M&G chief executive Anne Richards talks diversity and ESG, combining M&G and Prudential, allotments and atomic doughnuts with Richard Romer-Lee.
How did you get into the industry?
By mistake. My first degree was in electronics and engineering and I was heading towards a career in academia, with my first job as a research fellow at CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research near Geneva. I worked on the Large Electron Positron Collider - which is essentially a big atomic doughnut.
It was an amazing time but I wasn't sure I could spend my life looking for a particle that might take 30 years to find! I eventually wound up studying for an MBA at Insead in France, where I discovered and fell in love with financial markets. My first job in the City was as an engineering analyst at Alliance Capital.
What makes a good fund manager?
Curiosity, integrity and tenacity. You have to have conviction in your views - even doing nothing is itself a decision. It can be a really lonely job. That's why I believe fund managers work best in teams with the right mix of skills and personality, each person looking through a different prism. The individual brilliance of the lone fund manager is a bit of a myth.
What challenges does the industry face?
We may be at a tipping point in the market as the liquidity backdrop is changing - central banks are raising the interest rates and moving from net purchases to net issuance. The period of the last 10 years of high liquidity is drawing to a close and we are moving to a new era.
People who have been in the market for 10 years or less have seen neither a credit cycle nor a default - this has been an extended cycle after what was a brutal correction. With risks rising from Brexit, escalation in trade wars, tariffs, we have a lot to navigate. Companies have been and are generally good at dealing with challenges. The question is how will they adapt in future?
How must the industry adapt to regain trust with investors?
The bottom line is that we are looking after people's money and their future - what we do has an impact. There is a generational shift in the senior management of asset management companies and much more understanding of our obligation to society and the importance of trust.