Firing line  

‘We were small, under the radar and able to take a different view’

‘We were small, under the radar and able to take a different view’

Angela Lascelles is one of the best-known fund managers in the City, not least because she set up her own company, Olim Investment Managers, under the radar during the financial Big Bang in 1986, and it is still going strong with £400m under management and many of the same clients she started with.

She is also known as having a forthright opinion on women working in the City, having had three children herself, and considering herself lucky to have been offered four months’ maternity leave for her first child.

She says: “I didn’t want to go back to work but I got used to it. As soon as I had my first child I fell totally in love with him.

“For mothers it’s really hard, it’s a terrible sacrifice.

“I think if you’re working in the securities industry it’s very difficult, because the hours are so long and they expect you to be in by seven in the morning.”

Ms Lascelles was fortunate. She managed to negotiate a day off during the week, and she had a nanny, who stayed with the family for 18 years.

“She was never there at the weekend and I would do the school run. Sometimes I felt a bit uncomfortable when the children say the nanny brought them up,” she admits.

Ms Lascelles was also living in west London, which made the commute much shorter, and she had a husband who worked in the City – although he worked even longer hours than she did.

She certainly did not fit the mould and her professional life has also gone in unexpected directions.

After starting out at Phillips and Drew as a graduate trainee, moving “from the buy side to the sell side”, she then moved into managing pension funds.

At the time of the Big Bang, many of the old distinctions between job functions in the City were relaxed and different roles could be merged. 

Ms Lascelles saw this as an opportunity. At that time, some companies would have a corporate finance department, which would bring a company to market for a big fee, have a marketing arm, and a broking arm that would sell to the clients for a commission. “Then the clients at the end will get the securities stuffed into their portfolios”, she recalls.

She could see that the market was getting out of hand, at the expense of client portfolios, so she decided to set up Olim with Matthew Oakeshott, whom she worked with at Courtaulds Pension Fund.

“The best thing would be to start our own thing. We would only be looking after our client portfolios where we’re not getting pressure to buy and sell things against the clients’ interests,” she explains.

The first client was the Nuffield College endowment fund, which started off with £500,000 and ended up with £25m over 30 years – not all due to Ms Lascelles’ stock-picking abilities.