A Day in the Life – Graham Campbell

Graham Campbell, CEO and Joint Manager of the TB Saracen Global Income & Growth Fund tells us about his typical day…


How do you start your working day?

I am awake just after 7.00am, which must seem very leisurely in a London context! I am very much a morning person and usually wake up raring to go. However, I am abhor rushing or stress in the morning and I will always have everything necessary prepared, long before I go to bed.

The only potential aggravation might be chasing my youngest son who likes a lift into town and a leisurely breakfast. Despite frequent reminders to be ready before bed, he dashes around looking for rugby kit in the morning!

The journey to the office at Rutland Square is a short drive past Inverleith Park, with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle – even as a Glaswegian, I have no issue saying that Edinburgh is a wonderful place to live and work! I am in the office with a black coffee by 8.00am.

What does a typical day at Saracen Fund Managers look like for you?

I have never lost the excitement of booting up my pc in the morning to see what has happened in overnight markets and scanning for news of any business where we might own shares for our clients, or that are on our reach watch list.

At Saracen, we are not big into meetings for the sake of meetings.  I have strived to create an environment where my colleagues will be willing to share and discuss any relevant news or views, but also provide space and peace to allow the individual to concentrate and to do their best work.

There are two scheduled investment meetings per week.  Monday starts with a catch-up diary and screening meeting with the entire team.  We go through the previous week’s diary to discuss feedback and also look to the week ahead, with particular attention on meetings or presentations to prepare for.  We are firmly of the view that the more preparation, the more we are likely to extract from the meeting. The team also review the results of our proprietary screens and briefly discuss any major talking points.

The other important meeting in the week is held on Friday, which is the research meeting, when we present our new and updated research to our colleagues (visitors welcome!).  They are a tough audience, but as they are both shareholders in the business and in all of our funds. However, that means that their motivation is to improve the result, rather than score points, which I have seen all too often in other fund management businesses.

The only other formal investment meeting we have is a monthly review of research valuations, to ensure that portfolios reflect our best ideas.

The majority of the remainder of the day is spent either preparing for client or new business meetings, speaking to clients or completing research templates.  It is a quiet, calm yet collaborative environment, with exam levels of concentration.

Do you travel much?

I travel probably once or twice a month to see current holders of the fund and prospects. This is largely in the UK but could be anywhere – favourites so far this year include Bristol, Birmingham, Exeter, Dublin and of course London.

What is the company culture at Saracen Fund Managers?

I have worked hard to create an environment in which there is a distinct lack of bureaucracy! Every member of the team can express their thoughts freely as they are all highly intelligent, talented individuals with valuable input. As a small business, we are a close knit bunch with an appreciation of the need for a good work/life balance.

How do you and the team find new ideas for the fund?

I am often asked how we find the businesses to invest in for the fund.  We are avid readers of financial news and company statements, in an attempt to find either a supporting or conflicting account of the world as we expect to see it.  However, probably the biggest generator of ideas is our proprietary screen, that starts with over 110,000 companies. After a variety of stringent criterion, it will typically screen out businesses with riskier characteristics, such as stretched balance sheets, high valuation, or low dividend cover, but also many qualitative factors too.  We are left with a list of usually over 150 companies that we scrutinise in more depth, before any decision is taken as to whether we should complete a full research template.  We also carefully track any new businesses coming into the list.

To initiate a research template can take somewhere between two and six weeks, depending on the sector and complexity of the business.  When we analyse a bank for example, we will recreate a P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statement from annual reports that go back to 2007, both to see how the business survived the Global Financial Crisis, which provides an excellent stress test, but also to see what management has learned and how the strategy has evolved.

We often discover that at various times there is a large contingent of names from certain sectors, such as oil & gas or automotive businesses, where many investors are cautious on prospects. However we also find some gems that have been lazily characterised, such as Johnson Matthey or IBM and may offer an attractive opportunity for the patient investor.  Currently screens are showing value in some older US tech and many high quality pharmaceutical names.

Any favourite haunts for lunch?

Ideally, lunch involves a trip to the gym, which really helps clear my head, but more often it is a sandwich at my desk. On the rare occasions I manage to get out and about or I’m meeting a contact, I’ll usually choose La Bruschetta in Haymarket or more locally, Quattro Zero on Queensferry Street. On the weekends, I love the Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge for its laid back atmosphere, extensive wine list and top notch grub.

How do you relax in the evening after a long day?

I tend to finish up in the office at around 5.30pm, so it’s not the longest working day, but it is intense.

I usually pick up emails in the evening, but hopefully my wife Caroline and I will manage a walk in the park with our two Labradors and a good chat, before we make dinner and head to bed around 10.30pm.