As I enter The Oddfellows pub in Exeter to meet this week’s guest, James Clark, a senior fund analyst at Hawksmoor Investment Management, two things cross my mind: ‘wow, this pub received the Taste of the West gold award last year, so I’m in for some good eating’, and, ‘I hope my guest didn’t choose this place because he is an odd fellow too’, writes Katie Gilfillan.
Luckily, Clark quickly puts my mind at ease, showing that he is, indeed, a normal fellow, as he discusses how he
was also part of an ‘On the Road’ team. Recently, Hawksmoor has been hosting roadshows across the South West discussing ‘Brexit and beyond’ for professional advisers.
He hasn’t always lived a flashy life on tour – he nearly became a maths teacher after university. Teaching is the prevalent profession in Clark’s family. His father and sister were teachers, while his wife currently teaches history.
Clark, however, received a job offer from Charles Stanley to be a broker’s assistant. He decided to take advantage of his economics degree, and his fledgling teaching career was consigned to history.
‘In hindsight, I realise it was very fortuitous getting into the industry when I did, just before the financial crisis,’ he says. ‘Cutting your teeth in 2008-9 was tough at the time, but looking back, it was a very useful learning experience.’
Rising through the ranks, after he started out as an assistant, an opportunity soon arose to become a portfolio manager, a role he stayed in for four and a half years.
‘Portfolio management and fund research is my bread and butter,’ Clark says.
Speaking of bread and butter, our food soon arrives. Opting for a fish goujon sandwich and the guinea fowl, we are not disappointed.
After Charles Stanley, Clark moved to Prydis Wealth for two years. Now, as a senior fund analyst at Hawksmoor, he is a deft hand at making hard decisions on a daily basis. However, there was one decision that took him to where he is today.
‘In April 2015, the day after coming home from holiday, I received two job offers on the same day. The first was from Hawksmoor and the other was to go back to Charles Stanley.’
Focusing on sustainability
Over the past couple of years, Clark has been doing more work on sustainable investments and has been an integral part of Hawksmoor’s launch of four Sustainable World model portfolios.
‘When it comes to choosing a sustainable fund, it either passes muster or it doesn’t. You have to draw a line in the sand,’ he says.
‘As well as “green-washing” you have to watch out for “rainbow washing”, where some fund management groups look to map their portfolios to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.’
I am curious, with the increasing trend in sustainable investing, if he believes there is a trade-off between ESG and returns.
‘Choosing an ethical fund is no longer an impediment to performance. WHEB Sustainability and Baillie Gifford Positive Change have been particularly well received internally.’
Finishing our decadent chocolate desserts, I ask Clark of his plans for the rest of the year, which turn out to be pretty big.
‘In July I’m riding the Etape du Tour – the largest sportive in the world, which replicates a stage of the Tour de France. It’s 135 kilometres, 15,000 vertical feet of climbing, 15,000 riders, and two super category Tour de France climbs – it’s going to be tough!’
Just to put that into perspective, if you were to climb just 2,600 feet more, you would have reached the Everest base camp. Better start training, James!
GLASS HALF FULL
‘The growth of sustainable investing. I think this is only going one way. We have some cracking funds available to us, more are being launched, and the space is seeing inflows.’
GLASS HALF EMPTY
‘An excessive focus on fund costs and charges. Yes, everyone needs to keep an eye on this and avoid over-paying, but no one wants a race to the bottom, and we don’t want to see the cost “tail” wagging the investment “dog”, as it were.’