e-fundresearch: Mr Thomas Kristiansson, you are the fund manager of SEB Corporate Bond Fund EUR (ISIN: LU0133008952). Since when are your responsible for the fund management?
Kristiansson: I have been responsible for the fund since 2001, since the launch of the fund.
e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Kristiansson: Barclay’s Euro corporate bond index.
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Kristiansson: Yes, SEB Corporate Bond Fund SEK and SEB Företagsobligationsfond flexibel.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Kristiansson: Our total assets under management in credits are close to € 6 bn.
e-fundresearch: Regarding the performance: which performance did you achieve since the beginning of the year and in the years 2007-2011? Absolutely and relatively to the relevant benchmark?
Kristiansson: Last 12 month performance vs benchmark is 0,55% total return is 7,8% .
Last 36 month performance vs benchmark is 8,3% and total return is 39,1%.
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Kristiansson: I’m very pleased with the performance for the period since it has been a challenging period and our performance is above our targets.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Kristiansson: We analyze the market from a top- down perspective in our credit allocation process which determines our overall risk level. Our security selection is decided from a sector perspective. Our universe is divided among the team members and the manager responsible for a certain sector is responsible for our pick and pans in the sector. We have high attention on risk control and have a focus on keeping transaction cost low. Performance is very much and outcome from the teams efforts. Our six-man strong team has long experience from the credit market and has different skill sets witch makes our internal discussions interesting, since we can view problems from many different angles.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Kristiansson: I started as a fund manager in 1988. Before that I was working as an option dealer and market maker in fixed income for two years. Last year I celebrated 25 year anniversary in the business. I have been with SEB since 1997 and been responsible for the Credit team since 2004.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Kristiansson: In 2008/09 we had a pretty strong conviction that the Nordic banks would be able to leave the Baltic crisis with strong balance sheets and that led us to take a big position in bonds issued by Nordic banks and in particular subordinated bank debt. The position has paid of extremely well and Nordic banks are now considered the “safe place” on the European financial map. My biggest disappointment was the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Just days before the bank went into default we had a long internal discussion and came to the conclusion that the consequences of a collapse would be so big and wild spread that the US government was left with no option but to save the bank. In hindsight we where right regarding the effect of a default but wrong on the US ability to save the bank and we lost some money on our holdings in the bank.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Kristiansson: We have a rather challenging environment with low growth and very little room for policy mistakes. Banks in Europe are deleveraging and there is of course a lot of attention on their capital situation. With investors that are starting to understand that government bonds in Euroland no longer is risk free asset, there is an obvious need for confidence building measures. Any doubt in the political agenda for the Euro zone would trigger new problems for debt stricken countries. In this climate you need to have a fair understanding of the dynamics in the market and be picky on your security selection. We are confident in our Nordic bias since it’s a rather stabile region both from a political and debt perspective but also since many corporates from the region have a diversified market strategy and are international.
e-fundresearch: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Kristiansson: Avoiding companies that are subject for downward pressure from rating agencies and keeping transaction cost low. Also you need to pay high attention to signs of unrest in the market since volatility is elevated.
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?
Kristiansson: Our objective is to beat our benchmarks by 50 bp annually. In favourable markets we are able to deliver more.
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Kristiansson: I think most fund managers has Warren Buffet as a raw model for a superior value creator but also for his social commitment.
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Kristiansson: I feel strongly for delivering a good product for our customers. If they trust us with there savings then I feel very committed to delivering what they expect from us. I also believe that I’m very fortunate to be able work with highly motivated colleagues every day and to be responsible for an asset class that is dynamic and holds a high potential for the investor.
e-fundresearch: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Kristiansson: I see a big scope for further developments within our asset class with a growing High yield market in Europe and in our part of the world.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Kristiansson: When I was young I dreamed of becoming a doctor in medicine. I still believe that it would have been an interesting job, but I’m very happy that providence took me to the job I have today.
e-fundresearch: Thank you for the interview!