Interview: Potter and Burdett on fund selection 'science'

Interview: Potter and Burdett on fund selection 'science'
 Gary Potter and Rob Burdett

While there are many successful fund manager partnerships, there are few that remain in tandem for 21 years, as Rob Burdett and Gary Potter will have achieved next month.

The pair, who co-run the F&C multi-manager range at BMO Global Asset Management, were brought together at Rothschild in April 1996 where they became co-heads of a newly launched fund of funds service. 

Mr Burdett says: “A lot of joint head positions such as ours are [a result of] somebody not being able to make a decision about who should be in charge. Ours was a bit like that, but nobody told us when we joined that we were anything other than joint heads.

“We ended up going down the pub and saying, ‘do you think you’re in charge of me or has anyone told you anything?’ and we had a good old chat. We had already realised we had a lot of common ground in our philosophy of picking funds. Then we went back and said we’d like to be joint heads, paid the same, treated the same, and they said ‘yes’ thankfully and it’s been the same ever since. We’ve been very lucky.” 

After taking the fund of funds business at Rothschild from £110m to more than £1bn, the duo moved to Credit Suisse to set up their UK fund of fund business from scratch. After building up assets to around £1.3bn, Thames River came knocking with a business model using a joint venture limited liability partnership [LLP] structure, which the managers saw “as a way to insulate us from corporate change”.

Mr Burdett says: “To us there has been no change since that LLP foundation in August 2007. That has provided stability [as] we’ve gone through two takeovers. We are in a company that is expanding its asset management commitments, but even if it wasn’t the LLP gives us and our clients a lot of certainty around what we do. 

“In essence, it means that we and our team are only incentivised on the products that we run. Obviously we want the rest of BMO to be highly successful, but it is down to us in terms of our own financial security and future.”

Mr Potter adds: “When we left Rothschild we had built up a huge number of clients. We left to join Credit Suisse, then left to go to Thames River. Financial advisers and their clients trusted us twice, and to earn their trust for a third time at Thames River we had to make sure we could put something in place that would mean that whatever happened corporately we would be relatively stable.”

For the managers, the team and its culture are important aspects of the business. The pair have built up a team of nine, including themselves, with many of them former colleagues who have rejoined the fray.