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Pub Club: Tim Harman, Thesis

Pub Club: Tim Harman, Thesis

This week’s pub club found Wealth Manager’s Katie Gilfillan and I venturing to Guildford to meet Thesis Asset Management’s new investment manager, Tim Harman, for a spot of late lunch at The Weyside, writes Alex Foster.

Harman begins by telling me about his path in the industry before joining Thesis. After graduating from Exeter University, Harman joined the graduate scheme at PwC. ‘It became apparent accountancy wasn’t for me (to my father’s disappointment, as this was his background)’ explains Harman.

He then spent five years at BMO Financial Group before being head-hunted for a role at RBC in 2008, where he was part of the North American equities team.

‘My work ethos has always been to be very client focused, and to truly care about recommendations and advice, which has allowed me to work with even the most demanding fund managers (no names provided!),’ he jokes. ‘With the mix of building and maintaining long-term relationships with high-net-worth individuals and my experience in equities, the wealth management sector was a logical next step for me, and the opportunity at Thesis is really exciting.

‘I’m really enjoying my new role at Thesis. It’s nice to be part of a small, stable business but at the same time have the scale and expertise you would expect from a firm with £15 billion worth of assets under management,’ he continues. ‘The small team means that, although we run a centralised investment process, the investment managers are highly involved with investment selection, and I’m enjoying being hands on. My old role was about finding overlooked investment opportunities. I think I’ve found a hidden gem in my role at Thesis.’

As I sit savouring that line, our food arrives – sea bass and braised beef shin pie with a glass of tomato juice. As we dig in, I’m keen to query Harman on his knowledge of North America and Thesis’ US exposure.

‘America, as you can see in its markets, is so diverse and has such a powerfully strong domestic market that if you can gain success as a company in the US, you can make the transition to the global market with relative ease.’

From a fund perspective, Harman states that Thesis recently bought the Miton US Opportunities fund.

‘They have a strong track record and are sensitive to valuations,’ he begins. ‘They tend to invest in businesses with robust cash flow characteristics and are happy to deviate from the index, which has allowed them to control their exposure to the tech giants dominating the US indices.’

I’m interested in what lessons Harman has learnt about working in the industry after the financial crash, having started at RBC in 2008.

‘One was observing the behavioural traits of a few highly respected investors. Unlike many at the time, they refused to panic and react because of headlines, and held firm (when they could),’ he says. ‘In fact, they probably bought a bit more of their highest conviction investments when valuations were very attractive.

‘Periods of political uncertainty often throw up attractive opportunities, but it never feels like it while you are living through it (as we are today).’

It hasn’t happened yet, but it would be a positive surprise – some form of agreement on Brexit!

I’m worried about aggressive rate rises. It feels less likely in the UK and Europe at the moment, but the US Federal Reserve is in a rate-raising cycle, and history would show that most asset classes are sensitive to US rates – the recent weakness in emerging markets is a case in point.

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