With international sales outstripping the UK business, Jupiter’s vice chairman Edward Bonham Carter has discussed the global path forward for the UK manager, including its SICAV in an era of Brexit. Gary Robinson caught up with him at the company’s London headquarters.
The competitive spirit is a key driver behind any successful fund manager and business leader. For Edward Bonham Carter, the appetite for success is arguably embedded in his very DNA.
Having a successful younger sister in film actress (Helena) has possibly helped drive this competitive spirit, but the family tree also includes great-great-grandfather Herbert Henry Asquith – Liberal prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, the last to lead that party in government without a coalition – and grandfather, Don Eduardo Propper de Callejon, who in 2008 was posthumously awarded the title ‘Righteous among the Nations’ by Israel’s Holocaust Memorial for his role saving hundreds of Jews in the Second World War.
There is much to live up to, and rather large footsteps to follow in, but it is not something that has ever gotten in Bonham Carter’s way. And in the asset management world Jupiter’s vice-chairman is perhaps just as well-known, or even better known, as his illustrious relatives.
Indeed, given the development of the business over the past decade or so under his leadership, he can afford a relaxed manner when proffering his outlook for the company from its headquarters off Victoria Street in Westminster, London. “The last time we’d just gone through the type of market growth felt in the last few months with the FTSE was in 1999, and we were at about £12bn,” he says.
“Now with the FTSE, in straight capital, at about 7,250-7,300, assets were £40bn at the end of December last year. It is encouraging growth.”
The advantage of previously having been through turbulent times on markets – today driven by reactions to president Donald Trump in the White House and Brexit uncertainty closer to home – is that Bonham Carter can reference the benefits of hard work. ‘Success’ has always been “an output of the corporate strategy rather than an aim in itself”, says Bonham Carter, without, he adds, wanting to sound “overly clichéd”.
“This business is quite simple in that you say what it is that you should do – but is quite hard to deliver – which is to outperform on behalf your clients over medium and long term after all fees. And then, corporate strategy-wise, to deliver that capability to a wide group of clients both in this country and abroad.”
“What has changed? The big development, both under me and now under Maarten (current CEO Maarten Slendebroek), over the last few years is the development of the international business.”
The Jupiter SICAV has reached some £10bn of assets, against a relatively tiny amount when launched. The irony of growth and success of Jupiter’s products across Continental Europe at a time when the UK appears to be drifting further away is not lost on Bonham Carter.
“It is odd that we are ‘little Englanders’ at the time of Brexit,” he says, noting that “we’ve opened offices – almost the reverse Brexit story – in Madrid and Milan recently.”
And what about other international jurisdictions?
“Hong Kong has also grown and is now 12-13 people. We have the office in Singapore. So, it is not just about Europe,” says Bonham-Carter. “It is all about making sure, have we got the right products and have got the right infrastructure to support those sales to clients, and secondly, a wider platform that can service those clients,” he says.
He also acknowledges the importance of the growth in the company’s fixed income business as a “big change” with the asset base now around £10bn.
“As Martin reminded me, when Jupiter was funded in 1986, BlackRock barely existed and now they are about 10 times our size,” says Bonham Carter. “Size is not everything. It is all about quality rather than width,” he laughs.
That ‘quality’ is something that the international market seems happy to embrace; the past year is the first in which Jupiter has done more business internationally than in the UK. “That’s right, partly because we’ve been in the UK a long time and it has got a rather mature book, so you would expect that if you are doing a half decent job in these markets,” Bonham Carter argues.
Still, there can be no mention of the success of a UK business without these days mentioning associated risks of Brexit.
Bonham Carter believes that it is still early days in terms of any sort of predictions. The obvious point, though, is that Jupiter has a Luxembourg SICAV range to help with any fund passporting issues – not, he hastens to add, through any specific foresight, but something that has been done like many other fund managers.
“Will Brexit bring a fundamental change to our business?” he asks.
