Shout It Out Loud

Hedge fund industry interviews

 

In addition to our daily news feed, Hedge Funds Club’s Shout it out loud publishes interviews with interesting hedge fund managers and other senior industry figures that have something to say.


The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 46: David Fletcher

David Fletcher

David Fletcher

David Fletcher transferred from London to Singapore in early 2019 to take up the position of Head of APAC Cash Distribution at State Street Global Advisors. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson checked in with David to talk about cycling, mountaineering books, hawker food, the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Clan Fraser of the Highlands, lunchtime jungle walks and much more.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

Always online these days – plenty from Bloomberg, the FT and, locally, the Straits Times and SCMP. I always check BBC News on my phone to keep up on things back in the UK. Our organisation puts out a lot of market news so there’s a steady stream in the inbox to keep up to date.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

I have a two- and a four-year-old at home so weekends are about making life fun for them – trips to the zoo, aquarium and swimming pool mainly. A Saturday pre-dawn walk with my wife always gets things off to a relaxing start. I’m a keen cyclist, so try to get out with my local club when possible and safe distancing guidelines permitting these days!

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

I love a good mountaineering book, but don’t get much spare time to read currently. I try to listen to a few podcasts, however, such as “Freakonomics” and “Stuff You Should Know”.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Currently, a Spotify playlist called “Ambient House” – I find it helps me concentrate whilst working from home, especially when the kids get back from school.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Coffee, the stronger the better, quickly followed by another coffee. I always have a pint of water before bed and at the weekends often enjoy a chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Buying my London flat at the peak of the market in 2007, though perhaps in 20 years’ time it won’t be…

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I’ve had two. One showed me how to take pleasure from being outdoors in nature as a teenager, the other what you can achieve with the right mindset and an insatiable will to succeed – whilst having fun doing it!

 

What gives you energy?

Being in the mountains and wild places is something I need to do every now and then to re-charge and, day to day, my work and the challenges and opportunities it presents give me plenty.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Generally, by trying not to worry about things that are genuinely outside of my control and keeping myself organised and systematic in my approach to work.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Singapore is blessed with a fantastic hawker culture and a melting pot of cuisines, so we are spoilt for choice really. I love to grab a few sticks of satay and a cold beer at Lau Pa Sat after work, when the street closes to traffic. It’s a great spot to bring visitors too as well.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

I loved the Vasa Museum in Stockholm – an almost perfectly preserved wooden warship from 1628. I’ve never seen anything like it, it really brought history to life.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Apart from LinkedIn, no.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

The series “Outlander” on Netflix. It’s an easy watch to de-stress at the end of the day – and is “loosely” based on some of my ancestors – Clan Fraser of the Highlands.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

Suit trousers and shirt without a tie, that seems to be the norm in Singapore’s heat. Working from home during COVID-19 has been a little more casual when not on client Zoom calls.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Yes – each one is definitely worth celebrating and we do so as a global team with “virtual drinks” when we can.

 

What makes you happy?

Above all else my family and friends. My kids are at an age where they are a constant source of fun. Other than that, seeing hard work paying off as we grow the business and being able to go for a walk in the jungle at lunchtime all keep me cheerful.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 45: Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Paul Smith

 

Paul Smith is an industry legend, perhaps most famous for his work at fund administrator Bank of Bermuda (later acquired by HSBC) and as President and CEO of the CFA Institute. Now he’s back in Hong Kong where he runs his own firm Warlencourt. HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Paul for a chat about reintroducing megafauna, silence, black coffee, not getting stressed, being comfortable with defeat and much more.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

