e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Syme: MSCI Emerging Markets.
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Syme: Yes, other emerging markets funds.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Syme: About USD 1.1bn
e-fundresearch: Regarding the performance: which performance did you achieve since the beginning of the year and in the years 2003-2008? Absolutely and relatively to the relevant benchmark?
2007 +42.4% v +39.8% (outperformance of 1.9%)
2008 -48.5% v -53.2% (outperformance of 10.0%)
Q109 +6.1% v +1.0% (outperformance of 5.0%)
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Syme: As we are a relative return fund, very happy with our steady outperformance in both rising and falling markets.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Syme: We combine top-down country analysis by our GEM team with bottom-up stock research from our 23 investment professionals in the regional emerging market teams. Both have been significant contributors to performance in the last 2 ½ years.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Syme: I started as an analyst in August 1994 covering Latin American equities and took on emerging market fund management responsibilities in June 1997.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Syme: The performance of the GEM funds since I came to Barings is to my mind, my biggest success. I think my most disappointing period was in 1998, failing to predict that the Asian crisis would lead to a further crisis in Russia.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Syme: We have a very positive view on the outlook for emerging economies and emerging market equities, principally because of the underlying strengths in emerging economies from pent-up consumer demand and strong banking systems and the cheap valuations of emerging market equities.
e-fundresearch: What objectives do you have till the end of the year and in the mid term for the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
Syme: Having outperformed in the sell-off with a relatively defensive portfolio, we need the right growth stocks (at reasonable valuations) for the next few years.
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Syme: I couldn’t claim to model myself on anyone, but my heroes would be Abraham in the Bible, for his moral objectivity, and mountaineer Reinhold Messner for his relentless physical courage.
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Syme: I enjoy both puzzle-solving and game-playing, and find that investment management offers the intellectual challenge of marrying analysis to decision making.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Syme: As a child, I always dreamed of being a pilot, although the effects of poor decision-making are much worse than in investment management!
e-fundresearch: Thank you for the interview!