A day in the life of a fund manager in lockdown
5:30AM – Wake up
I vary my mornings and either do some Pilates in the living room, high-intensity circuit training, or some reading to digest what happened the day before and prepare myself for what’s ahead. Today is going to be a particularly busy day for me, so I take some time out early in the day to help me get in the zone. I read the Early Morning Reid by the Investment Office’s strategist Jim Reid, which is fantastic, and I also caught up with Bloomberg news and a couple of headlines from sell-side research notes.
7AM – Coffee and get the kids up
Every morning I have a white coffee in my Manchester United mug using my ‘beans to cup’ machine and that helps me start the day. I find it hard to take breaks during the day, especially when markets are so volatile and exciting, but I try to take a break by going downstairs and making myself a coffee when I can. I go into my daughters’ room and wake them up and get them ready, brushing their teeth and getting them dressed and ready for the day. One is home-schooling at the moment, but the youngest is still attending nursery. I enjoy this part of the day because although they are typically grumpy when I get them up, we have some great chats.
7:30AM – Interview with the Wall Street Journal
This is one of the regular media interviews I do and I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to get our thoughts on key market trends out there. Today I discussed how we expect to see greater volatility over the next few weeks due to many systemic risks including COVID-19 vaccine progress news and economic growth being impacted by lockdowns, Brexit news and US election news. This all creates an uncertain environment but it’s important to stress that with our portfolios we prepare, we don’t predict!
8AM – Retail Multi-Asset Funds team meeting on Teams
I catch up with my portfolio-manager colleagues at this meeting four times a week to review portfolio performance and to ensure our positioning fully reflects our views. Today our focus was our dollar versus sterling position, and potential equity and fixed income risks. We decided we were happy with our current positioning, but this is always under review as things can change very quickly these days.
8:45AM – Asset Allocation team meeting on Teams
I sit within LGIM’s wider Asset Allocation team which comprises economists, strategists, traders and portfolio managers. We all work together, bringing our different specialisms, to manage the multi-asset funds. Our economists kick-start this daily meeting by updating us on their views on what’s happening in the global economy. The strategists will then provide an overview on all the major asset classes; the trading team will then share what they’re seeing in terms of liquidity and execution. Finally, the portfolio managers may chip in with fund updates. This is a key meeting for all of us to share and discuss our latest thinking and insights. Today we discussed ESG in direct property funds, the impending Federal Reserve decision, and the instability in the Italian government.
Having calls instead of face-to-face meetings means we lose the fluidity of a natural conversation as we can’t just pop by someone’s desk and bounce ideas around. I have occasionally gone into the office to work through important ideas, but end up spending most of the time in meetings and calls.
9AM-12PM – Trading and positioning
I try to keep most of my morning meeting-free because this is my thinking time. But, although I don’t really instruct trades directly these days, there are often times I need to either oversee changes or help with the sizing of positions. Luckily, we can do this from home as we send our trades to the implementation team to carry out, but I still get fund-management anxiety kicking in sometimes over whether we’ll make it in time for the 12PM cut-off.
1PM – Lunch
I haven’t been eating breakfast since working from home, but I do try to have brunch or lunch. I’m keen to get as much protein as possible, so today I had lots of egg whites and smoked salmon.
3PM – Fund governance meeting
This is a meeting where the Head of Multi-Asset Funds goes through all the fund managers’ positions in our portfolios. This is effectively an audit and I find the exercise quite helpful because the view is top down, so it is easy to see positional patterns that are consistent or inconsistent across our strategies. It acts as a good challenge to current positioning and also leads to a cross-pollination of ideas across portfolios in the team.
6:30PM – Dinner with the family
When my daughter gets back from nursery, I sit down with family for dinner and to catch up on their days. This has been one of the key benefits to working from home, as I’d typically still be in the office at this time or making my way home.
8PM – Wrapping things up
After an afternoon of calls on pricing and projects, and catching up with direct reports, I finish up my working day. I’ve found one of the biggest challenges of being a fund manager in lockdown is switching off, especially as the amount of information you can take on in this role is limitless. I’d never do work after leaving the office, but working from home means it’s much harder to stop. That said, the weekends still tend to be sacrosanct for time with my family and it’s rare for me to do any substantial amounts of work at the weekend.
9PM – Diversity work
I tend to do my diversity work after giving the kids a bath or putting them to bed. Tonight, I did some mentoring as part of the #talkaboutblack scheme, which aims to help professionals in our industry progress and thrive in senior management roles. The New Financial and Financial News reports in 2017, which said they could only identify 12 Black fund managers in the City of London, were a wake-up moment for me that I need to be more of a role model to increase representation in our industry. We hope our mentoring efforts will help to create a more representative industry and the leaders of tomorrow.
10PM – Wind down
We all have a go-to lockdown drink and mine has been a single malt whisky, so I’ve enjoyed doing some tastings in my down time. I feel guilty that I haven’t done any exercise this evening – but I know I have an intense circuit training tomorrow morning. Plus, my folding exercise bike is on its way…so Amazon tells me!
Tonight I also managed to sit down to catch up on The Mandalorian, which is my favourite TV programme right now – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a decent Star Wars show but this is a different level! I’m also excited Manchester United are back and playing well, but that hasn’t been much of a wind-down activity given the heart palpitations they give me!
11PM – Bedtime
Goodnight! I will sleep well tonight!
This reflects a typical day for Justin in late 2020.