(Pictured above, Alex Foster, left, Aaron Anderson, right)
At the time of this interview, the Ryder Cup was looming large over Europe, but the US had just taken a two point lead on the first morning of play. As I ventured to The Fitzrovia on Goodge Street to meet California-born Aaron Anderson, senior vice president of research for Fisher Investments, I was worried my sports obsession might trounce my professionalism, writes Alex Foster. However, after asking what he’d like to drink, Anderson selected the quintessentially British Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. I like him already.
Anderson begins by recalling his time at university in California.
‘I initially studied geophysics at the University of California Santa Barbara, which sounds like a really interesting subject until you study it,’ Anderson jokes. ‘Ultimately, in 1990, I thought, “where can I get a job in San Francisco?”, and I had a friend who worked for Alex Brown & Sons.’
Alex Brown & Sons was a small investment bank where Anderson worked in a team that managed accounts for companies going through the initial public offering process.
‘It was private client orientated – many of the individuals would sell their shares and then go on to buy funds, and we took them through that.’
Anderson worked there until 2005, going back to school at the same time, studying applied economics at the University of San Francisco. He then joined Fisher Investments, in an office he remembers fondly.
‘The company itself was fascinating – it was off the beaten track in the hills of San Francisco Bay, essentially operating out of the extended garage of the founder’s house.’
Anderson moved to the research team, looking at macro-economic analysis of the markets. In 2011, he was added to the firm’s policy committee, becoming senior vice president of research.
Fisher Investments’ HQ is in Camas, Washington, but the firm has a London base for private client work, where it runs a very respectable £4 billion-£5 billion in assets. An impressive feat, considering it did not have significant UK presence until 2005. Now, much of its European business is run out of London.
‘Despite being founded in America, we don’t have a home bias in our asset allocation. We have to be diverse, so we take a global approach,’ Anderson says. ‘We take a direct approach, too, buying plain vanilla equities and fixed income products, except in the UK, where managing our strategy within a fund has tax benefits for our clients.’
Meanwhile, I’m personally feeling a wave of American influence, so much so that I order a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Let’s just say that next time I’ll just go to Philadelphia to get a more authentic lunch, and stick to the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord while in the UK. Though the company’s focus is not solely on the US, it does play a part.
‘US and US tech has been phenomenal and is, of course, a big influence in our portfolios,’ Anderson says. ‘The Faangs, of course, play a big part, but it’s more than just them – we are looking for fast growing areas where we can see consistent growth and tap into the secular tail winds of the longest bull market ever.
‘Healthcare is also an area that really isn’t fully appreciated,’ Anderson continues. ‘New drugs are approved all the time, there are amazing emerging markets opportunities, biotech is present everywhere and the demand for pharmaceuticals is high.’
As I catch a glimpse of Rory McIlroy draining a long putt in the golf behind Anderson’s shoulder, I silently celebrate while switching the conversation to how Anderson views the EU markets.
‘We are fairly optimistic on EU stocks. Again, there has been a lack of confidence with the ECB [European Central Bank] exiting QE [quantitative easing] strategies. But, generally, the economic cycle has been doing well, and there is real potential there still.’
GLASS HALF FULL:
‘There’s so much focus on the negative in the news: Brexit, EU and US politics, etc. But there are so many underappreciated positives out there – advancements in healthcare, a stable global economy and strong employment.’
GLASS HALF EMPTY:
‘Still too much meddling by politicians, central bankers and extreme monetary policy, claiming that it’s been the source of economic growth. But I think with less heavy-handed tactics we’d be better off.’