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 Charles Younes, research manager at Financial Express (FE):
What has been your most successful asset allocation decision so far?
We have always maintained a high allocation to gilts, despite valuations. This asset class provides a large amount of diversification benefits. Gilts only failed to diversify when inflation shot above expectations (in May and June 2013 and Q3 2018), but periods such as these have been limited.
Name the top three challenges you have experienced in your role:
Firstly, accessing to data to form analysis: I am pretty lucky from that point of view, given my role at FE. I have access to performance data and portfolio holdings, and it is so easy to play between ratios and investment periods.
Secondly, forming an informative analysis: many of our peers form their opinion of a fund based on a single analytical tool. At FE Invest, we have developed so many analytical tools to base our opinion on from a fund perspective, from portfolio holdings, to performance data and correlation metrics. Combining all those methods together is so informative, as they tend to contradict or support each other.
Finally, picking the best range of funds: my role does not involve picking the best performing fund. I don't make a call on the future. My job is only to provide a diversified shortlist of funds. When looking back at the performance of our shortlisted funds, we aim to have the same number of outperforming and underperforming funds.
What attracted you to join the investment industry?
I am a perfectionist and an analytical person. In the asset management industry, there is not one solution, nor one outcome, to a problem. Different research can lead to different opinions; therefore it is so important to never be satisfied and keep on improving.
Who has been your role model and why?
Daryl Morey: He has been the general manager of the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association since 2007. He is a strong proponent of analytical methods, having created the "true shooting percentage" statistic, and co-founded the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Morey's basketball philosophy heavily relies on analytics but he does not fully base his decision solely on this. He is also a manager who believes in the horizontal structure of the decision process, where everyone can have a say (from the intern to the CEO) as long as it is based on information, not past experience or feeling.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Start and practice coding early, otherwise it will be too late.
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Daryl Morey, as above, so we could discuss NBA and analytics till late. I would probably invite ESPN journalist Zach Lowe with us (who is a big fan of analytics too).
Georges Jacques Danton was a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution. Many historians describe him as "the chief force in the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic". More importantly, his political party slowly lost the power to another party led by Robespierre. He decided to stick to his political principles, which led him to the guillotine.
Finally, Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and philosopher. He uses a scientific approach to numerous fields, including religion. His aim was to doubt everything, d to form various opinions on a subject to find the truth. Using his method, the only thing he could not explain was the existence of God - this is where you need faith.