Monthly Archives: September 2020

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 45: Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Paul Smith

 

Paul Smith is an industry legend, perhaps most famous for his work at fund administrator Bank of Bermuda (later acquired by HSBC) and as President and CEO of the CFA Institute. Now he’s back in Hong Kong where he runs his own firm Warlencourt. HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Paul for a chat about reintroducing megafauna, silence, black coffee, not getting stressed, being comfortable with defeat and much more.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

Depends. If I am travelling, I read The Economist and the FT online. I also watch the evening news on BBC World via a streaming service. If at home in Hong Kong, I read The Economist online and the FT on paper, traditionalist, but The Economist printing is of such low quality the online version is, alas, better. I also listen to Hong Kong radio news on RTHK3 from 6:30 am to 9:00 am as background whilst I exercise. Long walks in the hills of Hong Kong. BBC evening news as well.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Nothing special. Avid sports fan so usually watch some soccer, rugby or cricket. If in the UK, I would do this live otherwise on TV. Always visit the gym and usually have a social date with friends for a meal. I don’t need to unwind as a rule! I have a very lucky disposition and don’t get stressed.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Rewilding” by Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe. My youngest daughter is an ecologist and she got me interested. Fascinating and positive. Easy to read. Tells you all you want to know about how we can reintroduce megafauna into habitats to help them return to their condition of 10,000 years ago! Yes, it’s possible and has incalculable benefits for plant and wildlife diversity and also for global warming.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Silence!!! I read a lot and any music does my head in. I can’t concentrate as the rhythms seem to disrupt my brainwaves. It’s a constant source of friction with my wife who likes music to help her think! An ideal marriage.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Always black filter coffee! But never after noon as I don’t sleep if I do. Not a nightcap person. Like most English people, I like to drink! So, I try to make sure that water and coffee are all I have for five days a week and at the weekend it’s a heady combination of gin, wine and beer. Taken in any order and in quantity. If in the UK, the beer is always bitter or Guinness. In Hong Kong, it would be Heineken on Carlsberg. Italian red wine by preference. Gin is just gin. It’s the tonic that counts. Schweppes always. Fever-Tree ruins any gin.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

I worked for a company that was bought out by HSBC and I received substantial HSBC stock in the transaction. I didn’t hedge the position or sell it and hung on to this day. Big error!

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

Yes. He was a strange character. Not everyone’s cup of tea. But I started working for him when I was 25 and spent the next 11 years with him. The biggest lesson he taught me was patience in business. That everyone in life floats into your orbit at least twice during your life. If that person does you down, don’t fret, don’t force it, just wait. Life is a long race and at some point, you will be able to have the advantage over them. That advice has kept me calm during periods of adversity. I am not naturally that way inclined and this advice really helped keep me balanced.

 

What gives you energy?

Easy. Being around people who are young and hungry. I have been so lucky in the last decade of my career to have been able to spend it with twenty- and thirty-year-olds. My mum said something to me when I was in my teens – what gave her hope was the sure knowledge that the next generation was better than hers. I have carried that with me. The next generation is far cleverer, more moral, better balanced than mine and being around them is a huge gift.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Read, read, read. History by preference. We have been here before and coped and we will do again. This too shall pass.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

No. I never remember what I have eaten. I remember the people I ate with. Just as happy with fish and chips as gourmet cooking. It’s who you are with that counts not what you eat. Sorry to all the restauranteurs out there!

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The White House of the Confederacy in Richmond. I am a friend there. An amazingly apocalyptic conflict that changed the world – but not as much as it should have done. This is a museum that really tries hard to interpret the past through the eyes of the present but with empathy for our forebears.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Yes, very. Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Firstly, to stay connected with people I care about and secondly, to try to promote causes I care about – ESG and equality of opportunity for all.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Nope. All my pleasures are taken in full view!

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

Always a suit and tie. Can’t have my game face on without them. First impressions do make a difference and how you treat others is key. Putting a suit on shows you care what other people think about you.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

No. They are too rare and am more comfortable with defeat. I am English, after all.

 

What makes you happy?

My wife and my kids. Spending time with them is all I care about.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 44: Steve Knabl

Steve Knabl

Steve Knabl

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Steve Knabl in Singapore for a chat about Led Zeppelin, CNN, cycling, “Billion Dollar Whale”, Italian coffee and much more. Steve is the COO and Managing Partner of Swiss-Asia Financial Services Pte Ltd.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

I start off my day by reading BCC and then Financial Times and sometimes CNN for the fun, all via the mobile apps of course. Isn’t it just amazing how CNN has developed a sophisticated daily Anti-Trump bias? I always thought that the press had to remain truly unbiased and independent to maintain credibility.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Weekends are sacred for me. Family and cycling are the main occupations. On Saturdays, I start the day early and hit the mountain biking trails with my friends. We typically ride 50 to 100km which ranges anything between three to six hours of mountain biking. Rain or shine, we ride. Saturday afternoons and evenings are family time and we often go out for dinner together. On Sundays, it’s the road bike day. I take an early start and meet the boys for a fast and furious 70km ride – back home before everybody wakes up and prepare the pancakes!