“No. I think it is going to take time with such a significant uncertainty over the path of negotiation. And the other point is that there are some big European elections, (French and German, following recent Dutch ones) to come.”
“The whole thing with geopolitics is that last year was a significant year and this year will be [too]. One thing I tell people about Brexit and the American elections is how wrong experts can be.”
“Don’t be foolish and suggest it, but nor should one be complacent. Fundamentally [we] muddle through it and not be an optimist or a pessimist. Hopefully a realist.”
Speaking on the company’s 2017 plans, Bonham Carter notes that it is all ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’: Jupiter is planning to boost the product areas in which it is already doing well in.
Fixed income, multi-asset, European and UK Equities are important, but it is also key to build up new products in areas such as absolute return and Asian income, he says.
On new hires, he says that it is important that the business has a “gravitational effect on like-minded people that say ‘yes, that’s the sort of business I want to be part of’.
“Every business says that it is the right size – the sweet spot – but I think that there is material difference between being a very small boutique business and a very large business.”
“It is all about the environment that you are comfortable in. Some people like living in tightly packed villages rather than high-rises in cities. And corporately, Jupiter is like that, somewhere in between, with 450-500 staff.”
Dubbed a star fund manager himself in the past Bonham Carter admits that he is not keen on the term. “I have a slight aversion because there is a double-edged thing to star fund managers with the overpaid arrogant fund manager association,” he says. “But do I believe that some people just have the talent for fund management in the way that some people have the talent for football, musicianship, performance, etc.”
“I think that it is the job of Jupiter to attract more than its fair share of that talent and support them and ensure that they have the maximum probability over time to deliver good results for clients.”
“I prefer to call it talent. A balance between confidence and conviction and not being too arrogant. Every fund manager has their time out, and underperformance, and both have their own challenges.”
“Most fund managers by definition are pretty responsible people. It is a responsible job looking after people’s savings, their aspirations for the future and the means to make it happen. It is very important,” he says.
Outside interests and family are important to Bonham Carter. A working week that is now down to four days, since relinquishing the Jupiter CEO role, allows him time to walk the family dog around his neighbourhood in Barnes, London and enjoy his family time more.
“Yoga too, is something that Victoria, my wife and I have been doing it for at least 6-7 years,” he says. “Benefits I’ve found is that it addresses the old Victorian ethic of mind and body.”
“And we have a ping pong table in the house. I’m trying to fend off my three children who are breathing down my neck.”
So, with the work life balance in order, what of the industry? Is he still loving it?
And what would his legacy be?
“My legacy to the [Jupiter] business is the two ping pong tables that we have in our offices,” he jokes. “But am I still loving it? Yes. It [the financial industry] is a great privilege. This juxtaposition between politics and economics. How is the story going to unfold? Challenges like aging in the Western World in particular, demographics and how technology is affecting businesses competitive positions is fascinating.”
Name: Edward Bonham-Carter
Job: Vice chairman, Jupiter
More than 30 years’ experience in the investment market with positions at Schroders and Electra Investment Trust and 20 years working at Jupiter, including seven years as CEO, Bonham-Carter has extensive knowledge of fund management business.
Joined Jupiter in 1994 as a UK fund manager, after working at Schroders (1982-1986) and Electra Investment Trust (1986-1994). He was appointed chief investment officer in 1999 and joint chief executive in May 2000.
He became group chief executive in 2007 and led Jupiter through its management buyout that year and its subsequent IPO in June 2010.
He relinquished his role as chief executive in March 2014, on Maarten Slendebroek’s appointment and became as vice chairman focusing on engaging with the company’s key stakeholders, including clients, prospective clients and industry bodies.
Other current roles:
Joined the board of Land Securities Group plc as a non-executive director and member of the Remuneration Committee in January 2016, and was appointed senior independent director in July 2016. He is also a director of The Investor Forum.
Educated: 1979-82 Degree in economics and politics, University of Manchester
Hobbies: Table Tennis, Yoga, walking, cycling