Author: Maha Khan Phillips
Anna Macdonald, CFA, began her investment career in 1998, as a graduate at Henderson Global Investors. She happened to be interviewed by Andrew Formica, the current Chief Executive of Jupiter Asset Management, which, Macdonald says, was a stroke of luck.
“He had a team of two, and was looking to have a team of three. That was a good piece of fortune. They wanted someone to help manage on the passive side, and to help on the enhanced index side. It gave me a really good broad exposure,” she says.
Macdonald tried to take every advantage to learn about investing - from Formica and other colleagues, from going to company meetings, and from her own experiences. “After about a year and a half I tried to persuade Andrew and others that I wanted to move to the active side. What helped was that I started running my own spreadsheets with the stocks that I liked and didn’t like, and I kept updating Andrew about how that was going, and not long after that, he moved me across,” she says.
She became a fund manager on the firm’s enhanced index portfolio, co-managing the core enhanced UK equity product. “What was useful about my experience was that because of the enhanced index approach, I had to really concentrate on every single stock in the index, and on every position, whether it was underweight, or overweight, or neutral,” Macdonald says. She was also a UK media sector specialist, and watched as the TMT market reached its peak, and then crashed - another key learning experience.
Macdonald completed the CFA Program while at Henderson. “I remember it was a choice of the IIMR or the CFA, and my friend at Gartmore was doing the CFA Program, and I spoke to her about it. When I sat my first CFA exam, there were only about twenty people taking it. So it grew massively, even during the time that I was doing it,” she says.
She then relocated to Nairobi, where she was head of research for Old Mutual Asset Management. After that, she returned to the UK, joining Threadneedle Asset Management, before taking some time off to raise her family.
When she returned to the investment profession, it was 2011. Like many returners, Macdonald found the process of coming back to the industry to be a complicated one, particularly as a single mother with two children. “I didn’t quite know what to do, after having taken the time out from the industry. I didn’t have the confidence to jump into a job like I had before,” she says.
But she was lucky to find a job that appealed, at Adam and Company, the private banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, where she spent the next six years. “My CFA qualification really helped, and even though I hadn’t had experience in wealth management, there was still plenty of opportunity to use my skills. I’m really proud of what we achieved in terms of our performance, and I was promoted quite quickly into a senior role,” she says.
In 2018, Macdonald moved to Amati Global Investors, the Edinburgh-based UK small cap specialist, where she co-manages the £412 million TB Amati UK Smaller Companies Fund, the £144 million Amati AIM VCT Fund, and the £25m Amati AIM IHT Portfolio Service.
“We call ourselves Amati Global Investors, which might sound strange in terms of owning only UK listed companies, but we have always appreciated that the UK market has significant overseas exposure, more than any other market, which means that, in a way, we play different parts of a global company, while being based in the UK. There has always been an unusual level of overseas ownership in our companies, and we gain significant exposure to overseas markets,” she says.
Macdonald believes that there had been a ‘lack of enthusiasm’ for some UK holdings since the Brexit vote in 2016, but that this has changed. “At the moment, we are seeing inflows coming from across the market, which is probably not surprising, but it does make it a tricky environment, when you have lots of resources chasing a limited number of investment opportunities. So we are trying to be super careful that the companies that we are buying are not just being rated because of inflows, but are being rated because of upwards earning revisions, and good results,” she explains.
When it comes to certain domestic names in the tech and consumer sector at the moment, Macdonald says she is still looking for companies that have good underlying growth potential. “We own very little bricks and mortar retail. The Brexit effect is really speeding up the process of decline of those stores. So we are looking more at experiences, leisure, video gaming, and content plays. Even though the hard data is quite weak, the soft survey shows more enthusiasm.”
She says that being a CFA charter has always been beneficial. “It’s an important part of fund training, and it is consistent world-wide. The international nature of it, and the consistency it provides, are really valuable. I would always encourage anyone who is involved in the industry to do it.”
Macdonald has two daughters, and at home, she says, she “cunningly got them both interested in cooking. So now we do that together, and it’s great,” she laughs.
Anna Macdonald, CFA, is a Fund Manager at Amati Global Investors.