Bretton Woods makes a comeback Bretton Woods, a sleepy town in New Hampshire, US, played host just after D-Day during the second World War to about 730 people from 44 allied nations. They were talking about, of all things, a new form of monetary policy. They decided to maintain stable exchange rates linked to and backed by gold, starting in 1945 after a sufficient number of countries ratified the agreement. It was abandoned in 1971 due to increasing strain in the US, which, weirdly, led to the US dollar becoming the world’s reserve currency. Now, NAB Asset Servicing has resurrected the name – a symbol of making a difference for the good of the financial system, at least – for an award for industry participants who have also made a difference. Don Russell, the chair of State Super of NSW and investment strategist for BNY Mellon, has collected the inaugural Bretton Woods Award, at a NAB foreign exchange conference in Melbourne late August. Patrick Liddy, NAB Asset Servicing director of marketing and strategy, said when presenting the award that Russell’s former role as adviser to the then-Treasurer, and later Prime Minister, Paul Keating, made a difference in the reform of Australia’s financial system, which started with the flotation of the Australian dollar in 1983 under the Hawke Government. Russell joined Keating in 1985 and helped push a decade of significant reforms to the financial system. Liddy said: “We tend to reward people for the obvious, but we often miss what’s really important, what’s not all that obvious, which are sometimes the big macro decisions which get made. Bretton Woods marked the first time in modern history that the world got together to do something about their economies.” Russell, for his part, said he was “deeply flattered” by the award and urged the audience to continue the good fight to increase the adequacy of the superannuation system: “It behoves us all to tell the story that 9 per cent is not enough,” he said.
The name: a boutique’s most important differentiator The boutique formed by Steve Giubin and the displaced Credit Suisse Aussie equity team might not have a bean under management, but it’s already scored its first coup. Giubin and his five teammates have been allowed to call themselves Sigma Funds Management, meaning they’ve happened upon what must be the only Greek letter not already taken by dozens of investment firms worldwide. “There’s an offshore group called Sigma Asset Management, and ASIC had a record of a Sigma Seven Capital but I don’t think they are doing anything,” Giubin explains. “The six of us decided on Sigma because in upper case it means ‘the sum of all the parts’, and nearly the entire [CSAM] Aussie equity team is together in this business. But it’s one of those names you arrive at, and then it takes on new meanings. In the Greek lower case, it means standard deviation, which fits with the disciplined way we manage money, and Six Sigma is a famous customer service quality process at GE.” As Sigma starts knocking on the asset consultants’ doors, let’s hope a namesake doesn’t come out of the woodwork. It’s happened before to Aussie equity managers. Highbridge Capital was hastily rechristened Northcape Capital in 2007, after the lawyers from a New York-based alternatives manager came a-calling. Waterstone Capital became Wavestone Capital for a similar reason, while some might recall how Brian Eley and Ben Griffiths’ efforts to call their small cap start-up EGG were stymied by a certain UK online bank. Being a little obscure would probably help in such situations, and Ralph Leib has got the right idea. The former GESB investment strategist has dubbed his global long/short fund 613 Capital, which thankfully is not a forecast for the Dow Jones. “The 613 Mitzvot, Hebrew for ‘613 commandments’, are statements and principles of law and ethics contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses, to live your life with honesty and integrity,” Leib explains. High on the spiritual, low on the actionable, well done Ralph.