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Leaders List: 60 second interview with Chris Hunter, CEO, Cambridge Associates

13 April 2021

April French Furnell

Citywealth caught up with Chris Hunter, CEO of Cambridge Associates Ltd UK, to discuss investment strategies and the growing focus on ESG.

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role

As the CEO of Cambridge Associates, Ltd., our global investment firm’s UK subsidiary, I am responsible for all aspects of Cambridge Associates’ EMEA business. I joined the firm as a private investment specialist and continue to work with a range of institutional and private investors in China, the US, the UK and Europe; ranging in size from $150m to multiple billions.  At Cambridge Associates, we help some of the world’s largest private clients, endowments, foundations, and pensions reach their unique investment goals. I work with our global practice heads to coordinate our regional work across these practices, spearhead EMEA strategy, and manage our day-to-day activities. Finally, I work with our local teams to ensure great investment performance and top client service.

 

What are your clients’ priorities for 2021?

Our clients have a significant and growing focus on sustainability and impact investing and continuing this development is a key priority for many clients in 2021. In fact, in a recent poll of our clients more than half (61%) of those surveyed were actively engaged in sustainable, impact or ESG investing, a 25 percentage-point uptick from the 36% reported just two years ago.

We take an integrated, customised approach to building portfolios that reflect our clients’ specific impact and mission objectives, which span anywhere from net-zero pledges to diverse and emerging manager programs. We believe these considerations are integral to investing, for both risk management and long-term return potential. That’s why at CA we integrate ESG and sustainability factors across our investment platform by assessing all material information to help our clients make prudent investment decisions, without making concessions on returns.

 

What challenges do they face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?

Our clients are operating in an investment environment characterised by extremely low interest rates, driven by loose monetary policy across the globe. While supportive of equity markets, this environment poses several challenges, including high equity valuations, low yields, and reduced protection from traditional fixed income investments. To address these risks, we create diversified portfolios, tilted toward growth assets, but including protection for unanticipated risks, such as inflation. Given low rates, we are implementing alternatives strategies to provide that protection such as asset classes uncorrelated to equity markets, private credit in different forms, or inflation-linked fixed income.

 

Best and worst parts of your job?

We have an amazing group of clients – including families who are deeply engaged in philanthropy or making a positive impact in the world through family foundations. Plus, we have a talented group of professionals delivering great performance and service to those clients. This creates a virtuous circle that I love being a part of – great clients attract great colleagues to CA, who then deliver for those clients, attracting more great clients. I love interacting with these clients and hearing their stories and I love learning from my colleagues, which I do every day. On the flip side, as our region’s leader, problems and challenges inevitably land on my desk. While fairly rare, dealing with these problems can be tedious.

 

What is your most memorable work moment? 

Over 21 years at CA, there are so many. But recently, my most memorable moment is riding the train across Charing Cross bridge on the day we closed our office due to COVID-19. I remember wondering when we would be returning to our office and how we would cope working remotely. I highlight this because of dedication and success we’ve seen in transitioning to that remote environment – both from our colleagues and clients. We’re all looking forward to being back in the office, but we have proven that we can serve our clients effectively and in less traditional settings.

 

If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?

At CA, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the US, the UK, and in Asia. I have always been fascinated by global politics and international relations and have worked to understand political dynamics in all the places that I’ve worked. International relations is a complicated and long-term activity, similar to investing in many ways. So, if I weren’t working at CA, I would have loved to try a path in the foreign service.

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