Challenging established ideas about asset management
For Saker Nusseibeh, CEO at Hermes Fund Managers, challenging established ideas is a fundamental part of his personal philosophy. This way of thinking undoubtedly dates back to his student days in the 1980s, when he obtained a Ph.D. in Medieval History from King’s College, London, and has never left him during a very rich professional career. Shortly after graduating, he joined Mercury Asset Management (MAM) as a trainee. The firm was subsequently acquired by Merrill Lynch and he climbed up the promotion ladder to become head of the international division.
Saker Nusseibeh then decided to cross the Atlantic in 1996 when he joined The Trust Company of the West (TCW), a US giant based in Los Angeles: "TCW International’s results were not good and the management wanted to change that, he recalls. I had worked at Mercury Asset Management for ten years and I did not know whether my good results were down to me or to the company." TCW was then taken over by Société Générale, and after having supervised the integration of the operations of the two entities Saker Nusseibeh left Société Générale in 2005 and joined Fortis Investments. The acquisition by Fortis of part of ABN Amro’s activities and the sale of the Belgian arm of Fortis Banque to BNP Paribas in May 2009 marked a new turning point in his career. Motivated by a lack of belief in the new direction planned for the asset management division of the French bank, he decided to leave Fortis and became Head of Investment at Hermes, whose ethics and business model appealed to him, before becoming CEO in May.
In October last year, he decided to create an association called Club 300, as a reference to the 300 Spartan hoplites who left the Greeks time to organise their defence at the Battle of Thermopylae. He is president of this association which currently has around ten members, mainly CIOs from the industry: "What bothered me in 2008 was not so much the fact that the crisis happened but rather the fact that enough people knew what was going to happen but did nothing to protect their career", explains Saker Nusseibeh. Club 300’s ambition, which is to challenge the theoretical fundamentals of finance and the compartmentalisation of knowledge, has already caused some grinding of teeth: "I have discovered that simply challenging preconceived ideas can cause an angry reaction. However, modern financial theories are not a law and cannot be measured", he concludes.
*Chief executive officer