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ARGONAUT DECLARES ITS INTENT AS IT PREPARES FOR INDEPENDENCE

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Argonaut Barry Norris

John Lester appointed to head new Distribution team / new OEIC funds structure introduced

The Argonaut Partnership increased their stake in Argonaut Capital Partners (‘Argonaut’) to 60% in August 2011, with Ignis becoming a 40% minority shareholder.  The Company, which will become operationally independent of Ignis on 14th July, has significantly increased its internal resource over the course of the last year, appointing Edward James as its Chief Operating Officer to oversee the transition out of Ignis and the day-to-day operations of the business, and Greg Bennett as a senior fund manager in January.  Underlining its newfound independence, and in a clear statement of intent, the Company today confirmed the appointment of the widely respected John Lester as Head of Distribution, and as a Partner in the business.Argonaut Barry Norris

Lester joins Argonaut from Neptune Investment Management, where he was Head of Strategic Partnerships, and brings with him key members of his former Neptune team – Manager: UK Strategic Partners, Dennis Pellerito and Broker Sales Executive, Andy Nickson.  The newly appointed Sales and Marketing team will enable Argonaut to communicate directly with its fund investors and to focus its distribution efforts in the most appropriate markets and amongst the most appropriate clients.

Argonaut, which manages circa €1bn, also confirmed the reconstruction of its fund range.  The firm’s four Unit Trusts will convert to an OEIC on 14th July, with overseas registration facilitating wider European and international distribution.  The OEIC will be operated by IFDS Managers as Authorised Corporate Director (ACD) and will be administered by IFDS, one of the UK’s leading fund administrators.  The funds will cease to be dual-banded with ‘Ignis’ and will be called:

•    IM Argonaut European Alpha Fund
•    IM Argonaut European Income Fund
•    IM Argonaut European Enhanced Income Fund, and
•    IM Argonaut European Absolute Return Fund

Commenting on developments, Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer, Barry Norris said:
“Since Argonaut Capital Partners was founded in 2005 we, with the help of our partners at Ignis, have built a highly successful investment boutique, focused on European equities.  We are now moving away from the previous joint venture structure and taking on responsibility for functions which were previously outsourced to Ignis.  We have partnered with IFDS, one of the UK’s leading fund administrators, to deliver a first class back office function – and with the appointment of our new team, can now build our own independent Sales and Marketing infrastructure.  In doing so, we firmly believe that we will create an even more compelling proposition for our clients.”

Founding Partner, Olly Russ echoed his colleague’s sentiments:
“As Head of Strategic Partners with Neptune, John Lester built one of the industry’s most effective sales teams.  We have known John for many years and have watched his reputation grow, so we could not be more pleased that he and key members of his team have joined us for the next leg of our journey.  Like Barry, I am confident that our investors will reap significant benefits from the focus of an independent management team, and the ability of Argonaut to directly service the needs of its client base.  Edward has done a great job managing the transition programme over the course of the last year, and with the quality of the management team we have now put in place, we can look forward to the future development of the business with great confidence.”

Lester is understandably excited about the challenge ahead: 
“With Neptune I had the opportunity to build a highly successful Strategic Partners team.  That team made a significant contribution to the growth and profitability of the firm over a period of some six and a half years, and in that time I learned much about boutique investing – what clients expect from a boutique investment provider, and just as importantly, what they do not.  It was an important period in my career, enlightening, and we had a lot of fun, but it was time to move on.

“Barry and Olly are just under 40 years of age, yet they have amassed 26 years’ combined experience and boast a demonstrable track record.  Barry has outperformed the market in eight of the last nine years, and with Olly pioneered the concept of a European income fund.  The guys are highly regarded by analysts and intermediaries alike, and exhibit a tremendous passion for the business of managing money.  It was clear to me from the outset that our views regarding the value and positioning of boutique fund management were completely aligned.  I am inspired by the potential for Argonaut and the ways in which we might grow the business together in true partnership over the next 15 to 20 years – and I am delighted that Dennis Pellerito and Andy Nickson share that vision and have elected to join us for this exciting stage in Argonaut’s development.”