Depends. If I am travelling, I read The Economist and the FT online. I also watch the evening news on BBC World via a streaming service. If at home in Hong Kong, I read The Economist online and the FT on paper, traditionalist, but The Economist printing is of such low quality the online version is, alas, better. I also listen to Hong Kong radio news on RTHK3 from 6:30 am to 9:00 am as background whilst I exercise. Long walks in the hills of Hong Kong. BBC evening news as well.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Nothing special. Avid sports fan so usually watch some soccer, rugby or cricket. If in the UK, I would do this live otherwise on TV. Always visit the gym and usually have a social date with friends for a meal. I don’t need to unwind as a rule! I have a very lucky disposition and don’t get stressed.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Rewilding” by Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe. My youngest daughter is an ecologist and she got me interested. Fascinating and positive. Easy to read. Tells you all you want to know about how we can reintroduce megafauna into habitats to help them return to their condition of 10,000 years ago! Yes, it’s possible and has incalculable benefits for plant and wildlife diversity and also for global warming.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Silence!!! I read a lot and any music does my head in. I can’t concentrate as the rhythms seem to disrupt my brainwaves. It’s a constant source of friction with my wife who likes music to help her think! An ideal marriage.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Always black filter coffee! But never after noon as I don’t sleep if I do. Not a nightcap person. Like most English people, I like to drink! So, I try to make sure that water and coffee are all I have for five days a week and at the weekend it’s a heady combination of gin, wine and beer. Taken in any order and in quantity. If in the UK, the beer is always bitter or Guinness. In Hong Kong, it would be Heineken on Carlsberg. Italian red wine by preference. Gin is just gin. It’s the tonic that counts. Schweppes always. Fever-Tree ruins any gin.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

I worked for a company that was bought out by HSBC and I received substantial HSBC stock in the transaction. I didn’t hedge the position or sell it and hung on to this day. Big error!

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

Yes. He was a strange character. Not everyone’s cup of tea. But I started working for him when I was 25 and spent the next 11 years with him. The biggest lesson he taught me was patience in business. That everyone in life floats into your orbit at least twice during your life. If that person does you down, don’t fret, don’t force it, just wait. Life is a long race and at some point, you will be able to have the advantage over them. That advice has kept me calm during periods of adversity. I am not naturally that way inclined and this advice really helped keep me balanced.

 

What gives you energy?

Easy. Being around people who are young and hungry. I have been so lucky in the last decade of my career to have been able to spend it with twenty- and thirty-year-olds. My mum said something to me when I was in my teens – what gave her hope was the sure knowledge that the next generation was better than hers. I have carried that with me. The next generation is far cleverer, more moral, better balanced than mine and being around them is a huge gift.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Read, read, read. History by preference. We have been here before and coped and we will do again. This too shall pass.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

No. I never remember what I have eaten. I remember the people I ate with. Just as happy with fish and chips as gourmet cooking. It’s who you are with that counts not what you eat. Sorry to all the restauranteurs out there!

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The White House of the Confederacy in Richmond. I am a friend there. An amazingly apocalyptic conflict that changed the world – but not as much as it should have done. This is a museum that really tries hard to interpret the past through the eyes of the present but with empathy for our forebears.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Yes, very. Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Firstly, to stay connected with people I care about and secondly, to try to promote causes I care about – ESG and equality of opportunity for all.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Nope. All my pleasures are taken in full view!

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

Always a suit and tie. Can’t have my game face on without them. First impressions do make a difference and how you treat others is key. Putting a suit on shows you care what other people think about you.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

No. They are too rare and am more comfortable with defeat. I am English, after all.

 

What makes you happy?

My wife and my kids. Spending time with them is all I care about.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 44: Steve Knabl

Steve Knabl

Steve Knabl

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Steve Knabl in Singapore for a chat about Led Zeppelin, CNN, cycling, “Billion Dollar Whale”, Italian coffee and much more. Steve is the COO and Managing Partner of Swiss-Asia Financial Services Pte Ltd.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

I start off my day by reading BCC and then Financial Times and sometimes CNN for the fun, all via the mobile apps of course. Isn’t it just amazing how CNN has developed a sophisticated daily Anti-Trump bias? I always thought that the press had to remain truly unbiased and independent to maintain credibility.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Weekends are sacred for me. Family and cycling are the main occupations. On Saturdays, I start the day early and hit the mountain biking trails with my friends. We typically ride 50 to 100km which ranges anything between three to six hours of mountain biking. Rain or shine, we ride. Saturday afternoons and evenings are family time and we often go out for dinner together. On Sundays, it’s the road bike day. I take an early start and meet the boys for a fast and furious 70km ride – back home before everybody wakes up and prepare the pancakes!

