A day in the life of Andrew Bell, CEOTuesday, 06 August 2019
Welcome to the first in our day in the life series. We will be sharing a typical working day for each of Witan’s managers over the coming months. To start the series we hear from Andrew Bell, CEO of Witan Investment Trust plc.
My alarm goes off…
With the 6 a.m. time check on Radio 4. I pull on a dressing gown and some shoes to have a quick run about with our young Labrador puppy in the garden. I make an expresso coffee while she hoovers (or should that be Dysons) up her breakfast then pop back upstairs to shower, shave and dress before having a bowl of home-made muesli while the dog chews one of her toys.
Next comes a quick drive to the train station and a 45 minute journey into London, which I fill by reading the FT online and catching up with emails
I’m responsible for….
Ensuring we have the right managers in the right proportions to deliver the absolute and relative performance our shareholders expect. Our multi-manager approach means that stock-specific decisions are delegated to a range of selected third-party managers but I am responsible for ensuring that our use of borrowings (which amplify both gains and losses) is appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and the risk-reward balance in global equity markets. I work closely on this with the Witan team and the Board.
My colleague James Hart and I are also responsible for our Direct Holdings portfolio, which invests up to 10% of our assets in specialist funds which we believe can outperform Witan’s benchmark, in areas (such as property, listed private equity or life sciences) which our external managers are unlikely to cover. This enables us to take advantage of opportunities off the mainstream equity track but our allocation to such investments is conditional and will fall if the decisions to sell holdings outpace the incidence of new investment ideas.
I got in to investment management….
After a career in industry and stockbroking, as investment management requires a grounding in reality as well as an understanding of financial markets.
My typical day….
Is happily never typical. I’m usually in our office overlooking St James Park by 8.10 when another coffee is a prelude to focusing on the overnight market developments and how they affect our assessment of the right positioning of our portfolio.
We have board meetings most months so time must be spent in advance preparing discussion papers as well as on routine reporting, followed by implementing decisions and action points in the weeks afterwards.
We meet our managers formally once a year but have regular contacts in between, to discuss points of interest or, occasionally, concern. Investment performance is inherently variable so we need to ensure we understand what is going on, to be able to make sensible judgments about whether good or bad performance is transitory or might require changes to managers’ allocations or more far-reaching changes to the managers we use.
We are always on the lookout for potential new managers who can add value for our shareholders in the future and most weeks we have one or two approaches from people new to us who hope to join Witan’s main manager line-up or who could be allocated part of the 2.5% of assets that we reserve for specialist or newly-established managers whom we wish to get to know better. We have so far made two such allocations, Latitude Asset Management for global equities in 2018 and GMO Woolley for a Climate Change related portfolio in 2019.
I am lucky to work with a dedicated team doing something I hugely enjoy.
I keep motivated by….
The challenge of beating the markets and a sense of duty to the shareholders who have entrusted us with their savings.
Sees me retrace my steps for a rendezvous with a tennis court or a glass of wine at home with my family.
If I wasn’t doing this job, I’d be….
Helping the cause of wildlife habitat protection and conservation, which I see as in humanity’s own interests as well as passing on the diversity of a functioning planet to future generations.