On the face of it, there seems to be little to link a career as a chartered surveyor with a move into fund management. Nonetheless, that was the route taken by Steve Waddington, fund manager in the multi-asset strategy group at Insight Investment.
He suggests a similarity in the roles is the need to look at “real assets” – things that exist physically, such as bricks and mortar property.
“It is all about trying to see how you can actively mange assets and deliver returns for clients and so deliver performance,” he explains. “This is the same in real estate and in managing multi-asset portfolios. The real challenge is to take on board all the different asset classes, all the different investment strategies, and combine that in a single portfolio to deliver the smooth returns we’re all seeking.”
At school, Mr Waddington’s dream job was not fund management, but rather chartered surveying. This led to a career at Savills straight out of university, in which capacity he bought, sold and redeveloped shopping centres. But after five years, a career change beckoned, and he enrolled on an MBA course at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
“While I was there, I met the chief executive of Rothschild Australia, and he asked me to join the company. It then became BT Financial Group in Australia, and I stayed down there for six years. That was my first move into multi-asset portfolios. I joined Insight in 2008 and I have been running multi-asset portfolios since then.”
The manager says part of the lure of joining Insight was the “emphasis on an investment-led organisation”, while multi-asset investing continued to attract him on the basis that it involves continually learning and understanding what is happening around the world and how it affects different economies and markets.
“So, the ability to have a role where you can look at that every day and understand the implications for investments was very attractive, and still is. It’s one of the fortunate things about being in the role I’m in.”
That said, he acknowledges the very thing that fascinates him is also a constant challenge.
“Every day, you see what is challenging around the world, so it is [about] being able to comprehend what is happening, making an assessment of that and translating it into what needs to be done in the portfolios. It is a continuing challenge, but it is one of the opportunities and one of the things we relish here. Obviously, going through the stressed, turbulent times of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2011-12 are challenges, just like you see at the moment with what is happening in Ukraine.”
While the multi-asset strategy team tend to take investment views of between one and six months, Mr Waddington says they are clear with clients that the team will reflect what is happening around the world in the portfolio on a daily basis.