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Interview with Simon Black, Dolfin

25 September 2019

April French Furnell

Simon Black joined Dolfin in September 2018 to bolster the firm’s ability to meet the demands of HNW and UHNW private investors. Today, he serves as Dolfin’s Head of Investment Management.

Simon’s experience of wealth management started early on, participating in a week’s work experience in Luxembourg at the age of 16 which provided his first taste of the professional world of investing. A few years on, when graduating from his Masters in Investment, he decided to enter the wealth management industry as it offered the ability to work closely with clients and incorporate their goals and passions into investment portfolios. One of the aspects of the role Simon enjoys most is understanding the drivers behind different people, whether they are male or female, living in an emerging or a developed market, as heir to inherited wealth or an entrepreneur; different people require a different service from the very initial pitch through to execution.

Citywealth spoke to Simon to find out more about his role at Dolfin, current investment trends among the HNW and how Dolfin is developing its younger generation.

 

Tell us about your role at Dolfin.

I head up the investment team, which means I spend my time looking at financial markets, discussing investment opportunities with my colleagues and explaining the concepts of Dolfin to both new and existing clients.

 

Name three factors that distinguish Dolfin from its competitors.

1. We provide an institutional investment approach with private client service levels - rather than traditional private banking portfolios.

2. We speak more than 20 different native languages in our London office, as we have clients all over the world.

3. We offer clients the ability to have multiple portfolios in different jurisdictions/currencies and risk profiles all housed under one roof.

 

How has the wealth management industry changed during your career to-date? How has your role and approach adapted?

The use of technology fundamentally changed both how we are able to analyse investment opportunities and how we are able to interact with clients. Clients are becoming more inquisitive about investment options that exist, more concerned about fees and TERs in portfolios and there has been a rise in impact investing.

 

Tell us more about the use of technology within your role.

My team sits in more than one country, so technology is used for us to communicate effectively together. More importantly, it keeps me close to our clients who are based all over the world. Being able to jump on a video conference call with our head of fixed income, me and a client when the three of us are in three different countries is important. A key differentiator for Dolfin is that we also use our own technology for analysing markets, pulling data into our internal models and generating investment ideas.

 

What are the current investment trends among UHNWs?

Whilst the ‘search for yield’ continues, we see clients focusing more on impact investing opportunities and wanting to be more involved in their portfolios. Clients like investing into something that they understand not just mentally, but emotionally. Offsetting that, it is our role as professional managers to not become emotionally attached to our investments.

 

How are you incorporating thematic investing across client portfolios? Can you provide some examples?

Thematics is looking more at longer term trends that are changing who we are as a society. Global ideas. The internet is one example. Look at the largest companies in the S&P - Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook - where would they be without the internet? Our focus is looking at the next 15 years and trends that are still to be played out fully. One of the largest ones is the increasing disposable income for Asian emerging markets consumers - how are they going to spend this increased income, and on what? This is where real growth is going to happen over the next 15 years, so we are looking at sub-themes (will they spend more on dining out, travel & tourism, real estate, gadgets, e-commerce) and then looking at how we can get exposure to that. It isn’t just a question of ‘do we prefer Ali Baba to Amazon’ but looking at which stocks around the world will be the largest beneficiaries.

 

How are you developing the younger generation within Dolfin?

On the investment team I typically pair up a senior analyst with a junior analyst - with one of the focuses being development at a professional level. We also do cross-asset class work (a credit analyst working with an equity analyst) to try and develop both at the same time. Separate to that we encourage our junior analysts to give presentations to the investment team and wider company to develop their communication and public speaking skills.

 

How do you balance work and home life? What do you do to relax?

Outside of the office it is important to have time to recharge the batteries. Typically, I can be found at salsa dancing once or twice a week, and I enjoy cycling during the warmer months. I also try to visit one or two new countries a year. I am a big foodie and a lover of good red wine so spend time sampling new restaurants and food/wine pairings.

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