An interest in numbers rather than a deliberate ambition to manage money is what put Jon Jonsson on the road to fund management.
Currently senior portfolio manager for global fixed income strategies at Neuberger Berman, a degree in applied mathematics led him initially to a role at an investment consulting firm.
However, while reading up on derivatives the manager became so interested in the subject he decided to study both derivatives and finance. “I thought it would be a great combination given my strength in numbers. Derivatives were quite complex too at that point, they were a new thing in finance,” he recalls.
After researching the institutions offering courses in the topic he applied to the classic business schools such as Wharton, Columbia and New York University (NYU) and was accepted into the Stern Business School at NYU, a leader in derivatives research.
“I started studying finance and derivatives but that exposed me to a lot of other aspects of finance, all kinds of sort of modern theories of asset management. So I got really interested in ways to improve asset management and make things more efficient. All those good things they promise you in school that are much more difficult to implement in reality,” he laughs.
“The course was really interesting and I enjoyed it a lot, so that was my path to finance. Following that I interviewed with a number of firms, I looked at derivatives trading and asset management, and was offered a job at JPMorgan Asset Management (JPMAM) in 1998. So I’ve been studying asset management for the past 16 years.”
Having previously had no specific interest in either equities or fixed income, just general asset management, Mr Jonsson was offered the chance to get into the sector by joining the fixed income team, where he worked in more quantitative areas including developing tools for assisting traders and generating trade ideas.
Eventually in 2001, he moved into portfolio management and four years later he transferred to London with JPMAM.
“For all those initial years, I started in New York, I studied there and joined asset management there and then JPMAM asked if I was interested in relocating to London as they wanted to beef up their portfolio manager skills in the London office.
“I gladly took on that challenge. It was a good opportunity, my wife and I are Icelandic and our parents live in Iceland so London is a much closer place to Iceland. It was also attractive to again move a little bit out of my comfort zone, and I enjoy that. It was an opportunity to challenge myself in a broader opportunity set and broader markets with global aspects as well as moving to a new city. So that was all very exciting to me, an exciting challenge.”
After a further eight years based in London including taking control of the global aggregate strategies business at JPMAM, he joined Neuberger Berman in August 2013, where he immediately helped launch the Global Bond Absolute Return fund the following month.