When in March 2013 Richard Buxton unexpectedly quit Schroders after 12 years, taking fellow managers Errol Francis and Ed Meier with him, many observers questioned how the FTSE 100-listed company could recover the loss of its star UK equities manager.
While the acquisition of Cazenove Capital Management showed Schroders was not a spent force, there was still the question of who would take charge of its flagship UK Alpha Plus fund.
Schroders opted to bring in Philip Matthews from Jupiter.
Mr Matthews has embraced the challenge, putting his own stamp on the UK Alpha Plus fund with a series of changes to lower the fund’s volatility as is typical of his investment process.
But then he is no stranger to taking over from high-profile fund managers: at the time he was hired by Schroders he had been lined up to take over from Tony Nutt as co-manager of the £541m Jupiter High Income fund. Now he is in charge of a fund three times that size.
Mr Matthews began his fund management career at Jupiter in 1999, just two years after leaving Cambridge University. Rather than tread the well-worn paths of accountancy or economic studies, Mr Matthews learnt languages.
When asked how one goes from studying German and French to running a multi-million pound investment portfolio, the manager explains: “Languages appealed because it was a broad subject: you did a bit of history, politics, art, and literature. In some respects it’s similar to fund management in that you have to do lots of different things all at the same time.”
He argues that fund management is “not a job that is purely numbers driven”.
“A background in economics or accountancy is useful but it’s actually not essential,” he says.
After a year or so working in a property business after graduation, Mr Matthews says he realised fund management was indeed his calling. He cites the access to business owners and managers as having been a particular draw.
He first shadowed William Littlewood – now of Polar Capital – on work experience, while Mr Littlewood was in charge of the Jupiter Income fund, but Mr Matthews says it did not seem that long before he had his own pension fund mandate to run – less than two years, in fact.
The manager points out that his arrival coincided with “the end of the John Duffield era”, which meant there were some roles open at Jupiter.
“A few people left the organisation and there was a relatively rapid opportunity for me to directly manage money,” the manager recalls. “Having joined at the beginning of 1999 I was running a pension fund at the end of 2000, so it was a pretty quick start to my fund management career.”
It was Mr Littlewood’s successor on the Income fund – the now retired Tony Nutt – who asked Mr Matthews to make the move in 2006 from managing a UK smaller companies fund to taking sole charge of the Jupiter Growth & Income fund.