Working perfectly from home

With markets roiling round the world, the London office has decamped to their ranches on government orders. Rathbone Multi-Asset Portfolios fund manager David Coombs marvels at today’s technology.

Study room

By David Coombs

Four days in and I have to say so far so good. Tracey and I are still talking and we haven’t put any weight on yet. The biscuit cupboard is so tempting, but Game Theory hasn’t yet overwhelmed our resilience. The office never has gluten-free snacks; here there is all sorts of trouble lying in cupboards.

Tracey’s Vodafone office closed a bit earlier than ours so she is into her second week at the kitchen table. She now has me and my conference calls to deal with. So I am in the study this week. We swap next week (likely story!).

Team video conference meetings are an eye opener. It’s like a weird through-the-keyhole game show. You get to see your colleagues’ décor choices and I have to say some really do reflect personalities. I shall say no more.

Also – what to wear? You would think not having to go to the office would alleviate this, yet it’s quite the opposite. James, our head of finance, upped the stakes in our morning executive committee video meeting today: a velvet blue smoking jacket and cravat. He looked like a follicly challenged Stephen Fry. The fund managers are in sloppy t-shirts. I have something in mind for Monday: Welsh dragon onesie … Meanwhile, Tracey worries we don’t have enough books on our shelves so we don’t look intellectual enough in virtual meetings. Massive Amazon order today: books by the metre.

Will, Craig and I have at least three Zoom video meetings a day to catch up and plan investment work and how to keep you and our underlying investors informed. We also use our WhatsApp group constantly. And we can trade and receive market information as normal. It is at times like this that the technology you took for granted is really appreciated – one of the reasons we have been consistently adding to our tech names over the past two weeks. We believe these are still going to be the winners after this crisis.

At 10.45am we have our virtual 15-minute coffee chat with the wider team. No work chat, just swapping stories of what happening and lots of good humour.

With all this going on you don’t feel isolated at all. And this is vital as a fund manager. You don’t want to find yourself making decisions in a vacuum. It’s bad enough being in the London bubble let alone your own. It is so important to ensure you are continuously challenged during these periods so that you don’t let emotion overtake logic. I don’t mean to sound old, complacent, jaded or flippant, but I’ve lived through quite a few market crises. All of them are different, yet they all share similar characteristics: irrational behaviour, consensus thinking and lots of ill-informed commentary. It can be really difficult to keep your eye on the long term. Many people fall into the trap of investing minute by minute. You can’t overreact in a crisis. The right thing to do is usually the same thing you would do in normal times. It’s just much tougher to make those decisions.

What has been most pleasing is to feel that, in some ways, this has been a normal week. We haven’t made any changes to our investment process. We are sticking to our usual discipline. For more on what we have been doing listen to our webcast, broadcast on Wednesday from leafy Wiltshire.

I aim to send out a weekly blog whilst we are in this situation to keep investors up to date from a business and investment perspective.

Forgive the lighter tone today, but I do feel balance is important. Now, I need to finish as Tracey has pointed out the dishwasher needs emptying. If hostilities are to be avoided I need to provide a quick response time! Stay well everybody.