Episode 28: JANA’s John Coombe

On Consultants and the Impact of Choice

In this podcast, MarketFox columnist Daniel Grioli speaks to John Coombe, executive director with asset consultant JANA. John is one of Australia’s most respected asset consultants, advising some of the largest pension funds in the country.

He is known for his outspoken, but always insightful comments and this time is no different. He speaks about the impact of Choice regulation on the end beneficiary: “Choice by its very nature takes the asset allocation decision away from trustees and puts it back onto the individual investor”.

On UK consultants, who face intense regulatory scrutiny, he says: “Throw them in the Thames and let them all drown”.

And on assessing fund manager returns: “90 per cent of returns are driven by a manager’s investment philosophy”. He also gives tips to fund manager startups on how to engage with consultants and funds. Strap yourself in for a roller coaster ride!

Overview John Coombe’s podcast

3:20 Got a job in superannuation, because I was the only one who knew how to use a PC
4:30 Spent most of my early days selling equities, because the market was so rampant.
6:30 Meeting some of the great investors two days after the ’87 crash
9:00 Backing start-up fund managers
10:30 What went wrong with those managers that didn’t make it?
17:00 The biggest asset allocation call in the firm’s history
18:40 Shifting 15 per cent out of equities into property
21:23 Allocating nothing to US equities
29:00 If 95 per cent of risk is due to asset allocation, then why do we spend so much time on manager selection?
32:00 Never bet against the central banks
36:00 Do consultants add value?
40:00 Regulatory scrutiny of consultants; “throw them in the Thames and let them all drown”
45:00 Consulting is about making educated guesses.
49:00 Consulting is relationship management; don’t kill it with being dogmatic
53:30 90 per cent of returns are driven by a manager’s investment philosophy
58:30 There was a ton of money in hedge fund land being run on quant
1:01:00 Do performance fee ever make sense?
1:03:45 Tips for fund managers in dealing with consultants
1:08:00 Discussing the different consultant models.
1:12:00 Is consultancy getting too concentrated in Australia?
1:13:00 John’s tips for institutional investors
1:14:00 Are CPI targets set today achievable?
1:17:00 The biggest challenges for instos today
1:18:00 A word of warning

About the [i3] Podcast

The [i3] Podcast is a conversation with some of the leading institutional investors around the world, discussing their philosophy towards investing, in particular towards portfolio construction and investment strategy. The [i3] podcast is available on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcast platform.