e-fundresearch: Mr. Alo Kullamaa, you are the fund manager of SEB Eastern Europe ex Russia Fund (ISIN: LU0070133888). Since when are your responsible for the fund management?
Kullamaa: June 2005.
e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Kullamaa: MSCI Converging Europe Custom 10/40 Net Return index.
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Kullamaa: Yes, together with Sulev Raik, who also manages SEB Russia Fund we jointly manage pan-Eastern European Osteuropafond.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Kullamaa: Around MEUR 300
e-fundresearch: Regarding the performance: which performance did you achieve since the beginning of the year and in the years 2006-2010? Absolutely and relatively to the relevant benchmark?
Kullamaa: Management measures my performance over 12 and 36-month rolling periods and as of the end of July ex-Russia Fund was 2.02% and 5.50% ahead of its benchmark for the respective periods.
As the fund selection in Eastern Europe is quite diverse, one has to look very carefully at peer grouping. We look internally at 13 funds which we believe are more or less comparable as a peer group for our ex-Russia fund and within that peer goup I held position #3 for both 12 and 36 month rolling periods as of the end of July.
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Kullamaa: I regard this as a pretty decent relative performance both vs benchmark and peer group especially considering that our fund is one of the largest in that group.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Kullamaa: Our team is mostly focused on stock picking and we emphasize sector dimension over country dimension ie we pick stocks inside sectors across countries. This approach seems to be working fairly well as Eastern European emerging and especially frontier markets are still inefficient despite rapid progress over the last decade. Increasing role of computers and ETFs is creating even more opportunities for active managers in those relatively thin marketplaces.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Kullamaa: Started as a junior portfolio manager in 1996. Around that time stock exchanges were established in many countries so one can’t really expect longer experience from Eastern European fund manager. Before joining SEB in 2005 and focusing exclusively on this universe again I was pension fund manager from 2002-2005 doing global asset allocation among other things.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Kullamaa: I guess one of the successes is that performance has been relatively solid over the years with no major failures. Environment has been challenging at the same time as markets went from one crisis to another, but it always is.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Kullamaa: August has been challenging month with "imported" extreme volatility from global markets while locally the situation with macro and companies is mostly fairly stable after rather painful restructuring in many cases during recent years. We keep a cool head and stay loyal to our investment process.
e-fundresearch: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Kullamaa: To convince investors that macroeconomic situation in majority of emerging and frontier markets in Eastern Europe is dramatically different from many developed countries.
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?
Kullamaa: My goal is unchanged and quite clear - to outperform my benchmark and do so with a good information ratio - ie by maintaining risk-controlled exposures vis-a-vis my benchmark.
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Kullamaa: Not really, but have had many sources of inspiration starting from founders of value-investing concept.
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Kullamaa: I like that investing includes elements of both science and art. It requires discipline, but also creativity – this somehow fits me very well.
e-fundresearch: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Kullamaa: Fully committed to a current task. In very long-term may consider academic studies again to complement my background as a practitioner.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Kullamaa: Perhaps a professional tennis player. Now, at the age of 37, it is obviously too late for that, but I try my best in amateur leagues.
e-fundresearch: Thank you for the interview!