Beaton is the CIO of the whole LJ Group, which includes trust, fiduciary and family office services, as well running LJ Athene, the investment advisory arm. Thirty-three years in finance, he says, have equipped him well, after spells at Warburg, Merrill Lynch and Deloitte, whose investment advisory business became LJ Athene in a management buyout.
LJ Athene – not named for the goddess but because the business was based in Athene Place – has a principle simple to report but which probably needs great skill to achieve: they aim to make ‘inflation plus 2 per cent per annum, net of fee, over rolling five-year periods’. Since the business is often about intergenerational wealth planning, Beaton says clients don’t want their portfolios to be eroded by inflation.
Beaton looks broadly at investments: ‘I think assets such as farmland, and certainly property, where the LJ Group is very, very strong, is something that we know that our clients are very interested in, and need in order to protect the value of their investments in the long term.
‘I think farmland is a potentially very attractive asset class, if you are talking about intergenerational wealth planning: they’re not making any more of it and it obviously is used to feed an increasingly growing global population.’
Beaton can even offer some gnomic wisdom: ‘Part of our philosophy is that the long term is made up of a sum of lots of short terms.’ That’s an approach we could all do with remembering.
With under a hundred clients at LJ Athene, Beaton takes pride in the individualised service they can offer: ‘Very, very few clients want exactly the same service and exactly the same investment objectives, because each client tends to have their own interests and their own particular foibles that they have. We try and build those in to offer a very personalised service.
‘What we don’t have is three silos where all of our clients have to be in one of the three silos. We’re actually very flexible and very tailored for the individual clients… That’s one of the problems the banks have faced, with such a large client book.’
Alongside this quantitative aspect, Beaton emphasises that of quality: ‘One of the things that we really try to concentrate on is the quality of the research we have, whatever asset classes we’re looking at. We do a lot of qualitative research into the managers alongside the standard quantitative research that everyone carries out. We put a great deal of emphasis on research because it’s a factor we think we can really differentiate ourselves with.’
He likes to look at both the big and small pictures for his clients: ‘My interest is wide, it’s both macroeconomics and microeconomics. I think microeconomics is of far more importance in running money the way we run money. One of the most important sources of information, we believe, is not just macroeconomic trends, it’s what companies tell you about the businesses and the industries they’re operating in.’