album: Currently listening to Datarock and Death Cab for Cutie
Career ambition: I just do my best every day and I am happy to go wherever that leads
Life ambition: Survive my children’s teenage years
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Bored