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood and the World” by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. I read it twice because I just could not believe that in today’s world, such corruption and money laundering could actually still exist on such a big scale. I wanted to understand how these big banks actually abetted people to commit such crimes. All this in the name of money and completely blindsided by profit and greed, forgetting that one day, it could come back and hit them straight back in the face. A great read for anyone in the financial industry.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” – I never get tired of listening to those two tracks along with some other great and memorable pieces from Pink Floyd.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is make myself a double shot of espresso with a good 100% dark Italian roast Robusta coffee. I must admit that I am a coffee junkie. And to prove my coffee addiction, I launched a side business selling Italian artisanal roasted coffee. To date I have opened two retail shops with a third on the way as well as an e-commerce platform – check it out: www.101caffe.sg. In the evening I either have an ice-cold IPA or a gin with soda – really depends on the mood.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Thinking that I was smarter than the markets and being greedy. I kept on betting against volatility in February 2007 and got hammered and lost all my investible assets within two days.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

When I started my professional career in 1999, the man who hired me was willing to give me a shot right out of university. I was tasked at hiring and managing a team of traders for Switzerland’s first independent online trading brokerage platform. I don’t know why or how he knew that I would be capable without any previous professional experience! But as I moved on in my career, I understood that when you empower and trust people, believe in their capabilities, perseverance, drive and commitment, they can go a long, long way!

 

What gives you energy?

Sports. I do at least 15 hours of cycling a week and need it to clear my mind and re-focus. Cycling helps me think and take a step back when I am challenged with a problem.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Seeing as I am slightly hyperactive, I can be defined as a workaholic. I need to be constantly challenged mentally or physically. So, when I’m not working, exercise has that wonderful effect of releasing chemicals called endorphins in your body. As we all know, endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body and keep you alert and focused.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Having a bachelor’s degree in International Hospitality Management, you can imagine that I love food and drink. I have a few favourite restaurants in every city I frequently travel to. In Singapore, I love Burnt Ends and Olivia. In Hong Kong, for some reason, I crave for the vodka rigatoni at Carbone. In Bangkok, other than some great street food, I just can’t get enough of Gaa and Gaggan. And that is just to name a few.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Not only is the architecture unique, but contemporary art is by far my favourite.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

I tried a few social media apps and the only ones that I really use are LinkedIn for business and Instagram for socialising. Both are simple, straightforward and most importantly very fast to get up-to-date on your network.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Not sure that I should mention it in case my wife reads it – but here goes, I’ll take the risk that she won’t be reading this interview. I actually love collecting bicycles. I keep on buying new ones and refurbishing my older ones – I simply cannot get down to selling them. This results in me having to store my bikes at the bike shops and in a storage space and a few at home of course. It’s getting complicated!

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

No tie and no vest – remember Singapore is always hot and humid and I hate being sticky and sweaty so I keep it light! I have a tendency to keep it very simple; white high-collared shirt, dark grey pants and black Churchill shoes. That been said, I sometimes like to take it easy and wear my blue jeans and a black v-neck t-shirt. Especially if I have no formal meetings to attend.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Always! A good bottle of red wine from my cellar and a cigar. It’s important to do something memorable when you want to celebrate and it is probably also an excuse to crack open the wine and cigar cellars!

 

What makes you happy?

I am not a very outgoing person. I actually rarely go out on drinking binges after work, especially because I often have to get up in the early morning to get on one of my bikes! What makes me really happy though is getting together with my friends from time to time and having a good dinner followed by a drink and cigar and of course chat about everything and nothing late into the night.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 43: Michael Mills

Michael Mills

Michael Mills

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Michael Mills in Hong Kong for a chat about Queen, video games, ice water, getting back up when knocked down, Flight of the Phoenix, sushi in Roppongi, fast driving and much more. Michael has recently launched AltsGuru, a strategic consulting and business development business in the alternative investments industry. Previously, Michael was a Managing Director at Value Partners and has also worked at The New Amsterdam Group, RV Capital Management, OCP Asia, Citi and UBS.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

