Today’s Pub Club takes a rather unusual turn of events – we both order salads writes Eleanor Mahmoud. Regular readers will recognise this as quite the opposite of the usual food feast this feature tends to entail. However, today’s dining partner, Bob Szechenyi, is bravely still on the January health wagon and who am I to stop him?
I note his surname sounds unusually similar to the Szechenyi Bridge in Budapest. Turns out the bridge was funded and built by one of his ancestors, who at the time had got tired of rowing over the Danube to visit his girlfriend on the other side.
Ancestry aside, we meet at Singer Tavern, a light and airy spot in between the City and Shoreditch. Szechenyi is an investment director at Rathbones’ London office and has been firmly embedded in the firm since he joined in 2000.
Having come from a farming background, at one point he assumed he would continue in his father’s footsteps. However, after graduating from Newcastle University, he made the step into investment management.
At this point in markets, such a move would prove exciting, as Szechenyi looks back. ‘Joining Rathbones right at the top of the internet bubble was certainly an interesting time to start my career – the FTSE was flirting around 7,000!’
Amid said bubble, Szechenyi made the decision to follow one of his passions – skiing. He took six months off to complete a ski season, returning to Rathbones afterwards.
‘Thankfully the markets rallied and I could return to my position. If they had fallen any more I probably wouldn’t have had that job anymore.’
We tuck into our salads, which admittedly are a decent size, as salads go – tuna and black rice for him and halloumi and chickpea for me.
Having been at the same firm for his entire career, he has witnessed first-hand its growth over the years.
‘In 2000 our AUM was under £4 billion and now its £40 billion. It’s been amazing seeing how that figure has grown,’ he says.
And there are no signs of stopping there, as Szechenyi is also involved with Rathbones’ international expansion.
‘The really exciting bit we’re looking at right now is our international business. International advisers are beginning to outsource more and we’re looking to build relationships there,’ he explains. ‘We started in Europe last year and are also underway in South Africa and Singapore.’
Despite building up a solid book of business abroad in just a few months, it seems it is not without its challenges.
Not only are Rathbones a lesser known name abroad, but discretionary investment management is not as commonplace in Europe, where the banks tend to dominate. Saying that, a number of national firms are testing international waters, so we will wait to see how they fare.
On to our post lunch coffees and I’m interested to hear what industry trends Szechenyi is seeing.
‘With extra regulatory pressures, managers are concerned at how many clients they can look after,’ he begins. ‘Teams already at capacity probably have to pass on their smaller clients or hire more staff.’
Alongside this, clients are increasingly questioning current market conditions.
‘I’m also noticing that clients are making more enquiries and concerned about the level of the FTSE and whether they should be taking profits,’ he says.
‘It’s a less committal market nowadays. This past year I’ve probably seen more cash flow levels than in the past five years.’
Glass half full:
‘The government will intervene and cut taxes and banks will lend more now they are better capitalised. Markets keep advancing.’
Glass half empty:
‘When is the market going to correct?’