David Marchant’s career in fund management has been forged by an early interest in economics and politics “and how the two interrelate”.
When Mr Marchant was promoted to chief investment officer at Canada Life two years ago, he was tasked with – among other things – growing its retail presence in the UK.
It’s a challenge he has relished as the role relies on being informed about what is happening in global markets.
He recalls: “I think what really got me interested in markets was when the Thatcher government started selling off state assets, so I put my student grant into British Telecom and made a few hundred quid. From then on, I decided that fund management might be an interesting career to pursue.”
Mr Marchant admits his decision to enter investment management may have been by design, but specialising in equities was more of an accident.
“Equities was the fashionable area to be involved in when I entered the City,” he says.
“Of course, it’s changed more recently and bonds have been a lot more attractive to people.”
Mr Marchant landed his first job as a junior fund manager at Equitable Life, where his focus was on UK equities.
He recollects: “I spent a few years doing that and finding my feet. Then I got the opportunity to start covering Japan and Asia and I had the chance to go out and live in Japan for six months back in the late 1980s.”
That period was “the last moments of the Japanese bubble, which was interesting times”, he recalls. “I spent a lot of that running Japanese and Asian equity portfolios through the 1990s , with a little bit of time looking at bonds as well.”
When he returned to the UK from Tokyo he continued working for Equitable Life until 2000, when unexpected events forced him to move.
Mr Marchant explains: “Equitable Life fell victim to a court case… which essentially made the company challenged in terms of capital solvency and it was forced to close to new business. The contract that managed its assets was [transferred] to what was Clerical Medical at the time, which [then] became Insight [Investment]. I moved across with that – as well as the global portfolios – to manage the ongoing relationship with Equitable Life and its portfolio.”
While the fund manager acknowledges there was much publicity surrounding the court case, he insists the move to Insight – where he became head of global equities – was “relatively smooth”.
A few years ago he left Insight to join Canada Life as it prepared to boost its UK presence. “I came across here as head of securities, which is essentially overseeing all the fixed interest and equity assets that we look after,” he says.
His role has extended to chief investment officer, as well as managing director of Canada Life Asset Management.