In 2000 Greg Matthews was fed up: sick of Macquarie Bank where he was chief investment officer, tired of reporters ringing him asking him what stocks he had bought and sold.
Matthews needed space. He needed time to think so he could pick the right stocks. He wanted time to analyse his investment strategy. He wanted a group of like-minded guys around him, who were solely concerned with investment management.
In 2001 he set up Independent Asset Management, enticing Graham Cartwright and Ian Galloway to join him. They initially managed their own money in the hope their returns would attract superannuation money.
Ten years later, Morningstar, in its Australian survey of institutional fund managers, ranks Independent first among its Australian peers. The company has had an annual gross return of 10.6 per cent over a decade and now manages about $2 billion.
Matthews has expanded his team to six investment professionals but he has no secretaries, no salesmen and no website. He does not tweet, refuses all interview requests and will not supply a photograph of himself.
Calls to Matthews were not returned.
His colleague Cartwright says: “We just don’t comment on what we do and how we do it. I’d rather not see that printed.”
Those hoping to get a little of Independent’s magic to rub off on themselves may be disappointed. Matthews does not take on trainee fund managers or interns.
Kate Mulligan, managing director of All Star and Venture Funds Management, says she spent days tracking down Matthews, eventually finding his address near The Rocks in Sydney only for him to initially not want to speak to her.
“All gifted portfolio managers are eccentric,” says Mulligan. “They spend a lot of time in their heads.”
Mulligan eventually convinced Matthews to trust her and has got him to reserve space in his fund for $450 million worth of investor money.
Matthews’ success, according to Mulligan, is due to one question he constantly asks himself and his team: “What did we get wrong?”
He does not align himself to any benchmark. He is happy to take risk, quick to make a decision and ready to limit funds under management, says Mulligan. She says Matthews will cap his fund at $3 billion.
Once a year Matthews may speak to investment advisers. Every so often he will meet the managers of funds who have placed their money with him. But he steers clear of most interaction, preferring the company of his colleagues and himself.