e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Gaskell: The MSCI EMU benchmark.
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Gaskell: Yes, in addition to the BGF Euro-Markets Fund I also manage the BIEF Continental European fund and various other Eurozone and Europe ex UK portfolios.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Gaskell: € 1.8 Bn as at 31/05/2009
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?
Gaskell: The fund has returned 6.6% YTD to 31/05/2009, outperforming the index which returned 4.7%. The 5yr annualised return to 31/12/2008 was 2.1% also outperforming the MSCI EMU index return of -0.1%.
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Gaskell: Currently the fund is ranked in the first quartile within the Euroland peer group over 1, 3 and 5 years. During extremely volatile markets in the last two years the fund has demonstrated that it’s disciplined, repeatable investment process and stringent risk controls deliver consistent outperformance in all market conditions.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Gaskell: A robust investment process and research framework has enabled us to generate alpha through stock selection and our sophisticated portfolio construction tools and focus on risk management has ensured that portfolio returns are generated with minimised volatility. A strong team and the global resources of BlackRock provide the best platform to add value for our clients by identifying attractive investment opportunities across all sectors.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Gaskell: I have managed European equity portfolios for institutional and retail clients since 1999.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Gaskell: -Growing the BGF Euro Markets fund to $2 Billion since taking it over in 2003 and achieving top decile performance over 3 and 5 years.
-As a fund manager you aim to analyze your mistakes, learn the lessons and move onto the next opportunity. In this way your short term disappointments become part of the long term success.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Gaskell: The capital market situation continues to be challenging however we remain positive on the prospects for Eurozone equities. Despite the recent rally valuations are still very attractive and we believe that markets will continue to respond positively to economic news in the coming months. We believe the BGF Euro Markets fund is well positioned for a continued recovery and with future rallies likely to be broader, stock selection rather than sector bets will be key to identifying investment opportunities.
e-fundresearch: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Gaskell: Whilst the prospects for an economic recovery have improved markets remain volatile as investors look for concrete signals that the recession is easing. As relative valuations between segments of the market have levelled out after the recent sector based rallies it will be more difficult to add value from top down allocation. In this environment we believe our fundamental bottom up stock selection process focussing on companies with the following 5 factors is ideally suited to creating alpha.
o Strong management
o Strong competitive position
o Strong financial discipline
o above average upside to absolute price targets
o catalysts for re-evaluation by the market
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?
Gaskell: -Demonstrate ability to maximize returns in rising markets after a doing so with a defensive strategy during falling markets in 2008.
-Seek out real long term value in a distressed market
-Adapt to meet client objectives in a changing market place
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Gaskell: No. In fund management it is important to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and to develop confidence in your own investment style. Balance and focus seems to have been the mark of most fund successful fund managers I have met.
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Gaskell: Client satisfaction and being part of a strong team.
e-fundresearch: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Gaskell: Continue to play a key role in the growth of the BGF Euro Markets fund and BlackRock’s European Equity Platform.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Gaskell: I thought about several other professions including journalism and law but am very glad I got the opportunity to work in the world of equity investments.