My news comes almost exclusively from the internet. I use “aggregators” like Google News to see general and specific articles and then my subscriptions – like Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post, etc. – to dive deeper. I don’t watch news on television – I may see clips on the internet – and I no longer buy anything in print – newspapers, magazines, books – but happy to read or watch all of those digitally.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Just spending time with my family is enough, whether we go out or just watch TV at home. I sometimes play strategy video games on my computer.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Recently read (via audiobook) “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow but prefer biographies and am finishing Robert Caro’s “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

I have wide-ranging eclectic tastes. But one for you, Stefan: “A Kind of Magic” by Queen – the soundtrack for the film “Highlander”.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Ice water. A surprise to many is that I don’t actually like the taste of coffee and I don’t drink alcohol at home. I got off my Coke Zero “addiction” a few years ago.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

There are so many, that it’s hard to figure the “worst”. I’ve always said that I’m not smart enough to run money, that’s why I’m a marketer.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I’ve had several people in my life over time who have helped me move further along – from my high school physics teacher, Mr Turner, who made science magical, to my ROTC drill sergeant, First Sgt Yanizi, who taught me to get back up when knocked down, to my father who said to stick with finance during the crisis.

 

What gives you energy?

Believing in something – whether it’s an idea or a fund. “I think a man only needs one thing in life. He just needs someone to love. If you can’t give him that, then give him something to hope for. And if you can’t give him that, just give him something to do.” – Flight of the Phoenix.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Ikekan in Roppongi, Tokyo. Many people know that it’s the only sushi restaurant I like in the whole world.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

Rodin Museum in Paris. Love his sculptures – The Gates of Hell alone is iconic as the definitive visualisation of Dante’s Inferno, but it also includes The Thinker, The Shades, etc. It’s also incredible to see Walking Man up close instill movement in a stationary object.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

No, not really. I mainly use LinkedIn as a way to establish and keep business connections – but nothing else.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Driving fast. Even though I gave up my sports car for a minivan, I’ve had the question from a passenger: “Is this a turbo?” My answer: “No – I just drive like it is!”

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

A suit without a tie is my standard, even on dress-down days.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Not really. A happy fist pump is all I need and then move to the next battle.

 

What makes you happy?

The simple things: family and a good job. A good cigar and with some good rum, add some spice to life.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 42: Sergei Diakov

Sergei Diakov

Sergei Diakov

Hedge Funds Club boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Sergei Diakov in Tokyo to talk about riding motorbikes along the Shonan Coast, visiting Kyoto, Japanese city pop, South Indian food in Tokyo, cups of tea, the FT’s Life & Arts section and much more. Sergei now heads up the Japan office for Tikehau Investment Management. Earlier he spent the bulk of his career at Citigroup but also had stints at Rogers Investment Advisors and Seiryu Asset Management.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

Online. FT, Nikkei, several finance-focused blogs. There are also some Japanese weekly podcasts, such as Nikkei Trendy, that I started listening to years ago for language practice and still find interesting today.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Take my motorcycle up to the mountains around Chichibu or down the Shonan coast. Longer trips work like meditation and Japan is one of the best countries in the world for riding.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Deep Kyoto” by Alex Kerr, delightfully detailed and timed to a recent trip to Kyoto. The city is tourist-free these days and being there feels surreal – like stepping into a time machine.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

My musical tastes are all over the place and I like discovering new stuff. Japanese city pop of the 80s – Mariya Takeuchi and Tatsuro Yamashita – is one of the most recent discoveries.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

A glass of water upon waking, more often than not followed by an espresso before lunch. The last drink is far less predictable.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

There have been too many. The ones I tend to remember are all regrets of inaction, like watching the yen go higher in 2011.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I have been lucky to work alongside many amazing professionals in Europe and in Japan – bosses, colleagues and clients. I like to think that some of their wisdom has rubbed off. One particular person who will always stand out is Chris Devries, the former head of Citibank in the Netherlands, whom I was lucky to encounter at the very start of my professional life. He passed away way too early and is fondly remembered by many people to whom he was a mentor and a friend.

 

What gives you energy?

