All the way from Guildford to a Geronimo Inn, Premier Asset Management’s Simon Evan-Cook is a man dedicated to the Pub Club cause, writes Eleanor Mahmoud. The Phoenix in Victoria claims to be the Royal Family’s local – a bold statement I somewhat doubt is true, but nevertheless this is a pleasant pub to meet in. Bright, light and airy, we graciously and swiftly claim the window seat.
I just as swiftly learn that fund manager Evan-Cook has his hands full at work. Somewhere between running 10 of Premier’s funds, he also has to put up with the brilliant banter from his multi-asset team. Evan-Cook laughs as he explains they have an impressively long collective tenure at the firm:
‘I’ve been at Premier for 13 years, but I’m technically still classed as the newbie!’ he jokes.
Despite now being a well-established name in the multi-manager space, Evan-Cook has not always been a fund manager. We enjoy our half pints of beer and cider (a definite embodiment of the word ‘sensible’) and I hear more about Evan-Cook’s journey to Premier.
‘In the late 1990s I started working on the broker desk at Fidelity, as it seemed most people in Tunbridge Wells at the time did, before moving to Rothschild, which is where I discovered the funds of funds world.’
Having always enjoyed writing, he spent a few years investment writing before moving to Premier in 2006. First joining as an investment specialist, it took him less than a year to make the move to fund management. Thankfully for Evan-Cook, writing is still a significant part of his role, where he now has free reign over his content.
‘When I took up the fund manager role at Premier, I loved it. It’s great to have the freedom to write about your own decisions rather than that of other managers. I try to be a bit leftfield in my writing – Star Wars, werewolves and post-natal sleeping are just some of the things I’ve written about recently!’
It turns out Evan-Cook is quite the analogy fan. As our lunch is placed in front of us, he takes an opportune moment to relay an analogy about pasta sauce to me. The long and short of it is that everyone has their own way of making a pasta sauce. Taste, texture, ingredients – there is seemingly no perfect solution to pasta sauce.
A wonderfully smooth link to his point that there is likewise no perfect solution when it comes to a fund factsheet.
‘Everyone seems to be obsessed with silver bullets nowadays, but it’s really hard to find a solution that pleases everyone.’
He therefore does not aim to satisfy everyone, but instead aims to make his writing as informative as possible.
‘One of the most underestimated parts of being a good manager is to engage and communicate with your investors,’ he explains. ‘Take Warren Buffett – not just a good investor, but a great communicator.’
Sadly for this particular piece of writing, neither of us had eaten pasta for lunch. Instead we polish off our plates of gammon and chicken supreme respectively and as it does so often nowadays, conversation moves away from food and toward fees.
‘The biggest challenge facing fund of funds managers is definitely the issue of fees. It’s probably one of those arguments that will never be settled, but it therefore encourages us to be the best we can.
‘It’s frustrating when people like what we do but think we’re too expensive,’ Evan-Cook concludes. ‘If we were cheaper, we wouldn’t be as good.’
Glass half empty
‘Increasing regulation – it can stifle the flow of unique and interesting boutique fund managers.’
Glass half full
‘Active managers – they may struggle a bit when lots of people are chasing an opportunity, but in the end active management will be an absolute flyer.’