Australian Unity Investments (AUI) is one of the few boutique incubators interested in a “genuine partnership” rather than a quick private equity-style return, according to former Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Bill Bovingdon. In February, Bovingdon resurfaced with a new Australian fixed income boutique, 18 months after being restructured out of Aberdeen, where he had also run the bond portfolios in his dual role. Altius Asset Management reunites Bovingdon with former Aberdeen colleague Gavin Goodhand, as well as a long-time contact from the sell-side, the former head of fixed income at Credit Suisse and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Chris Dickman. During his down-time, Bovingdon took his children out of school and spent six months on a family trip around Australia in a campervan.

When he got to thinking about his next professional move, Bovingdon leaned towards the ‘CIO’ rather than the ‘CEO’ experience of his past. He wanted the autonomy to invest in debt his own way, but in the context of a genuine partnership with a backer who would take non-investment matters out of his hands. “I probably met with just about every [incubator] going around,” he said. However, he noticed that many of their models, while only demanding a minority equity stake, were built on a five-to-seven year exit strategy, and also required continuous invoicing for support services rendered. AUI, on the other hand, has a 50 per cent share in Altius, but intends to take an annual dividend in lieu of piecemeal payment for its marketing, backoffice and consulting work on strategy and succession.

There is also no pressure for a stag profit, according to AUI boss, David Bryant.“We want the partnerships with our boutiques to go on for generations,” he said. Altius classes itself as a ‘diversified’ bond manager, meaning it will invest in a wide variety of debt instruments and make potentially large shifts between subsectors depending on the point in the market cycle. This makes it different from AUI’s other Aussie fixed income boutique, Vianova Asset Management, which according to Bryant is in the ‘thematic’ camp. “Vianova is a lot more topdown focussed and express their views predominantly through government and semi-government securities,” Bryant said. Altius, meanwhile, will invest its seed funding – of a still-to-bedetermined size – in a portfolio that will start with 70 per cent in credit.

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