I love being around people but occasionally need to recharge all by myself with a cup of tea and a good book or the FT’s Life & Arts section. After a few hours of that, I am usually good to go out again.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Through interacting with people that I admire and respect and semi-regular exercise.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Nandini for making some of the best South Indian food in Tokyo. It’s hardly a secret place, considering how many friends and acquaintances I keep spotting there. Whenever in London, I go out of my way to drop by at Tayyabs.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The British Museum – one or two sections at a time. In Japan, it’s small museums that often have niche exhibitions – Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Artizon (formerly Bridgestone Museum), Tokyo Station Gallery.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Not any longer. I have an empty account on Twitter to follow some people whose work I’m interested in, as well as some public organisations, such as GPIF, for their news and official announcements.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

For all my trying to stick to a good diet, the appeal of delicious carbs from a local bakery occasionally wins.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

It gives me great pleasure to put on a suit for a face-to-face client meeting, an event that used to be taken for granted but feels so special these days.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

I’m not big on celebrating specific dates or events but spontaneously deciding to share a bottle of wine with a friend can be fun on any day of the week.

 

What makes you happy?

I am happy if I can get my cup of tea and the FT’s Life & Arts section.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 41: Harry Horwitz-Rourke

Harry Horwitz-Rourke

Harry Horwitz-Rourke

Having recently relocated from Sydney to Tokyo, Harry Horwitz-Rourke talks to Hedge Funds Club boss Stefan Nilsson about The Teskey Brothers, Tokyo’s amazing food, searching for giant Buddhas, Meiji chocolate, golf, dust-gathering suits and much more. Harry is the founder of the Bulletin Group and Couloir Capital as well as Co-CEO of Carrara Investment Management. He kicked off his career in Australia with Investec and has also had stints at ANZ, Folkestone and Charter Hall.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

I start the day with a podcast – normally Macro Voices or The Economist – whilst I am out for a run. As we are working from home over in Tokyo, I tune in for the NHK news update at 7 am, and then normally jump between various Australian newspapers and broker reports.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Being quite new to Tokyo, my wife and I are taking any opportunity possible to get out of the office (a.k.a. home) in order to see the sites of Japan. In the current environment where we are stuck to the computer screen, these little getaways make all the difference. This normally means getting out of the city for some trail running or cycling, searching for giant Buddhas or temples and as often as possible getting out for a round of golf.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Robert Iger’s “The Ride of a Lifetime”. A great insight into an amazing company, whilst also showing the personal growth and self-awareness he developed throughout his career.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

The Teskey Brothers would have to be up toward the top of my most frequently played at the moment.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

The workday starts with a strong coffee and, of late, finishes with an Asahi.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Hard one – not listening to my gut and proceeding with an investment anyway. Time will tell who was right!

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I have been very lucky over the years to have been influenced and guided by some amazing mentors, who have become some of my closest friends. The best mentors for me, have been those that are able to assist in breaking complex situations down – or situations that might seem complex at the time – and help me focus on the process required to overcome the situation. They also never stop reminding me of what is most important in both life and my career.

 

What gives you energy?

Exercise is the key to my energy and my mindset for the day. I also started meditating around five years ago. Whilst I don’t do it enough, it has been an amazing way to clear my mind and charge the battery.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

My wife most definitely keeps me grounded and also keeps me moving forward.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

We have been absolutely amazed by the food since we arrived in Tokyo. We have found a favourite soba noodle restaurant in Nakameguro called Soba Sake Dokoro Kuan (https://sobasakedokorokuan.owst.jp). Some of the best noodles we have had in our six months of living in Japan – there have been a lot – and when you are new to a foreign country the little things like a big smile welcoming you in goes a long, long way!

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The Natural History Museum in London.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

I use LinkedIn to keep up with company news and seeing who is doing what. I use Instagram quite passively, mainly to provide me with updates from friends and family and also give me my daily dose of golf updates.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

I have recently come to love Meiji chocolate and over the past few months have found myself quite easily making my way through a block after dinner.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

My “battle dress” has always been a full suit and tie. However, in the current environment, the suits are really just gathering dust. I have come to enjoy being a little more relaxed day-to-day. However, the importance of keeping some element of formality (dress shirt) on workdays when we aren’t able to head into the office helps me keep switched on and get into the mindset of being at work.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Without a doubt and always with those that have been a part of creating that success.

