2016 Forty Under Forty

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James HarmanGeneral Manager, Listed Assets,HESTA
(Melbourne, Australia) 37
James Harman
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“I have always valued James’ opinion. When he stepped down from the CFA Society Melbourne board, I asked him to stay as an advisor just so we didn’t lose his input.”

Name the most noticeable generational divide in investment style between sub-40-year-old investors and baby boomers.

The environment in which the two generations have operated: post-global financial crisis vs. the long downward interest-rate trend for baby boomers. Also, we use more quantitative risk management tools.

Your least favorite part of being an asset owner is...?

The focus on absolute cost rather than net returns, which pushes more passive products. Also, more and more time goes into paperwork supplementing decision-making than actual decision-making.

The manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d most like to pick for an hour is...?

GMO’s Jeremy Grantham.

... and where would that meeting take place?

In the office so I could actually take notes. I’d get distracted anywhere else.

Describe the weirdest interaction you’ve had with an asset manager.

I must have caught a quite well-regarded­ manager on a bad day, because he aired all the firm’s dirty laundry about its competitive, non-collaborative culture...

What asset class or investment troubles you most right now—and why?

Core fixed income, given the low yields, vulnerability to rising interest rates, and managers pushing themselves out on the risk curve.

Name your favorite food and drink.

My wife will be disgusted with this, but fish and chips from down by the beach. And Melbourne coffee.

What’s the wildest institutional portfolio you’ve seen?

I once spoke to a fund CIO who was lamenting that he couldn’t just invest in a few stocks he liked, and instead had to hold a diversified portfolio.

Name a cultural aspect of asset management that gets under your skin.

Many fund managers will talk about being “solutions providers” and “partners.” But in reality, firms are still set up to be product providers.

Donald Trump is ________.

Apparently a fan of Australia. [Ed. Note: And vice versa?] ... I think the Apprentice is well received over here.

Name your four-member investment dream team for your own family office.

Ray Dalio as CIO, plus Abby Joseph Cohen (Goldman Sachs), Ashok Jacob (Ellerston Capital), and Kate Misic (Telstra Super), who’s one of my old colleagues and would kill me if I didn’t mention her.

What’s the biggest investment or career misstep you’ve made?

My long blonde hair in the early years probably didn’t contribute to promotions.But seriously, I think I used to focus a little too much on being liked rather than establishing my credentials as someone to be taken seriously. [Ed. Note: Clearly no longer an issue.]

What should be an investment trend, but isn’t (yet)?

Long-termism and an investment-first focus.