Rosie Bullard joined James Hambro & Partners in 2013. She is involved in UK and international stock selection, is a member of the Asset Allocation Committee and was made a partner in 2016. Here she talks about how she looks after clients, what makes a good portfolio manager and how the wealth management industry is changing.
What’s the most important part of your job?
Rosie: As a portfolio manager it’s protecting client wealth – the biggest fear for many clients who have worked hard to build their wealth over many years is that it will disappear down a black hole in a market crash or be gradually chipped away by inflation. Clients also want their money invested in assets we can all understand and in liquid assets, so that they can access their money whenever they need it.
Beyond that the most important thing has to be making sure clients are getting the service they deserve and that’s something I think we do well here actually. A lot of financial services companies going for growth seem to forget their current clients, which to me feels like folly – a huge part of our growth has come from client recommendation. Clients have rewarded our efforts by recommending us to their friends and colleagues, which is something we’re all very proud of here.
Lots of companies talk about how well they look after clients. In reality, what does that actually mean?
Rosie: It’s quite a few things. At JH&P clients talk directly to the team managing their money. When they first become clients we spend quite a lot of time with them, getting to understand their aspirations and family needs, their attitudes to risk, whether they like being communicated with by email, phone or post, what level of reporting they want and all those things. We’ve got a straight-forward account opening process – we’ve worked really hard to make it as clear and simple as possible – but there’s still quite a lot of communication at the beginning, especially if we’re delivering financial planning advice and looking at issues like setting up trusts for children and addressing IHT challenges. Things then tend to settle down but clients have access to us whenever they want to talk to us.
The client relationship role is an aspect of the job I really like and for it to work it means ensuring that investment managers are not responsible for so many portfolios that they can’t be available to their clients. It also means building around each investment manager a strong team that the client gets to know well too. Alongside portfolio managers in each team, there are assistant portfolio managers and a client service manager. Often if a client rings it’s with an administration request rather than investment question and they want to speak to my colleague Venetia rather than me.
I’m part of a really strong team and we’ve got some outstanding experienced senior portfolio managers across the business too, so when I was on maternity leave recently it was great to know I was leaving clients in safe hands while I was away.
What makes a good portfolio manager?
Rosie: Being able to listen so that you build a portfolio that’s right for the client is a starting point, but then you’ve got to be able to deliver investment performance, which means being able to do the necessary financial analysis of companies and understand how markets behave. Experience helps – the older I get the more important I think that is, funnily enough! I do think that living through investment cycles makes you a better investor.
Is there anything that JH&P does differently to most?
Rosie: We believe equities are the main source of long-term real returns and so our portfolios have an equity bias. I think the fact that we build portfolios with a large proportion of direct equities (rather than just funds) is quite distinctive. Obviously past performance is no guarantee of future performance, but when you look at the ARC numbers, which show our track record against other wealth managers, I think this direct equity emphasis has been a big contributor to our historic outperformance.
Part of my role is stock research, particularly on international equities and this is an area in which we’ve been growing our capability in the past 18 months. We have great access to research and companies throughout the world which really enhances our offering to clients. Our aim is to pick the best stock in the sector or the best way of playing a theme or market rather than being constrained by geography and this differs from other managers who are often more UK market focused.
I’ve also been developing our offering for offshore and US clients where requirements differ from a portfolio construction perspective. The benefit we have in developing new offerings for these clients is that we are not diverging from our investment process – the same strict criteria is still applied in picking individual stocks and funds as well as in our asset allocation decisions, but the way those assets are put together to form a portfolio is being enhanced. JH&P is a dynamic business and we recognise that we need to continually improve on and develop our offering as we grow, and this is being received well by clients and prospective clients.
How have things changed since you began working life?
Rosie: I think there have been massive cultural changes – particularly in the last five years. There’s more focus on work life balance and importantly on support for working mothers and now working fathers, particularly with more men taking shared parental leave.
The wealth manager industry was traditionally dominated by men but we’ve got a lot of women in senior positions here and if you look at the next generation of staff at JH&P, there is a healthy balance between men and women. The same is true for our client base too where many more women are much more engaged with the management of their assets than has been the case historically.
What do you do to relax?
Rosie: I like running and playing tennis, and I cycle to work every day – it keeps me fit. It also means I get into work on time and in a good frame of mind because I don’t have to rely on public transport and get squashed like a sardine on the tube every morning! I also enjoy spending time with my family including two young children, albeit it’s not necessarily relaxing rushing around after them all weekend!
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