A man with 25 years’ experience in fund management, asset allocation and manager selection, Bell seems omniscient when it comes to the economic ecosystem. ‘I do so enjoy it, everything about investment – and I always have. To the extent that it’s my weekend hobby,’ says the the group’s partner and CIO. He had a strong year betting on a strong dollar in 2014: ‘I don’t know how many others did that.’
Other asset classes that have done well are private equity and real estate which compliment their quoted stock selection: ‘They’re still interesting and we’ve increased our capability in both those areas. These are assets classes that give real returns. If you’re looking at the best long term asset classes equity is probably the best in terms of long-term performance but they’re quite volatile, the second best in terms of performance is property and if you put a little bit of borrowings on you get a similar return.’
He is ‘someone who is happiest at their desk, reading research or meeting strategists or fund managers.’ Taking such an academic approach he’s used to employing his encyclopaedic knowledge to play jargonbuster: ‘Open-architecture means different things to different people, most clients will tell us they’ve bought a flat down the road, or invested money in a friend’s business, I don’t say “ah, so you’re interested in alternative assets”, or “ah, you’re a private equity investor”, it’s just a normal investment. A lot of firms like to put things in boxes but actually the way the vast majority of people invest is on an open architecture basis across asset classes. Property is not some esoteric alternative and investing in unquoted companies is the norm for most wealthy people.’
What’s behind the enthusiasm? ‘I don’t know – it may have come from a puritan-type view. I love things about green energy, and the idea that you’re not wasting… it seems a waste of resources. And I feel the same way with capital – if you’ve got capital and stick it under the mattress or in deposit and you’re not using it, you’re really wasting something that everyone can benefit from.’
The modest and good-humoured economics and politics graduate was previously CIO of Newton Private Investment Management, responsible for $37 billion under management.
‘Jonathan has managed our portfolio for the past ten years,’ says a client. ‘He is extremely knowledgeable, skilled and always demonstrates sound judgment; he looks at investments based on rigorous interpretation of data, with a cool head, and comfortably outperforms our benchmarks. I cannot recommend him highly enough.’
Apart from keeping fit through squash the Securities Institute Fellow and published investment author relishes time spent ploughing through his library of economic books, looking to broaden his investment horizons as well as acknowledging that it’s ‘quite nice to be reminded of things’.