 

What makes you happy?

Seeing ideas turn into businesses and being a part of the group of people that makes that possible. Spending time with my wife, the family and being out on the golf course all contribute to keeping a smile on the face.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 40: Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Michael Armitage in Melbourne to talk about The Clash, beach runs, dog walks, unjaded young people, Aussie red wine and much more. Michael is a well-known industry leader who founded FundLab in Australia and has worked with firms such as Apollo Capital, Cor Capital, Mercer, Milliman, S&P Capital IQ, AlphaPoint Capital, Sunrise Capital, SMBC and more.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

RealClearMarkets and RealClearPolitics for my first update. Zerohedge for some entertainment, AFR for local markets and barchart.com. I try to stay in the middle politically – hard to avoid all the narratives.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Young children, new dog, beach runs and mountain bike in winter – surf club and swim in summer.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Official CIA manual on trickery and deception.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Varies. From Daft Punk to The Clash. Currently yachting music channel on Spotify, 1970s California.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Green Vita/Spirulina algae with water. Finish the day with Aussie red, currently Barossa Shiraz.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

2007 Investment in a gay nightclub in San Diego, California, they’re not heavy drinkers, and GFC.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

Jack Forrest – the father of US CTA – trend followers. Learned plenty on risk sizing, but more importantly, taught me – build something good and the money will come.

 

What gives you energy?

Young, smart people – not jaded yet.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Early morning walks with the dog – a form of meditation – and create a to-do list of four things each day – the rule is I must complete three by noon.

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Angelos in Little Italy, New York. Plenty of great memories being entertained by NY brokers.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

New York’s Museum of Natural History. Childhood memories and it’s better with your kids.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

LinkedIn – publish articles, network. I dropped others as it’s too political.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Crypto.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

Currently in lockdown, jeans and tee with a jacket at the ready for Zoom.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Buy a piece of art.

 

What makes you happy?

My three-year-old’s laugh and my eight-year-old’s piano practice echoing through the house.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 39: Bryan Goh of Tsao Family Office

Bryan Goh

Bryan Goh

Bryan Goh, CEO and CIO of Tsao Family Office in Singapore, has had a long career in alternative investments and finance, including stints at Oaks Family Office, First Avenue Partners, DBS Bank, Bordier and Arab Bank. He also once founded and ran a fine watches retail business. HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Bryan for a chat about leverage, lively debates, the British Museum, water replacing vodka, Jan Hammer and much more.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

The usual sources: the FT, the Economist, the Independent and the Guardian.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

I run and cycle. More.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“The Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Something instrumental like Jan Hammer, Vangelis or Mahavishnu Orchestra.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Long gone are the days when vodka bookended the day. Now it’s water and the very occasional gin martini.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Not applying leverage, since governments have become not very discerning pawnshops.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

My first boss. After all the analysis he always said, give it a shot and do more if it works and stop if it doesn’t, but just do it.

 

What gives you energy?

A lively debate.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Understand the causes of things. Explore and don’t be too concerned about the dead ends and blind alleys.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Kababgy el Azhar Farahat for truly great stuffed pigeon.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The British Museum. So much of Asia and the MENA are in it.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

I stopped using Facebook years ago when I did a count of the hours spent there.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

A suit, truly the uniform of servitude. These days with online meetings, a black jumper to go with the sweats.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

With a suitable delay.

 

What makes you happy?

