With his family’s extensive history, it was always going to be inevitable that Evy Hambro would make a name for himself in the City. But how he came to head up BlackRock’s huge natural resources team and become one of the most recognisable faces in the investment industry comes mainly down to two men – George Soros and Jimmy Goldsmith.
As part of the Hambro family that set up Hambros Bank back in 1839, Evy Hambro is so steeped in the City that he describes it as flowing through his DNA. But he wasn’t going to blindly follow in his ancestors’ footsteps, and enrolled at Newcastle to do a degree in Agricultural Food Marketing, while also nurturing an ambition to go into the creative side of advertising.
Bluntly told he wasn’t cut out for advertising, he embarked on a series of internships with Cazenove, with Lazard and, finally, with Mercury Asset Management, where Julian Baring was running the Gold & General fund. This meant that Mr Hambro joined the fund in the summer when, in April 1993, influential investors George Soros and Jimmy Goldsmith sparked a rally in the price of the yellow metal as Mr Soros bought Goldsmith’s shares in Newmont Mining for $400m (£265.1m) and Mr Goldsmith stated he would use that cash to buy gold bullion and gold options.
The manager says: “The internship at Mercury was fascinating because it was during summer in my second year of university and I worked for Julian Baring, who was an incredible person to work for. During that summer we had the most amazing rally in the price of gold, forced higher by the entrance into the market, very publicly, of George Soros and Jimmy Goldsmith and it created a very substantial move in the price of gold in a very short period of time. I was able to see the explosive reaction of the shares inside the portfolio.”
The price of gold rocketed by 18 per cent to more than $400 per troy ounce by late July in 1993, though the price did then subsequently fall back.
But the excitement of that summer stayed with Mr Hambro. “It was fascinating,” he says, laughing. “I wasn’t necessarily addicted, but I became incredibly interested in fund management and particularly in that area.”
While the gold mining fund had made an impression on Mr Hambro, he in turn had made an impression on Julian Baring, who invited him back in his winter holiday to help out on the Mercury World Mining Trust (now, like the Gold & General fund, run by BlackRock).
This is where Mr Hambro first met Graham Birch, with whom he would strike up a successful investment partnership until Mr Birch’s retirement in 2009.
In spite of this successful start as a holiday intern, Mr Hambro rejected an offer to leave university straight away, preferring to stay on and finish his degree. He joined after finishing at Newcastle, eschewing the investment banking careers that his peers went into for the comparatively unsexy fund management industry.
He has stayed on the same funds ever since, though the ownership changed hands from Mercury to Merrill Lynch and then BlackRock, gaining prominence when the gold price and gold shares exploded through the early to mid 2000s, but for the past few years the gold price has suffered, and gold shares have plummeted.