e-fundresearch.com: Mr Sam Perry, you are the fund manager of the Pictet Japanese Equity Opportunities fund (ISIN: LU0155301467) along with your colleagues Serena Robinson and Adrian Hickey, the head of the Japanese Equity team in London. Since when are your responsible for the fund management?
Sam Perry: I joined the Japanese equity team in March 2009.
e-fundresearch.com: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Sam Perry: The Pictet Japanese Equity Opportunities fund has the TOPIX index as its reference benchmark.
e-fundresearch.com: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Sam Perry: There is one other fund that we run, Pictet Japanese Equity Selection whose benchmark is the MSCI Japan. Other than these 2 funds we have some other mandates that follow the same strategies, but no other listed funds
e-fundresearch.com: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Sam Perry: About $400mn.
e-fundresearch.com: 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?
Sam Perry: Japanese Equity Opportunities (Performances in JPY, as of end Sept)
Absolute:+7.8% YtD -10.6% ann for period from 20-Jul-07 to end Sept
Relative:+4.3% YtD +3.2% ann for period from 20-Jul-07 to end Sept
(to TOPIX TR benchmark)
e-fundresearch.com: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Sam Perry:This year’s performance has been satisfying – particularly so given the choppy conditions. The 2007-2011 period was not as good, but the numbers for the entire period combine two very different periods. 2007 and 2008 were bad years for the fund as we underestimated the reach of the crisis in the US. We thought that Japan and its financial system were far removed from what appeared to be an American problem and, to the extent that the Japanese banks did not hold the toxic assets that brought low the American and European banks, we were right. However, as with many others, we underestimated the scale of the problem. At the peak of the crisis, the global banking system was broken – even letters of credit, the lifeblood of global trade, were being reneged upon – and that affected everyone. Japan is a mercantile economy, so the abrupt cessation of global trade had a dramatic impact on the economy and the fund. However, the lack of any direct impact on the financial system has meant that the rebound in both the economy and the fund has been rapid. Since the end of 2008 the fund has performed strongly with Japanese Equity Opportunities climbing +15% from the end of 2008 to the end of September this year, representing an outperformance over the index of +21.6% (+5.4% annualised).
e-fundresearch.com: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Sam Perry: The first answer is discipline, both in looking for new positions and monitoring – and when necessary closing – existing positions. However, to do that requires the second answer – teamwork. Despite our geographic spread, with three fund managers in London and two analysts in Tokyo, we are a closely knit team. We communicate all the time challenging each other and bouncing ideas off each other combining the perspectives of Tokyo and London.
e-fundresearch.com: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Sam Perry: I have been a fund manager for 15 years
e-fundresearch.com: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Sam Perry: What springs to mind here is Peter Lynch’s famous aphorism about investment: “In this business, you’re right six times out of ten”. Every day you seem to be right and wrong – about stocks, about a sector, about the economy – there are an awful lot of successes and an awful lot of disappointments - although hopefully slightly fewer of the latter.
e-fundresearch.com: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Sam Perry:The current situation for Japan is unusual. For a very long time, Japan's economic situation could be summed up as a stagnant domestic economy, stricken banking system and a strong export sector that provided the growth. At the moment however, the Japanese banking sector is probably stronger than that in many other regions, global growth is anaemic and yet there are signs that the Japanese economy may be finally moving out of deflation. If that is the case then the investment environment in Japan is going to change a great deal. The single biggest shift will be that for the first time in years equities will become investment vehicle of choice rather than bonds.
e-fundresearch.com: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Sam Perry:It has been a very successful policy when investing in Japan to value a company just on its balance sheet - classical value investing has really worked in Japan over the last 15 years. In the future, there will need to be greater focus on growth and seeing that companies leverage their balance sheet to invest for that growth.
e-fundresearch.com: What objectives do you have till the end of the year and in the mid term for the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
Sam Perry:There's a well known description of the process of investment as "Simple, not easy" and much the same can be said about an investment manager's objectives. While not easy, it’s pretty simple: everything depends upon performance, so on a short, medium and long term view we aim to continue outperforming.
e-fundresearch.com: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Sam Perry: Not really – but there are people that I admire tremendously for the clarity and insight of their thinking. Richard Feynman, for instance, was one of the most insightful and productive physicists of the Twentieth Century and had a great ability to home in on the very essence of a problem, ignoring all that was irrelevant. But he was not just a gifted scientist but also a great communicator, able to make the most difficult concepts comprehensible.
e-fundresearch.com: What motivates you in your job?
Sam Perry:Curiousity – it’s a fascinating job, responsibility – for other people’s savings, and a healthy leavening of fear!
e-fundresearch.com: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Sam Perry: As I said above, for any fund manager everything depends upon performance, so any aim starts there. Having said that, like anyone who has been investing in Japan over the last decade or two, I would love to stand in front of our clients and tell them that we’re in the middle of a bull market. It’s been a long time coming.
e-fundresearch.com: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Sam Perry: Before I came into fund management, I was doing academic research and so science was really my first profession and the passion for that has never gone away. However, part of the attraction of fund management is that it is very varied and you are always learning something new – whether it be trying to understand an event, such as the financial crisis in the US after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, or part of an industry that you haven’t really covered before or just trying to get to grips with a company and trying to understand what makes it tick. It’s a great job for the incurably curious.
e-fundresearch.com: Many Thanks!
Senior Investment Manager
Developed Equities team
Sam Perry joined Pictet Asset Management in 1997 and is a Senior Investment Manager specialising in Japanese equities.
Sam graduated from the University of Oxford with a first class degree in Philosophy and Psychology. He later gained a Doctorate in Experimental Cognitive Psychology, also at Oxford University.