Figuring out how things work.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 38: Chris White

Chris White

Chris White

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Chris White in Singapore for a chat about long-form reading, Iron Maiden, men wandering about in foreign climes, Stilton cheese, cheeky cigars on mountain tops and much more. Chris is a seasoned member of the Asian hedge fund industry with stints at firms such as Graticule, Nezu Asia, Eudaemonic Capital, Elmwood Advisors and Man.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

For market news, mainly the FT and Bloomberg. More general news I tend to pick up from various curated feeds across the internet. I try to prioritise long-form thought pieces over headlines and have found Medium and Pocket to be quite good in that regard – once the algos figured out my tastes.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

In the pre-pandemic era, I have vague recollections of travel, going climbing with friends, that kind of thing. Nowadays we are more constrained; weekends are typically spent throwing the kids in the pool and trying to keep fit.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

My three-year-old insists on “The Gruffalo” every night – solid character development, an emotional roller coaster and a surprise twist at the end. During the lockdown, I finished “The Annotated Turing” by Charles Petzold, which takes Alan Turing’s classic paper “On Computable Numbers, With An Application To The Entscheidungsproblem” and breaks it down paragraph by paragraph. This is where computing really began, everything else – apart from Claude Shannon, perhaps – is rather a footnote. Still not an easy book to get through, hence the necessity of the lockdown to focus on it, but an incredible feat of exposition. Looking at my nightstand now, I’m sensing an unconscious desire for travel. I’ve got Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “Between the Woods and the Water”, Robert Byron’s “The Road to Oxiana” and Alan Booth’s “Looking for the Lost” sitting there – all great books about men lacing up their boots and going wandering in foreign climes.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

That’s very activity-dependent. If it’s grinding through some code, then it’s typically some electronica that doesn’t require much concentration. For a decent paced run, nothing beats old school drum ‘n’ bass, but for a workout where motivation is key then the metal playlist comes out – Iron Maiden, Metallica, sometimes newer stuff like Slipknot. Evenings tend to be a bit quieter – Dinah Washington, Coltrane/Hartman, Michael Nyman are always a good way to end the day. Recently I came across the Verve record label remixes – modern DJs and artists like Bassnectar, Diplo, Kascade remixing classic tracks from Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and others. Downtempo enough, but not so much that my eight-year-old complains that it’s “boooooring”.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Start is a pint of milk with a scoop of chocolate protein powder in it. Followed by coffee. So much coffee… End of day is usually water with chia seeds soaked in it and a squirt of fresh lime juice. Tastes much better than it sounds. Actually, it tastes exactly like it sounds.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Getting paid in USD while living in Japan in 2010 and 2011. I’ve never seemed to be on the right side of the currency trade with respect to salary. You should always short me in that respect and for what it’s worth I am currently USD income with SGD liabilities…

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I’ve had a number of mentors, both good and bad. On the great side, Akio Shimazu who hired me to Schroders – and is now head of Man Group in Japan – stands out. He taught me that mistakes were inevitable, but that you had to make a substantive change as a result to make the same mistake impossible in future; it’s never good enough to simply say “I won’t make that mistake again”.

 

What gives you energy?

There are so many ways to make money in the world and so much alpha which is left on the table. I’ve built and run programs and businesses that get that as a concept, and the constant ability to innovate and get paid for it is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I’ll never get bored of applying technology to financial problems, it’s endlessly fascinating.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

I think I’m finally at a point in life where I’ve got some perspective in an old-timey way. I came into the industry at the tail end of the Japan crash and the US S&L crisis, in the teeth of a UK recession. Swiftly followed by the Asia crisis, LTCM, the NASDAQ bubble bursting, 9-11, the quant crisis, 2008 and GFC, Greek blowup, Brexit and now the Covid pandemic. Almost every firm I’ve worked for no longer exists, got taken over or is in the process of self-immolation. It really is just one damned thing after another, so the quicker you can elevate yourself above the noise and get a sense of how these things are likely to pan out, the better. But at the same time, I think it’s also worth considering that the chaos can go on much longer than you imagined. Everyone thought World War II would be over by Christmas of 1939, so learn to dig in and ride it out. Finance is not so far from alpinism in that respect. You’ve got to lug around a bunch of heavy stuff and keep putting one foot in front of another to reach an objective that most people can’t see and don’t care about. Long stretches of tedium and slog, interspersed with moments of abject terror which force you to dig deep. And always keep your escape routes in mind. It’s been good training…

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

In Japan, it would have to The Sodoh in Kyoto. I’ve been going there since it was on the Kamogawa and known as the River Oriental back in the 90s, through to moving to the present location in Higashiyama. The setting – the estate of a former nihonga artist – with the pagoda of Hogan-ji illuminated at night, is just magical. In London, Rules in Covent Garden will always have a special place in my heart. As a northern boy trying to fit into the City it was, and still is, the embodiment of everything I thought London would be. Plus, they give you a huge round of Stilton cheese that you can dig into with dessert spoons, and who doesn’t love that?