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood and the World” by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. I read it twice because I just could not believe that in today’s world, such corruption and money laundering could actually still exist on such a big scale. I wanted to understand how these big banks actually abetted people to commit such crimes. All this in the name of money and completely blindsided by profit and greed, forgetting that one day, it could come back and hit them straight back in the face. A great read for anyone in the financial industry.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” – I never get tired of listening to those two tracks along with some other great and memorable pieces from Pink Floyd.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is make myself a double shot of espresso with a good 100% dark Italian roast Robusta coffee. I must admit that I am a coffee junkie. And to prove my coffee addiction, I launched a side business selling Italian artisanal roasted coffee. To date I have opened two retail shops with a third on the way as well as an e-commerce platform – check it out: www.101caffe.sg. In the evening I either have an ice-cold IPA or a gin with soda – really depends on the mood.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

Thinking that I was smarter than the markets and being greedy. I kept on betting against volatility in February 2007 and got hammered and lost all my investible assets within two days.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

When I started my professional career in 1999, the man who hired me was willing to give me a shot right out of university. I was tasked at hiring and managing a team of traders for Switzerland’s first independent online trading brokerage platform. I don’t know why or how he knew that I would be capable without any previous professional experience! But as I moved on in my career, I understood that when you empower and trust people, believe in their capabilities, perseverance, drive and commitment, they can go a long, long way!

 

What gives you energy?

Sports. I do at least 15 hours of cycling a week and need it to clear my mind and re-focus. Cycling helps me think and take a step back when I am challenged with a problem.

 

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Seeing as I am slightly hyperactive, I can be defined as a workaholic. I need to be constantly challenged mentally or physically. So, when I’m not working, exercise has that wonderful effect of releasing chemicals called endorphins in your body. As we all know, endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body and keep you alert and focused.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Having a bachelor’s degree in International Hospitality Management, you can imagine that I love food and drink. I have a few favourite restaurants in every city I frequently travel to. In Singapore, I love Burnt Ends and Olivia. In Hong Kong, for some reason, I crave for the vodka rigatoni at Carbone. In Bangkok, other than some great street food, I just can’t get enough of Gaa and Gaggan. And that is just to name a few.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Not only is the architecture unique, but contemporary art is by far my favourite.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

I tried a few social media apps and the only ones that I really use are LinkedIn for business and Instagram for socialising. Both are simple, straightforward and most importantly very fast to get up-to-date on your network.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Not sure that I should mention it in case my wife reads it – but here goes, I’ll take the risk that she won’t be reading this interview. I actually love collecting bicycles. I keep on buying new ones and refurbishing my older ones – I simply cannot get down to selling them. This results in me having to store my bikes at the bike shops and in a storage space and a few at home of course. It’s getting complicated!

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

No tie and no vest – remember Singapore is always hot and humid and I hate being sticky and sweaty so I keep it light! I have a tendency to keep it very simple; white high-collared shirt, dark grey pants and black Churchill shoes. That been said, I sometimes like to take it easy and wear my blue jeans and a black v-neck t-shirt. Especially if I have no formal meetings to attend.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Always! A good bottle of red wine from my cellar and a cigar. It’s important to do something memorable when you want to celebrate and it is probably also an excuse to crack open the wine and cigar cellars!

 

What makes you happy?

I am not a very outgoing person. I actually rarely go out on drinking binges after work, especially because I often have to get up in the early morning to get on one of my bikes! What makes me really happy though is getting together with my friends from time to time and having a good dinner followed by a drink and cigar and of course chat about everything and nothing late into the night.

News: Lawrence Lo joins AM Squared

Lawrence Lo has been appointed COO of AM Squared in Hong Kong. AM Squared employs liquid relative value investment strategies across a broad range of assets throughout the Asia Pacific region using both systematic and fundamental approaches. Lawrence was earlier Deputy COO of Zentific Investment Management and prior to that Head of Operations at Azentus Capital Management. He has also had stints at Standard Chartered Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and HSBC.

News: Max Franti joins Azimut

Max Franti

Max Franti

 

 

Max Franti and his team at Trendlab have joined Azimut Group’s AZ Investment Management in Singapore. Azimut is a global independent asset manager that regards competence and alignment of interest as keys to deliver higher performance to private and institutional investors. Max has previously worked at Axis Bank, CIC and BNP Paribas.

