View more on these topics

Where there’s a Will

Looking back, it must have been the tape recorder. I like to take one along to fund manager interviews but this was a new purchase. New-fangled, too, in that it is digital and so contains nothing so prehistoric as an actual tape. What’s more, I had neglected to roadtest it beyond the unimaginative, if traditional, “One-two, one two” so I think I had a right to feel nervous.

After all, the butterflies could not possibly have been anything to do with my interviewee, could they? I have been doing this for more than a dozen years now and in that time I have interviewed all the fund management greats. OK, some of the greats. Well, I once met Anthony Bolton at a drinks party and I am almost certain I saw Mark Mobius at an airport a few years back.

So what if this was an audience with William Littlewood, now of Artemis but once the custodian of the mighty Jupiter income? Sure, he is one of a handful of managers one can legitimately mention in the same breath as Lord Woodford of Henley – or indeed the only one if you have caught Mark Dampier writing on the subject for this very paper, The Independent, the Hargreaves Lansdown website and, for all I know, Vogue and the Bangalore Bugle.

Incidentally, don’t you wish Hargreaves Lansdown would come off the fence with its opinions about Mr Littlewood and his new Artemis strategic assets fund? I do so hate all this fudging and having to read between the lines. Only kidding, boys, I know you are quite keen really and presume I simply missed the email that equated the fund launch with the second coming.

As it happens, I have not met Mr Littlewood before. When I was covering Jupiter back in the late 1990s, they were inclined to operate a somewhat North Korean approach to PR. By the time I was regularly interviewing senior fund managers in the early 2000s – no, I was not convinced by my earlier false modesty either – he had left the company.

So, maybe 5 per cent nerves at meeting an investment legend, with the rest being down to the new tape recorder – oh, and maybe an element of discomfort because I knew I had to ask said investment legend a question that was at best tactless and at worst downright rude.

One of my biggest failings as a journalist is a desire to be liked by everyone I meet – proper hacks really are not bothered what anyone else thinks of them – and asking rude questions is not helpful in this pathetic ambition.

Still, I have managed it before and, oddly enough, the instance that sticks in the mind came during an inter-view with Mr Littlewood’s successor on Jupiter income, Tony Nutt. There had been some discussion among advisers at the time as to the suitability of Mr Nutt to run such a big fund and I thought this was a question worth putting to him directly.

“That’s complete b…” he began before looking pointedly at my (old-school) tape recorder on the table between us and recalibrating his reply. “That’s wrong,” he replied and then went on, reasonably enough, to outline his experience running a £1bn-plus port-folio for – if memory serves, eight years and one taped-over tape later on – Lloyds.

Good answer – and, of course, that is the point of the impertinent question. I am not having a go, I just want to see how you reply. That is why I found myself asking William Littlewood what – regardless of his killer track record on Jupiter income – he thought his credentials were for mana-ging a fund that, while not wholly unconstrained, has a pretty free licence to hunt among a range of asset classes and with the ability to short to boot.

“Everything I am doing in this fund I have done before – I just have not done them all together so obvi-ously,” he replied – or so my notes tell me. “To invest in this fund, you predominantly have to be convinced of my macro skills – it’s most imp-ortant. If you thought I am not up to it on a macroecon-omic level, you shouldn’t buy this product.” I would elaborate but I am still trying to work out how to download the recording.

Julian Marr is editorial director of marketing-hub.co.uk

Recommended

Equity release is victim of a Which? hunt

Working as an adviser today can sometimes feel a bit like being a mildly eccentric single woman living sometime in the 17th Century. By this I mean that there is a significant chance you’ll be unfairly accused, tried and punished for practices that very rarely go on. The only saving grace today is that when found innocent nowadays it’s only the industry’s reputation that’s ‘burned at the stake’.

1

Pru rules out setting up its own platform

Prudential has ruled out launching its own platform, arguing the regulator may take a dim view of IFAs using single-provider platforms in the future.

Japan: the Land of the Rising Dividends

By George Boyd-Bowman, Fund Manager at Neptune Many Western investors have long bemoaned the lack of a true dividend culture in Japan, claiming the corporate culture is not tilted in favour of shareholders. Yet today, in the Land of the Rising Sun, we see a fresh impetus to focus on shareholder returns, which is leading […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up

Comments

    Leave a comment