Investments  

James Sullivan sets agenda for new firm Coram

Former Miton multi-manager James Sullivan has said he does not want his new venture to become “another orphan asset management company”.

Speaking to Investment Adviser, Mr Sullivan said his medium-term aims for his new business, Coram Asset Management, were to have its own regulatory permissions, launch three funds and welcome former colleague Martin Gray.

Over the long term the manager said he envisaged himself at the company for decades, as he endeavoured to build a boutique to rival firms such as Troy Asset Management or Ruffer.

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“I don’t want to become another orphan asset management company,” he said.

“We are extremely ambitious. I look at Troy and Ruffer as a blueprint of what I want to do. I would be delighted if I could build something that resembles either of those boutiques.”

Mr Sullivan said he was keen the business remained a boutique, stating he would achieve this by making sure it was majority-owned by senior staff.

He added he wanted staff to own 51 per cent of the business. Other interested parties would hold the remaining 49 per cent once Coram becomes a company in its own right rather than, as at present, a trading name of start-up owner, RC Brown Investment Management.

Mr Sullivan, who spent his entire career with Miton and its former incantation Iimia Investment Management – of which he was a founding member – left the group last December.

Aside from being involved in a few short-term projects since then, he said setting up Corum was the most attractive idea to take his career forwards.

Mr Sullivan and Mr Gray successfully navigated the downturn in 2008 thanks to their bearish stance on the market outlook, but this defensive position then led to underperformance against peers as markets subsequently rallied.

Although he is aware of this, Mr Sullivan said the duo’s process would not undergo an extreme step-change but instead be more tactical when an opportunity presented itself.

“I am fully aware we cannot dine out on 2008 and 2011 forever,” he said.

“They were wonderful years for us but we need to ensure we are more than just a bear market fund manager. We do need to participate in other conditions.

“We need to put risk back in during certain parts of the cycle and we need to get performance, but need to manage the trajectory of that performance.”

Mr Sullivan said the group would soon launch three multi-asset funds, with one placed in each of the IMA’s mixed-investment sectors bar the most defensive 0-35% Shares sector.

The manager admitted that because his and Mr Gray’s former Miton Special Situations and Strategic funds were both placed in the IMA Flexible Investment sector, they had become “blurred” and their performance “too similar”.

He said having funds in three different sectors should prevent a repeat of this but stressed he would “not be held hostage” to IMA sector requirements if he saw the need to be aggressively defensive.