Following Investment Week's inaugural Trailblazer Awards in June, we speak to a different winner each week regarding some of their greatest achievements and the challenges they have faced over their career.
This week, we chat to Anthony Graham, a portfolio manager at Ellis Bates.
What has been your most successful asset allocation decision so far?
I would say there are two ways to measure success in this sense; allocating to an asset class that subsequently outperformed on a relative basis, and successfully providing further diversification to a portfolio following a review, reducing exposures to certain factors.
In January 2018, I made the recommendation that, in our highest risk portfolio, we reduce our exposure to GEM bonds and used the proceeds to invest in high yield bonds.
Looking back, this enabled us to protect the portfolios from a larger drawdown while retaining some upside exposure; the rebalancing of the portfolios in October was able to provide positive returns during the subsequent recovery.
If thinking about 'best' rather than successful, I would say the implementation of a short duration strategy in the last few years amid a rate rising environment, which we put together and debated as a team.
It greatly helped to actively reduce the interest rate sensitivity of the fixed income allocation within the portfolio, using RMBS/ABS exposure, short dated, high quality corporate bonds as well as short-dated global inflation linked bonds.
Name the top three challenges you have faced in your role and how you have overcome them
Firstly, breadth of investment coverage. As a portfolio manager I spend a lot of my time meeting fund managers, reading and researching. I cover every asset class and region alongside my colleagues rather than focus on a specialist area.
For example, I can go from meeting/covering a short duration index linked bond strategy to looking at an artificial intelligence thematic fund, which can be hard for the brain at times. I have been able to overcome this daunting task by creating and implementing a research note framework to improve the formalisation of the due diligence process.
Secondly, studying. Little did I know when finishing my Master's degree I would have to put myself through a level seven qualification again. Obviously, time is the biggest challenge and being able to concentrate for not only the working day, but the five or six hours after work, as well as the weekends.
A requirement for being a trailblazer is being within a certain age. Age is positively correlated to experience. Lack of experience can sometimes be seen as a challenge in a role as an investment manager/fund selector/portfolio manager. But as I get older and garner more experience I believe have improved my ability to adapt.
I moved around a lot when I was younger, which I feel has helped me, be it social or professional situations or my understanding different cultures.
What attracted you to the investment industry?
A keen interest in economics, finance and investments became evident from an early age, which was then confirmed with four years at university studying the topics.
The fast-paced nature of investments, finance and the factors that can impact them fascinate me, from behavioural finance and political interference, to black swan events and the rise of emerging markets.
Having to keep abreast of the information and an awareness of issues is something that I relish.
Another main reason what attracted me is the ability to work with clients to help them meet their financial objectives, be it saving for a house or funding for retirement.
Getting to speak to clients, with their advisers and understanding their needs in is very rewarding and something that genuinely means I am making a difference to those that choose to invest with in the strategies.