e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Norris: The fund’s benchmark is the MSCI Pan Euro index
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Norris: I also manage the Ignis Argonaut European Alpha Fund and the Ignis Argonaut European Absolute Return Fund.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Norris: I personally manage around €600m, while in total Argonaut manages €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?
Norris: To the end of November the fund has returned 24.8%, outperforming its benchmark by 2.3%. Since launch in December 2005, the fund delivered -2.5% which is 10.6% better than the benchmark return.
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Norris: While I’m pleased to have delivered better returns than the peer group and the benchmark, I’m never completely satisfied and always strive to do better for my investors.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Norris: Argonaut adds value to portfolios by seeking to outperform throughout the cycle. There are years in which macroeconomic conditions are very stable (e.g. 2004-2007) and where macro doesn’t really matter very much, and others, such as 2008 and 2009, where the “big picture” explains almost everything. While we seek to add value from stockpicking, our process is flexible enough to focus on the macroeconomic environment over the “bottom up” approach when necessary and this has been a big part of our success over the last 12 months in particular.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Norris: I have been managing money since 2002, and have been working in equity markets since 1997.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Norris: My successes have been outperforming the market in seven of the eight years I’ve been running money. The disappointments have been the instances of extreme economic and financial conditions in which I did not make positive returns for investors.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Norris: While last year’s downturn was unprecedented in post-war history in terms of severity and speed, as we move into 2010 financial markets are now creating a positive feedback loop for the real economy. The vicious circle of credit availability and falling economic activity of 2008 should now turn virtuous.
Argonaut expects a strong start to 2010 as investors still underestimate the stimulus to economic growth caused by record low interest rates, tightening credit spreads and inventory rebuild. Despite the rise in markets since March, there is still an abundance of stocks with further recovery potential, priced for difficult economic circumstances to persist for longer than is likely. We expect a strong rebound in profit margins, and therefore earnings, to drive the market higher.
Given this outlook, Argonaut’s portfolios remain positioned to capture the anticipated gains in equity markets early 2010. This means the fund has overweights in consumer discretionary and industrial stocks, which are funded from underweights in healthcare, energy and utilities.
e-fundresearch: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Norris: To keep an open mind and be prepared to take profits in stocks that have done well while looking for opportunities elsewhere.
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?
Norris: To deliver positive returns for investors
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Norris: No I don’t model myself on anyone.
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Norris: I’m lucky enough to do a job which is exciting, intellectually stimulating and every day brings different challenges. With this comes the significant fiduciary responsibility of trying to generate a return on the savings that people have entrusted to me.
e-fundresearch: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Norris: To be running the same funds in 30 years time as I am currently, having generated good returns for investors.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Norris: I studied at university as a historian and was considering writing books before I received my calling as a fund manager.
e-fundresearch: Thank you for the interview!