‘Culture matters’ for active managers

‘Culture matters’ for active managers

With active fund managers under increasing performance and cost pressure, fostering a ‘collegiate’ internal culture has never been more vital, says Legg Mason’s new Australia boss.

Speaking at a media event in Sydney yesterday, Andy Sowerby, who was appointed to the Australian post in August 2016, said cultural considerations can even outweigh investment track record when it comes to fund manager performance.  

“Over my career it has become clearer and clearer just how important culture is,” Mr Sowerby said. “People, processes and philosophy can be more important than track record. You need to think carefully before adding a new member to the team.”

Mr Sowerby said cultural considerations were paramount in Legg Mason’s 2014 acquisition of Martin Currie, where the now-Australia head previously served as executive director for sales, marketing and client services, based in Edinburgh.

At the same time, Mr Sowerby explained that scale is also an increasingly important success factor for fund managers – particularly in the advent of cost pressure emanating from the emergence of automated investment and the popularity of passive products – and that getting the balance right between culture and growth is a priority for senior executives in the space.

Addressing the same event, Martin Currie Australia chief investment officer Reece Birtles concurred that culture is an important – if sometimes overlooked – factor in performance outcomes.

“Outperforming the market is a very difficult thing to do, and you need talented fund managers in order to do it,” he said. “But sometimes talented people are not the easiest to work with.”

The comments come as Legg Mason hunts for a new head of marketing and expands its Australian distribution efforts with a soon-to-be-established Sydney office.

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