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Pub Club: At the Eagle with Bryn Jones, Rathbones

Alex sat down for lunch with Bryn Jones of Rathbones, to learn about how his human geography degree still helps him today and how he went about restructuring the firm's fixed income business.

Pub Club: At the Eagle with Bryn Jones, Rathbones

(Pictured above, Alex Foster, left, Bryn Jones, right)

The first time I met Bryn Jones, a fixed income fund manager at Rathbones, he ran straight past me, writes Alex Foster. In fairness, this was because he was in the process of speeding round the Citywire 10K charity run last summer. Having managed to get Jones sat down in the Eagle, I can finally get to know the man before he zooms off again.

With swordfish and roast veg for me and Napoli sausages and black bean stew for Jones, he takes me back to university where he studied human geography.

‘Human geography is a very thematic subject, encompassing the environment, economics and social groups to name a few,’ Jones explains. ‘It gave me a license to look at things in a wider creative perspective.

‘I remember doing a paper on why the Soviet Union was breaking up while at the same time the European Union was forming; looking at the transitions of Marxism into socialism and then the gradual change into capitalism. The ethical side I deal with has some reflection of that. Yes, we are investing ethically, but we aren’t philanthropists, we can make a better greener society but also make capital too.’

Following university, Jones had a short stint at Schroders before circulating his CV in the mid-1990s. He heard back from Coutts, but with an unusual request.

‘I was playing football at the time and was having some non-league trials, which I’d put in my CV. Coutts called me up and said they were interested, but asked what I was doing Tuesday night. I went to train with them and they offered me a performance measurement job afterwards.’

After Coutts, Jones moved into a fund administration role at Flemings.

‘While it gave me further experience, it was a bit too mundane a job for me. It felt a bit like repairing the Humber Bridge, you finish at one end and then have to start again at the other. But it also was my initial introduction to the bond fund market.’

In 1999 Jones moved to Merrill Lynch, working as an assistant portfolio manager for five years. He gained a number of responsibilities very quickly here, eventually looking after over £2 billion in global credit, before joining Rathbones in 2004.

Restructuring Rathbones
Jones was brought in to restructure Rathbones’ fixed income business, looking after both the Ethical Bond and Strategic Bond funds. Since 2004 the Ethical Bond fund has risen from £35 million to £1.25 billion.

‘From a client perspective, choosing an ethical fund to invest in is a bit like choosing a religion. Ultimately everyone has a positive goal, but equally we all do it a bit differently.’

‘Clients who are looking to buy a fund have to know what their beliefs are, at which point they can pick their religion, so to speak.

‘The next stage is then appreciating that perceptions have changed around ethical investing and that you really don’t have to give up returns when you invest ethically.

‘And now we have millennials who are starting to save and invest. The younger generations have been educated in far greater depth about how ultimately we only have one earth; they need and actively want to make a positive impact.

‘This is having a snowball effect on ethical investing. From the investment and product side to the social development goals and the Climate Bonds Initiative – there’s traction everywhere. But we still have a duty in our role to deliver capital; just because an investment is ethical, it doesn’t mean that performance, price and the people managing it don’t matter.’

Jones’ competitiveness is clear to see, something which reflects in his passion for running. Since taking running up aged 30, he now runs a sub three-hour marathon, averages about 17 minutes for 5 kilometres and has even started running to the office.

This last point might not sound impressive, until you realise he commutes into central London from near Tunbridge Wells.

‘I did it the other day, 57 kilometres. I left at 4:30am and arrived at 9:30am, which annoyed me because I was late.'

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