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Dining with 7IM's Damian Barry at The Culpeper

Dining with 7IM's Damian Barry at The Culpeper

What exactly a ‘culpeper’ is, I am still none the wiser, writes Suzie Bliss. My search for a suitable definition has been fruitless and even trusty Wikipedia has not come up with a conclusive answer. If any of our readers can enlighten us on this mystery, please do let us know!

For the purposes of eating and drinking however, there are no two ways about it, The Culpeper is perfectly equipped. A huge, horseshoe shaped bar dominates the open-plan pub, nestled on the eastern edge of the City.

It is here that I meet Damian Barry, senior portfolio manager at Seven Investment Management. Barry has a softly spoken, though still very much apparent, Irish accent. Sitting down at a table by one of the enormous windows, I asked the fairly redundant question: was Barry born and bred in Ireland?

Humouring my obtuseness, he told me he was born in Cork but, having always wanted to get into investments, moved to Dublin in the mid-1990s to join AIB, where he dealt currencies.

He then joined Russell Investments as it was just launching multi-manager funds and was responsible for managing some of its fund of funds vehicles.

‘It was an exciting opportunity, getting to meet managers all over the world,’ he recalls. 

‘Initially I ran US and South African equity funds, and later moved on to work on many different asset classes.’

Barry has travelled all over South Africa, spending a lot of time in Johannesburg. He saw firs- hand the transformation that was happening in a nation with a troubled past. 

‘In the late 1990s, South Africa was going through enormous change, both culturally and economically. At the time, the local South African stock market was dominated by commodity stocks. Commodity stocks in South Africa were not popular then. We had to force managers to buy commodities in the segregated accounts they ran for us. It proved to be timely as commodity stocks rebounded strongly.  

‘Our RSA funds performed well. It was a fabulous experience learning about the challenges and opportunities in emerging markets.’

At Russell he also ran some US equity funds which meant a significant amount of time spent travelling around the US. When Barry switched to running multi-asset funds he moved his family over to Seattle for a few years.

His next career move was perhaps not so timely. ‘In 2008, I moved back to London and joined Threadneedle the week before Lehman Brothers went bust. It was a turbulent time for the industry and fascinating from an investment perspective. Threadneedle asked me to run some multi-asset funds, and I jumped at the opportunity.’ 

In 2015, Seven Investment Management bought out the multi-asset arm of the Threadneedle business, and merged those funds into the Seven Multi-Asset range.

Sipping white wine and dining on delicious haddock and chips, and pesto spaghetti, it really was a pleasant way to spend a lunch time. Conversation however turns to the less tasty topic of Brexit. 

‘Seven’s investment approach embraces tactical asset allocation, especially as it relates to managing overall risk.’

This point was demonstrated when the team stayed up all night after the Brexit referendum.

‘We recognised that a surprise result would have a huge impact on the markets. We sold significant amounts of sterling in favour of US dollars in the early hours of the morning for our funds. A good night’s work.’  

Throughout his career, Barry has seen the investment management industry evolve, and the collective funds sector boom. 

‘Fund selection isn’t easy, there are more funds than stocks.

‘The fund universe is too big and we will continue to see it getting smaller. It’s not just about looking for the best performing fund, it’s about understanding what environments will be conducive or challenging for managers,’ he pinpoints, polishing off his wine.

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