Spot light on Mike Poole, Fixed Income Dealing Manager, Jupiter Asset Management
Head of Trading Champion 2020
2020 has been a year of disruption – how has your desk coped with the pandemic? What key learnings can be made?
I think from the outset, any answer to this question must acknowledge the work done by our firm’s IT dept and broader operational resilience. The efforts to get parts of the business that “can’t” work from home, to being fully operational remotely, effectively overnight, shouldn’t be forgotten 6 months on. We must ensure we aren’t complacent in this new environment and continue to seek out efficiencies and develop lines of communication that enable us to add as much value out of the office, as we did in.
The word ‘cope’ is key in the question, and at first it was just about coping, especially given the market volatility. We leveraged existing forms of communication with various strategies within the firm, the dealing desk made invaluable additions to the investment floor morning meetings and uncovering liquidity opportunities within the market were more important than ever; the work done previously in minimising opportunity cost, utilising best in class tech alongside developing our relationships with key liquidity providers, paid off. We now need to do more than ‘cope’ and build upon the foundations we’ve put in place, those of adaptability, resilience and true value accretion.
The key lesson to take away from the recent past is to never assume that the status quo is just that. Low touch can become high touch overnight and as such, having a range of tools at your disposal with the necessary skillset to deploy them, across the desk, is key. The experience my team have and the flexibility they showed, ensured not only the level of service expected by the investment managers was undiminished, but the true value add of a cross-asset, high touch trading desk came to the fore.
Key takeaways: Never assume that the direction of travel will become all-encompassing, don’t see any reversion to ‘old school’ trading as a step back or slowing the technological revolution in FI, and most importantly, don’t stop talking.
Which projects have you successfully worked on this year?
The largest project at Jupiter this year has been the integration of Merian Global Investors, this would have been a huge undertaking even if we’d all been under one roof. The integration of technology is one thing but the bringing together of two, albeit complementary, cultures is quite another, especially when chances to meet in person are somewhat limited. As a purely active fund management house, each fund manager has his or her own style, own ways of communicating and indeed wanting information to flow to them; high and low touch isn’t just for trading! We’ve been fortunate enough that our office has been open since July and I have had the opportunity to meet the new fund managers in person, get a feel for their investment styles and how we can add value as a desk. We’ve taken on a number of mandates with new asset classes which have required greater engagement with our counterparties, as well as looking at different trading protocols to enhance our execution capabilities. A project like this doesn’t end with technological implementation, the MGI funds running on Aladdin etc, but is ongoing as we continue to seek ways to add value across the new suite of products and talent under Jupiter’s stewardship.
How do you envisage the trading desk of the future post the pandemic?
I don’t see wholesale change being needed. If the desk was positioned as you wanted, with the flexibility, skillset and technology to achieve your execution goals, the pandemic hasn’t changed that. If you have had to fundamentally change the way you trade, engage, are set up, then perhaps spending too much time being told what you should be doing, by those with a vested interest in such protocols, has led to a sense check. I will continue to engage with my key liquidity providers, I will continue to engage with our key technology providers, I will continue to seek to minimise opportunity cost where possible by leveraging each of those. Most importantly I will continue asking questions; of my team, of my peers, of market partners to seek incremental improvements to what we do, to enhance our execution outcomes and ultimately add Alpha to the investment process, from front to back.
What are your top tips to inspiring traders about how to reach to the top of their profession?
Engage. Query. Understand.
Speak to all parts of the business, really understand what it is that has led to your company’s success. Is it just the investment process (it rarely is) or is it more cultural/abstract? Check with other stakeholders in the trade’s lifecycle how you as a trader can offer efficiencies with your unique position as gatekeeper to the market; settlements, corporate actions et al. Ensure there isn’t a ‘them and us’ mentality between the dealing desk and other parts of the firm. Always ask ‘Why?’. Why is a PM looking at that sector, that credit, that ISIN? Why is that execution method deemed best for that trade. Is it? Why did we achieve that outcome?
What top tips do you use to optimise your mental health? #buysidementalhealth campaign 2020 by the Buy-side Trading Community (BTC)
Find something you enjoy outside of work and make (not ‘try to find’) the time for it. It can be as little as a 20 min jog, cooking, working your way through the West Wing again…something that enables you to switch off, which is ever more important with ‘the desk’ there whirring in the background. Something I have found tough is the lack of that ‘leaving the office’ feeling. A constant nagging that I should be in the other room working on something, feeling I might be missing something on the screen. Find a way to replicate the feeling of closing the door on the working day, yes there might be something you have to come back to, but if you can separate that work and home feeling, it goes a long way to switching off for a period of time. The lack of decompression one achieves on the commute home is also missing, being in ‘work mode’ still when switching off the screen and engaging with the family is often not ideal for all concerned! So finding a way to achieve that – spending 15 mins reading a book post the close is a good way to get yourself away from the ‘working day’.
What has been your career path before your current role?
I started my career in asset management at Barclays Personal Investment Management, part of Barclays Wealth, up in Peterborough, where I am from. A back office role become a front office role, passing the IMC and working as a quasi ‘Portfolio Manager’ responsible for balancing client portfolios to match a risk-determined model. Speaking to clients on a daily basis, indeed even visiting their homes and broader seminars, gave me at that young age a good feel for how the investment process takes shape, from the investors themselves, to the modelling and execution of a portfolio. I moved from there to Jupiter as a dealing desk assistant, aiding the equity desk in managing queries, working closely with the dealers to get a feel for the how, where, what and why of execution at an active fund management house. I engaged closely with the Fund Managers, helping them with the admin around things like programme trading, ascertaining costs and liquidity profiles of certain baskets. In time I traded these programme trades along with our £1bn private client flow and also institutional UK telcos as well as out multi-billion fund of funds business. In 2010, having worked through the financial crisis, Jupiter looked to diversify its investment offerings and I moved to a newly set up fixed income/multi asset trading desk where we’d be trading rates, credit and convertibles, something that had previously been done by the PMs themselves. The breadth of products and size of mandates grew rapidly, as did the steepness of the learning curve, and I ensured I met as many market participants as possible, on the buy side and sellside, to ensure we as a newly formed desk were on the map, so to speak. I started to head up the team in 2017, and since then have tried to position the desk to utilise best in class technology whilst retaining the flexibility to navigate all market conditions. We have a high degree of engagement with the investment managers and analyst team, I like to think our presence within the firm is somewhat elevated from years gone by and the true value-add of an active dealing desk has really come to the fore during the past 6-7 months, for not only high level of execution but the information flow and value we are in a unique position to offer. It’s key as a manager that you can draw on others’ experiences and knowledge to develop your own and at Jupiter, that diversity of thought is a key pillar to the firm and the desk’s success.