Author: Maha Khan Phillips
David Witzer, CEO of Fossar markets, discusses why in the investment business integrity is a key point.
PI: What attracted you to a career in financial services?
It wasn’t by design. Careers advice at school was given by the games master. It simply consisted of discussing what one’s father did for a living. Thankfully I always found maths relatively straightforward and had an amazing Economics master who kick-started my interest in financial markets. My first job was at M&G where I was lucky enough to be exposed to all areas of the firm and worked alongside some truly inspirational people. This early and rather diverse experience helped me to focus on the areas within the industry that I really enjoyed.
PI: You’ve held a series of diverse senior roles during your career. Looking back, what have been the highlights?
My first ambition was to become a portfolio manager but once I achieved that aim, I quickly realised it was not a role that excited me. Moving to Rogge Global Partners and helping to build a very successful global business from humble beginnings gave me an immense sense of achievement and taught me many valuable life lessons; both good and bad. I guess the two things that make my grey cells buzz are human behaviour and law. My most satisfying achievements are where I’ve been able to combine these two aspects against a financial services backdrop.
PI: Tell us about Fossar Markets and your ambitions for the company.
Fossar Markets is an Icelandic financial services firm, offering solutions in capital markets, corporate finance and investment services. Having established the UK entity, my primary aim is to help Icelandic investors realise their goals of increasing non-domestic exposure through the building well-balanced, appropriately structured global portfolios. The incredible recovery from the depths of the financial crisis has resulted in Icelandic asset owners being in a strong position to achieve their aims, but access to a broad, global range of asset managers, across all asset classes, using proven manager selection tools, is not easy for them to achieve. We have developed a platform, powered by Redington’s excellent manager research engine, through which we introduce best of breed managers into Iceland. In assisting Icelandic asset owners attain their objectives using this robust framework, we will have achieved something special. We can then look to develop this model in other non-consultant dominated markets.
PI: What skills do investment professionals need today that perhaps weren’t so important in the past?
Other than obviously needing to be more tech-savvy, I don’t think the skills or attributes required today are really very different from those needed in the past. Maintaining high ethical and professional standards, applying strong, yet considered analytical skills, being a clear and sensitive communicator and an having the ability to calmly and positively manage a variety of complex problems will, in my view, always form a good foundation for someone looking to develop a career as an investment professional Of course, the focus and emphasis on certain matters has shifted but topical themes of today, environmental concerns, fair and ethical behaviour should have always been a core part of good decision making.
PI: What are the biggest challenges the asset management industry will face in the future?
Not particularly unique to the world of asset management, we are all facing a tricky task of balancing the exciting and rapid development of new and life changing technologies with good, well designed oversight and regulation. The pace of change is so rapid that traditional centralised governance frameworks are looking increasing behind the curve. As with many challenges though, there also exists real opportunity if managed well.
PI: One thing we don’t know about you?
My wife and I had the misfortune to be hit by the tsunami that devastated south east Asia on Boxing Day 2004. We were separated for four days, both believing that the other had died. Of the 250 staff and guests in our hotel, only 29 survived. Of this 29 only 3 people survived being in the water; we were 2 of those 3. Such an unlikely survival event certainly alters the lens through which one views the world. However, I’m a firm believer that all experiences, both good and bad, help to build a strong and rounded character.
PI: What’s the last book you read?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. For me it was a rather compelling read as I never stop being fascinated by the ability of obviously intelligent people to make unintelligent decisions.
PI: Do you have a piece of life advice you would pass on to finance professionals just starting out?
Your integrity is precious, maintain it at all times and follow those principles in the way you treat other people.