e-fundresearch.com: Mr Alain Eckmann, you are the fund manager of the UBS (Lux) Bond Sicav - Convertible Global (EUR) fund. Since when are your responsible for the fund management?
Alain Eckmann: I was involved in the launch of this fund in 2004 and as such was responsible for its strategy since inception. Since 2005 I share the responsibility for the investment strategy of this fund with my colleague Uli Sperl.
e-fundresearch.com: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Alain Eckmann: We are measured against the UBS Global Convertible Index - Global Vanilla Hedged in EUR. I don’t think the word adhere is really appropriate for our management style. We manage without much focus on the different constituents of our benchmark. We buy the convertible bonds which we deem to be most attractive irrespective if they belong to the benchmark or not. As one of our goals is to give access to the attractive convertible bond asset class, we look more closely at our benchmark from a top down point of view. By doing so we make sure that our fund’s main risk and exposure characteristics are the ones of the convertible bond asset class.
e-fundresearch.com: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Alain Eckmann: Yes I am responsible for the entire range of UBS convertible bond funds and mandates which includes Global, European, Asian and tailor made strategies.
e-fundresearch.com: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Alain Eckmann: We manage several billion CHF spread across all our convertible bond funds and mandates.
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?
Alain Eckmann: In 2012 until the end of September our fund increased in value by about 12% and managed to outperform its benchmark by almost 2%. Over the longer period of 2007-2011 the return of the fund was slightly positive while equity returns over the same 5 years were negative.
e-fundresearch.com: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Alain Eckmann: This is a tricky question but it reminds me something my grandmother used to say. We had the tradition that she would bake a birthday cake for each member of our family and without exception when asked how the cake turned out she would say the cake wasn’t as nice as it should be. In the eyes of the recipients of these cakes they were always lovely and very enjoyable to eat. Speaking about our own performance I feel in a similar way. Thanks to our active management we managed to add significant value over the years for our clients but as an ambitious portfolio manager one always has the feeling that we could have done even better. Maybe this is the recipe of our success as it makes sure we never rest on the nice results we have achieved in the past and try to become even better day by day.
e-fundresearch.com: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Alain Eckmann: Besides the usual reasons like a disciplined investment approach and good analysis the past good performance can be attributed to the following factors: Firstly, the core of our portfolio management team has been working together for almost 8 years. Secondly, thanks to the broad research network of UBS Global Asset Management our team has been able to get valuable inputs in all relevant dimensions for convertible bonds: equities, fixed income, high yield, derivatives, currencies and asset allocation. These inputs help us to select the most attractive CBs at any point in time. In addition thanks to our size and our reputation we have valuable long term relationships with all the relevant counterparties active in the convertible bond market. This is especially important for new issues as well as gaining deep insight into complex investment opportunities. Finally having some luck once in a while is also an ingredient which cannot harm.
e-fundresearch.com: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Alain Eckmann: I started in the investment industry 18 years ago, managing several different funds before having the opportunity to build up the convertible bond capability for UBS Global Asset Management in the year 2000
e-fundresearch.com: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Alain Eckmann: I cannot pinpoint any particular success or disappointment in the last 18 years. I have enjoyed managing portfolios every single day of my career. The main reason for that is that I am fortunate to work with a team which operates in a very smooth, friendly but nevertheless professional way. Clearly adding value for our clients since many years is enjoyable as well as it shows that we seem to be doing something right. Having had the opportunity to build up the convertible bond business for UBS Global Asset Management and to be recognised as one of the leading convertible bond managers by the market is clearly something which I derive a certain personal pride out of.
e-fundresearch.com: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Alain Eckmann: Since a couple of years we are experiencing a situation where the potential market outcome seems to be bimodal instead of normally distributed. This means that in the mind of many investors the market outcome will be either very bad or very good. In addition many of the potential outcomes seem to be in politician’s hands. As a consequence we are experiencing more and more market swings which are a direct result of the mood of investors and not a result of the economic situation. This mood changes quite quickly and quite frequently. Despite this new situation we try not to act differently than in the past, to make long term fundamental analysis of investment opportunities and then to invest into those convertible bonds which according to us offer the most promising return expectations for the risk we take.
e-fundresearch.com: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Alain Eckmann: The main challenge is to continuously invest in a rational way and not let the swings in market mood blur our ability to take informed decisions.
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?
Alain Eckmann: We come in the office each day and try to take as many good investment decisions as possible. In this respect nothing should change in the foreseeable future. To improve the odds of taking good investment decisions we are always critical with ourselves, we challenge each other within the team and we try to learn from our of past investment decisions. Therefore one can say that the main objective it to remain alert, focused on small details and nimble to make sure we keep on taking as many good investment decisions as possible.
e-fundresearch.com: Do you have any role model?
Alain Eckmann: No I don’t have any particular role model. I try to learn from as many people as possible in as many fields as possible because I believe it is by having an open mind to all kind of things that one becomes a better investor. It is surprising for example how much I can even learn from my own 9 and 12 year old children just by seeing the way the tackle certain situations, problems,…
e-fundresearch.com: What motivates you in your job?
Alain Eckmann: My main motivation is the fact that my job allows me to be exposed to so many different companies, sectors, countries, people, cultures… This is a guarantee that it never gets boring and that each day enlarges my luggage of knowledge. In addition as our performance is fully transparent we always see if our investment decisions have been good or not and this is a constant motivation to try to become even better
e-fundresearch.com: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Alain Eckmann: The nice thing as a portfolio manager is that performance could always be better so there will always be a higher target to achieve. Adding value thanks to successful investment decisions and seeing happy clients is clearly something you can never get enough of.
e-fundresearch.com: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Alain Eckmann: I am a very passionate Swiss stamp collector so I could very well imagine being active professionally in the philatelic area where once again the attention to the smallest detail can make a huge difference.
e-fundresearch.com: Vielen Dank!
Siehe auch Interview mit Alain Eckmann über Wandelanleihen vom Juli 2012