There are not many well-known fund managers who hail from Iran but Tony Yousefian can count himself as a name on that exclusive list. Having been sent to the UK at the age of 13 at his parents’ behest to avoid the “politics” of Iranian higher education, he began life in Britain.
“I originally came to the UK in 1974. My mum and dad sent me here because they didn’t want their children exposed to Iranian higher education, namely university, because it was nothing but politics, demonstrations and all sorts,” he says.
“The last time I was back there was in 2002.”
He admits he rarely visited home for some years after landing in the UK, largely to avoid conscription into the Iranian military.
“In Iran, one has to do national service after the age of 18 and if I had gone back they would have made me do that. It was a driver for not going back but I was also lucky that my parents came here every now and again anyway.”
The former OPM fund manager began his working life as part of life firm Pioneer Mutual selling door-to-door pension policies.
The notion of selling products was not the main focus of Yousefian’s interest, however, preferring to have a more detailed look as to what supported the products he was selling.
“What fascinated me was the investment side, not protection but where the money actually goes. What exactly happens to these funds to make them grow so much?”
The industry at the time was one which offered remarkably high inflation rates and, in hand, incredibly high gilt yields compared with today’s standards.
“We used to have books of tables which, for any given amount, you would get percentage growths. That is how we presented it to prospective clients: inflation was very high and, as a result, gilt yields were high.
“For example, 10-year gilt yields were way above 10 per cent.”
The subsequent drop in interest rates and fall in gilt yields is something Yousefian says was a big help to equity markets.
“It was a hell of a boost. Nowadays, anyone of my age finding it difficult to accept market conditions must remember how abnormal those days were. A boost to equities will only happen if inflation returns to abnormal levels.
“That is unlikely to happen again in the foreseeable future.”
The adaptation of platforms in the early-2000s enabled people such as himself, with relatively small portfolios, to compete with larger fund groups and meant distribution to a wider number of advisers was made possible.
He says: “Platforms changed things, it reduced the reliance of fund groups solely on their marketing capability and meant we could compete on a level playing field with some of the larger asset houses.”
He also pays testament to gaining exposure through the trade press, which meant he could promote his fund and firm nationally.
“We recognised that if you have a relationship with the press and get your name out there via that channel, it is a useful way to get your brand and products known by advisers.”
In recent times, Yousefian’s career has been turbulent. In August he left Charteris Treasury Portfolio Managers after just three months, leaving his £9m OPM Property fund behind him. He joined the firm in March after quitting City Financial, where he was for less than a year, taking the fund with him.
However, he is relatively coy on his Charteris departure.
“I went across to Charteris with the fund but it became clear we were not of the same mind and it was best to part company. I really just wanted some time to think of my options.”
At the time, he consulted legal advice over the nature of his departure, something which as yet remains unresolved.
Yousefian is based in Norwich and counts himself as an adopted Norwich City fan. “Having lived in Norwich for so many years, there’s no other club close by. You don’t want to be supporting Ipswich. I now have two season tickets down at Carrow Road, which are often used by my sons when they are back home from London.”
The fund manager is currently happy with the state of play in his career, having joined fund research firm Albemarle Street Partners as a consultant last month.
“I sit and wait at the moment. I have irons in the fire but I am very open-minded. I have run private portfolios and funds which have had specific mandates but I have also run private client portfolios on international business where you need ability to run most asset classes.
“If I can see a way of being involved with that side of the industry again I will certainly be willing to have conversations. But I am currently more than happy to pursue opportunities with Albemarle as well. It is quite liberating at the moment. It means that when I see fund managers, I know I am actually appraising them purely, independently and genuinely with no kind of conflict.”
2010-present: 2014-present: Consultant, Albemarle Street Partners
2013-2014: Fund manager, City Financial Investment Company
1997-2013: Chief investment officer, OPM Fund Management
1993-1997: Director, Steve Turton Financial Services
1985-1997: Partner, Pride Consultants
1982-1985: Sales associate, Pioneer Mutual Insurance Company
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?
When I started at Pioneer Mutual, my area sales manager used to say: “Look after your clients, my lad, and they will look after you.”
What keeps you awake at night?
Apart from Mrs Y snoring, it is the way international powers are using religious extremists to fight their battles for them.
What has had the most significant impact on advice in the past year?
The RDR. Finally, our industry is beginning to be recognised as a profession.
If I was put in charge of the FCA for a day I would…
Make sure practitioners with experience of our industry are in charge of compliance and monitoring.
Any advice for new advisers?
Remember it is your long-term views that make money but the short- and medium-term ones that keep you afloat.