”I was 25 and thought I needed to do something else”

Nearly 30 years after they first started working together at James Capel Fund Managers, Jeremy Lang and William Pattisson remain a successful partnership. Now they have their own business and funds with a three-year track record, so what is the secret to their success?

Mr Lang notes: “When I was younger, I hated people telling me it was all about experience. But how having done the same thing for a long time, I think experience is important. You don’t do something for a long time unless you really enjoy it and are doing it for the right reasons.”

Mr Pattisson adds: “When I left university, I probably knew 20 people who came into the City. Now I only know one who is still here. The vast majority quickly realised they had made a mistake.”

Article continues after advert

Unsurprisingly, having a behavioural psychology element to their fund management style, Mr Lang describes his career in fund management is an “interesting endeavour”.

“You’ve got to be a relentless decision maker, where you wake up in the morning, look at the wreckage of things you’ve done, work out what has passably got a chance of being right and what in hindsight was not a smart thing to do, and cut it.”

Both managers describe the job as “relentless”, which requires a certain emotional and psychological bent – something that was tested early on in their careers at James Capel when they were running North American equities during the 1987 crash.

The two men had started in the City on exactly the same day at the same firm, but whereas Mr Pattisson took the more traditional graduate trainee route, Mr Lang moved from academia, including an MA in financial economics and finance, the “early financial theory stuff”.

Unlike most of his peers in the city, Mr Lang headed straight for fund management, which at the time was “quite an unglamorous thing to do”, but which he explains appealed to him intellectually.

He was employed as a quant fund analyst, “a very exotic thing”, but on his first day, “was given a desk, a bank of telephones and someone else’s second-hand computer and basically told to be ‘quanty’ and do something. That was very much the spirit of that place.”

Mr Pattisson’s time on the graduate trainee scheme was shortlived before he too wanted to move into fund management. “I was taken on to be one of the financial equity salesmen, but quickly decided I wasn’t interested in it. I was more into fund management, too. They thought it was very odd that I’d been given this great opportunity to be an equity salesman and I wanted to work in the fund management department. They were fairly appalled if I’m honest,” he recalls.

In spite of this, he moved across and shortly afterwards the departure of the North American equities manager left a gap filled by the duo.

Mr Pattisson says: “Without a lot of qualifications we were looking after North American equities, but it did mean we were running money through the crash of 1987. Our view is the experience of running money in various situations helps you work out if you’re going to be any good as a fund manager, because it is a question of how you cope emotionally in both good times and bad. Doing that fairly early on in our experience was a pretty hairy-scary moment. It was useful and interesting.”