Mike Ingram’s most memorable moment goes back to his early experience of emerging markets, looking for investment stories of companies in exotic locations. ‘You really felt as though you were on the frontier and creating something new,’ says the emerging market equity specialist at WHIreland Wealth Management.His City career started almost 25 years ago, but his interest in financial markets goes even further back: he recalls ‘papering’ his bedroom wall with pages of the Financial Times.
Ingram went through a ‘very steep’ learning curve, learning about the interplay between companies, economics and politics from stints at HSBC, Santander, ABN and RBS. He was a market strategist at interdealer broker BGC, where he talked to the media about capital markets, before joining WHIreland. ‘Not only am I well positioned to play a key role in further refining our investment process, but I am able to articulate this to both clients and the general and financial media.’
There is concern within the industry that recent trends highlight that the way markets are accessed and traded will ‘ultimately undermine their integrity’, especially due to the role of passive products, algorithmic trading, platform fragmentation, buy and sell side concentration and lower capital commitment within the financial system. ‘These could all combine to increase tail risks if not impair efficient capital pricing,’ he says, ‘unfortunately, one doesn’t tend to pay much attention to the plumbing until the pipes burst!’
He also worries, from early observation of the effects of MiFID II, that increasing regulatory pressures might be detrimental for a range of stakeholders in the industry in the long run, even though the ‘market meltdown’ that wealth managers had previously predicted has not occurred. ‘It’s not difficult to see how the legislation will catalyse a further round of rationalisation and consolidation among brokers, investment banks and asset managers.’
Ingram warns that investment banks which are used to speaking to institutional investors are not necessarily adept at communicating with private clients – their knowledge of financial speak is often incorrectly assumed. ‘The range of knowledge and interest from HNW clients is incredibly broad and one needs to be sensitive to that,’ he says.
What separates the great from the good? ‘Inspiration,’ Ingram replies. ‘The ability to think beyond the obvious and make such insight into a monetisable proposition for clients’. Originality is important too. He quotes General George S. Patton, from whom he draws inspiration: ‘”If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”’. Process is vital in the investment management industry, but we should not allow it to constrain innovation – we should not be content to accept that there is no scope for improvement.’
Born in Herefordshire, Mike says the best part of the job is discovering a useful investment idea from a long and arduous data trawl. On the other hand, he adds, ‘Coming up with nothing after the same exercise is the worst.’