From electronics to asset management
Anne Richards’s career path in the financial sector does not seem to have been pre-destined by her studies, since the current CIO of Aberdeen Asset Management graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in electronics and electrical engineering and began her career at the CERN in Geneva: "It was a fascinating world and I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with top physicists, recalls Anne Richards. But their objective had a timeframe of 30 to 40 years and I felt the need for a more immediate goal." She therefore returned to the UK and worked as a project management consultant before deciding to study for an MBA at INSEAD, where she discovered corporate finance: "For me, it was my personal Road to Damascus, she explains. I found something capable of providing me with a perpetual challenge and an endless centre of interest at the same time." After a position as analyst, she was recruited as a portfolio manager by JP Morgan Investment Managers, where she worked for five years before joining Merrill Lynch Investment Managers as Managing Director in 1999.
Three years later, she was given the opportunity to join the board of Edinburgh Asset Management, a listed company: "It was a company that was entirely invested in equities which, in 2002, posed a certain number of problems," she recalls. A few weeks after her arrival, she had to contend with a shareholder revolt which led very rapidly to the resignation of the chairman and three non executive chairmen. The CEO also resigned shortly afterwards. The company was put up for sale and was finally acquired in 2003 by Aberdeen Asset Management, which at the time had assets under management of 29.2 billion euros (221.5 billion euros as at 31 March 2012). The task facing the head of investment and alternative strategies was clearly to diversify the investment portfolios, which were predominantly invested in equities, into other asset classes. The acquisition of part of the assets of Credit Suisse at the end of 2009 and a portfolio of assets from RBS for 84.7 million pounds in January 2010, invested on a multi-manager basis, mainly via funds of hedge funds (4 billion) and funds of traditional management funds, gave her the necessary platform to achieve this diversification. Mission accomplished: by asset classes, although equities still represent 47 % of the group’s investments, alternative management solutions now account for 14 % of total assets.
*Chief investment officer