60-second interview: Nancy Curtin, CIO, Close Brothers Asset Management

Date: 19 May 2017

Bumblebee Design

Nancy Curtin, Close Brothers Asset Management


Tell me about your role at Close Brothers Asset Management.

I’m a CIO, which means I oversee investment professionals and investment strategy, while also managing accounts.

How has the private client industry changed?

It has become more institutional, with investment disciplines and monitoring that have become more robust. But the service part of the private client industry in terms of delivering a high-end service hasn’t changed at all, and it’s important that it didn’t. It is still critical to have that personal relationship with our clients.

Any thoughts on Trump’s economic policies?

President Trump has been viewed by many investors as pursuing fairly positive economic and pro-business proposals, although he hasn’t got much through Congress yet. Ahead lies potentially tax reform, increase in defence and infrastructure spending, and some reduction in regulation. I think investors are still tempering their enthusiasm in terms of how much he can get done and when because he is new to the Congressional negotiation process. It will take some time for Trump to get these policies through which should eventually happen. The US economy is pretty strong and Trump has the opportunity to add to it. 

Can his restrictions on immigration hurt US businesses?

Potentially, as immigration is a fantastic source of labour for the US. Investors have some concerns around his protectionist policies. He wants a trade deal though, not a trade war. But we’ll see. He’s unpredictable.

What challenges are your clients facing? 

For many of them they tend to rely on their investment portfolio to generate both a source of return and a source of income. When we look at the returns from stocks and bonds over the past twenty years, bonds returned almost as much income as stocks at a much lower risk, so we were able to mix both in an investment portfolio. However, bond rates today are far below historic averages and the return is not really there, and so generating that income on a bond portfolio is not possible.  It means investors’ expectations around returns should be more modest for both bonds and stocks. This means clients need to think very carefully about what their retirement needs are, also because clients are living longer. Twenty years ago, life expectancy was shorter, the bond yields were higher, and equity returns in general were higher. So now you’ve got the worst of both worlds as bond yields came under pressure and will become even trickier if inflation rises from here, as there are more modest returns to look forward to.

What do you do to switch off?

I spend time with my family, exercise and travel. I love Asia and I travel to Cambodia every year with my husband to do charity work, such as teaching English. The charity we work with supports children education which is a cause we strongly support as it took an entire generation to get over the terrible genocide that happened in Cambodia almost three decades ago.

What do you enjoy about Asia? 

It’s such a fantastic, fast-developing place. I love the culture, getting to know the people and be part of their world for some time. And I love the food.