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We used to go there almost every week when I lived in the city. I have a particular fascination with the Oceania section, I could wander around that for hours.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Much less active than I used to be, but perhaps that is just a pandemic side effect. I find myself using LinkedIn more these days, it seems to have found its stride somewhat. Facebook seems to have degenerated into endless adverts. I rarely look at it. I never really “got” Instagram or Twitter and I am way too old and uncool to use Snap or TikTok.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

I love a nap. It’s the ultimate life hack – like getting two days for the price of one in terms of energy and focus.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

Bold to assume I’m wearing anything at all in this WFH era.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Wins are always so ephemeral. By definition, you spend most of your life below your most recent high-water mark. To the extent I’ve hit a new high in anything, I’m always looking out for the next drawdown. Generally, too, wins are the culmination of a long process – by the time they arrive, you’ve had a good idea that they were coming for some time and so the mind has already moved onto the Next Big Thing. Very much a cliché, but it really is more about the journey than the destination.

 

What makes you happy?

Seeing the things I’ve created start to blossom, function of their own accord and grow in unexpectedly delightful ways. That goes for family as well as professional endeavours. There’s nothing better than that, although sitting at the top of a mountain after a hard climb with a cheeky cigar in hand does come a close second.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 37: James Alexander of Invast Global

James Alexander

James Alexander

 

Our popular series of Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews continues with HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checking in on James Alexander, Chief Commercial Officer of Invast Global in Sydney for a chat about escapism, Lego and getting dressed for work.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

I love stories that are interesting and quirky. Bloomberg’s “Odd Lots” podcast is a sure-fire way of starting your day with something that expands your frame of reference. Well, mine at least.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Escapism. Anything that breaks the current WFH routine is essential right now. For me, getting outdoors with the family is key. In the current environment where we inviably spend a lot of hours in front of screens trying to keep in touch, unwinding can be as simple as a walk in the park. Wine also helps…

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Yes, as long as the timeline on “recently” is flexible. I’ve always been interested in the human side of big events and still find myself recounting anecdotes from the Michael Lewis’ book “Boomerang” which recounts the post-global financial crisis-era through the lens of several different countries. “I Want My Hat Back”, is also good for a laugh according to my three-year-old.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Right now, it’s a split decision between Ludovico Einaudi’s “12 Songs from Home” and The National’s “Boxer”. Both have a bit of grit that seems appropriate right now.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

That depends on who’s asking. The one that is a certainty is carrot and ginger juice on a Monday morning, everything else is up for negotiation.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Not spending more, a hangover of Scottish heritage. Life doesn’t “keep” in a money box.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

Yes. He passed recently in advanced years and had the fearless, no BS approach that comes from a life well-lived. For all the technical things I learned from this person, a fondness for a good story was the most important. Those aren’t forgotten.

 

What gives you energy?

Caffeine and my young boys. When I’m alone, good tunes. As a former drummer, the steering wheel and dashboard cop a good “talking to” more regularly than I care to admit.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

While it’s easy to say family here – and they do ground me more than anything – trying to display the right attributes to some of the younger members of our team is also important. Realising that your example is the one they look to keeps you from getting ahead of yourself.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Just one, no, I can name dozens. Anything with chilli is a hit. Lankkan Filling Station was a recent highlight.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

Musée D’Orsay.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Only a little. I’m a believer in the “less is more” approach. The marketing team may disagree.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Commandeering my kids’ Lego. It’s genuinely addictive.

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

In the era of covid, I opt for the newsreader approach, business up top, party down below. After concluding a recent board meeting, the business shirt tucked into the Okanui’s got a public airing.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Not enough. Never enough.

 

What makes you happy?

Getting it done. A sense of accomplishment. Work, parenting, being there for family and friends or just smashing a good Lego set.