News: Carol Tang joins Ekagrata

Carol Tang has joined Ekagrata Capital Advisers in Singapore as Manager of Operations and Compliance. She most recently had a similar role at Saga Tree Capital Advisors and earlier she spent time working for Cambridge Associates.

News: Michinori Kanokogi joins Nissay

Michinori Kanokogi

Michinori Kanokogi

 

Michinori Kanokogi has joined Nissay Asset Management in Tokyo as Chief Portfolio Manager. Most recently, he was Portfolio Manager at AQR Capital Management. Earlier he has worked at Russell Investments, Deloitte, UBS Global Asset Management and PwC.

News: Sébastien Cerbourg launches 1020 Capital Management

Sébastien Cerbourg

Sébastien Cerbourg

 

 

Sébastien Cerbourg has become Co-Founder and Portfolio Manager at 1020 Capital Management, a multi-strategy vehicle, in Hong Kong. He was until last year Portfolio Manager at Three Stones Capital and earlier had stints at Golden Full Asset Management, SocGen and Accenture.

News: Alastair Kelly joins Broadridge

Alastair Kelly has joined Broadridge Asset Management Solutions in Hong Kong as Head of International Operations. He has previously had stints at Eze Software, Dealogic and Xayce.

News: Ex-Voltex trader launches Smile Research

Joffrey Dalet

Joffrey Dalet

Joffrey Dalet has set up Smile Research in Hong Kong and will serve as the firm’s CIO and Portfolio Manager. Smile Research will be active in the digital asset space. Most recently, Joffrey worked with quant volatility trading at Voltex Asia Capital, a firm he spent more than seven years with.

The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 43: Michael Mills

Michael Mills

Michael Mills

HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Michael Mills in Hong Kong for a chat about Queen, video games, ice water, getting back up when knocked down, Flight of the Phoenix, sushi in Roppongi, fast driving and much more. Michael has recently launched AltsGuru, a strategic consulting and business development business in the alternative investments industry. Previously, Michael was a Managing Director at Value Partners and has also worked at The New Amsterdam Group, RV Capital Management, OCP Asia, Citi and UBS.

 

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

My news comes almost exclusively from the internet. I use “aggregators” like Google News to see general and specific articles and then my subscriptions – like Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post, etc. – to dive deeper. I don’t watch news on television – I may see clips on the internet – and I no longer buy anything in print – newspapers, magazines, books – but happy to read or watch all of those digitally.

 

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Just spending time with my family is enough, whether we go out or just watch TV at home. I sometimes play strategy video games on my computer.

 

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

Recently read (via audiobook) “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow but prefer biographies and am finishing Robert Caro’s “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series.

 

Your soundtrack of choice?

I have wide-ranging eclectic tastes. But one for you, Stefan: “A Kind of Magic” by Queen – the soundtrack for the film “Highlander”.

 

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

Ice water. A surprise to many is that I don’t actually like the taste of coffee and I don’t drink alcohol at home. I got off my Coke Zero “addiction” a few years ago.

 

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

There are so many, that it’s hard to figure the “worst”. I’ve always said that I’m not smart enough to run money, that’s why I’m a marketer.

 

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I’ve had several people in my life over time who have helped me move further along – from my high school physics teacher, Mr Turner, who made science magical, to my ROTC drill sergeant, First Sgt Yanizi, who taught me to get back up when knocked down, to my father who said to stick with finance during the crisis.

 

What gives you energy?

Believing in something – whether it’s an idea or a fund. “I think a man only needs one thing in life. He just needs someone to love. If you can’t give him that, then give him something to hope for. And if you can’t give him that, just give him something to do.” – Flight of the Phoenix.

 

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Ikekan in Roppongi, Tokyo. Many people know that it’s the only sushi restaurant I like in the whole world.

 

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

Rodin Museum in Paris. Love his sculptures – The Gates of Hell alone is iconic as the definitive visualisation of Dante’s Inferno, but it also includes The Thinker, The Shades, etc. It’s also incredible to see Walking Man up close instill movement in a stationary object.

 

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

No, not really. I mainly use LinkedIn as a way to establish and keep business connections – but nothing else.

 

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

Driving fast. Even though I gave up my sports car for a minivan, I’ve had the question from a passenger: “Is this a turbo?” My answer: “No – I just drive like it is!”

 

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

A suit without a tie is my standard, even on dress-down days.

 

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

Not really. A happy fist pump is all I need and then move to the next battle.

 

What makes you happy?

The simple things: family and a good job. A good cigar and with some good rum, add some spice to life.