Lester is particularly excited that the Company will now have control of its own manufacturing and distribution functionality.  “The founding Partners have always controlled the investment process.  That has proven to be successful, and is I believe eminently scalable.  We have a duty and an obligation to our clients, who have entrusted us with their hard-earned savings, to continually and critically assess the relevance of our fund range.  By listening to and responding to  our client’s needs we aim to make the most of our proven skills in high conviction equity management, and create appropriate solutions for financial advisers, discretionary and institutional investors alike.  We are open for business and are ready for that challenge.”

For further information regarding / to speak with Argonaut, please contact:
Gordon Puckey
Phoenix Financial PR
Tel: 0207 947 2856 / 07799 767 468
[email protected]

1. About Argonaut Capital Partners (‘Argonaut’ or the ‘Company’)
High Alpha boutique Argonaut has established a formidable reputation and a proven track record as a specialist in managing European equities.  The Company was established in May 2005 as a 50/50 joint venture between Ignis Asset Management and fund managers Barry Norris and Oliver Russ – the Argonaut Partnership stake in Argonaut Capital Partners increasing to 60% in August 2011, with Ignis today a 40% minority shareholder.  The Company offers a comprehensive suite of market-leading Alpha and Income products, and manages assets in the region of €1bn on behalf of both retail and institutional clients.

Argonaut manages six funds: the Argonaut European Alpha Fund, Argonaut European Income Fund, Argonaut European Enhanced Income Fund, Argonaut European Absolute Return Fund and two Dublin domiciled Pan European SICAVs.  Argonaut also manages European segregated portfolios on behalf of institutional clients.

Argonaut managers are unconstrained free-thinking stock-pickers.  Deploying the Company’s proprietary analytical tools and research in their search for outstanding European investment opportunities, they have delivered compelling and consistent investment returns.

2. Biographies

Barry Norris – Chief Investment Officer, Founding Partner and Fund Manager
Barry co-founded Argonaut and is the lead manager of the Argonaut European Alpha Fund, the Argonaut European Absolute Return Fund and a Pan-European Alpha ICVC.

Barry trained as an Investment Analyst with Baillie Gifford, and started running money as Head of European Equities with Neptune Investment Management, managing the firm’s European Opportunities Fund from launch in November 2002 until May 2005.  The Fund was the top-performing Europe (ex-UK) unit trust in 2004.*  (*Source: Lipper, bid to bid, net income reinvested 31 December 2003 – 31 December 2004).

He graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in History in 1996, and in 1997 with an MPhil in International Relations.  Barry holds the CFA charter.

Oliver (‘Olly’) Russ – Founding Partner and Fund Manager
Olly co-founded Argonaut and is the lead manager of the Argonaut European Equity Income Fund and the Argonaut European Enhanced Income Fund.

Olly joined investment boutique Orbitex in 1998; he worked on the firm’s European Equity and Income products and managed the Orbitex UK Equity Fund from inception in March 2000.  In 2002 Olly moved to Invicta Investment Management, a privately owned hedge fund, and in April 2004 he joined Neptune Investment Management as a Fund Manager and Financial Analyst.

Olly graduated from Oxford University in 1996 with a 1st in Classics.  He holds the CFA charter, has completed the IIMR examinations and is a Fellow of the Securities Institute.

Greg Bennett – Fund Manager
Greg has 10 years fund management experience, primarily in the UK equity market, but also in the US market.  He began his investment career with Neptune Investment Management in 2002, and managed the US Opportunities Fund and the UK Equity Fund for a period of his tenure with the firm.  Greg was also Assistant Fund Manager on the firm’s Income Fund and its Global Equity Fund.  In 2006 he joined Marlborough Fund Managers, where he set up and ran the firm’s UK Large Cap Fund and the UK Income Fund.  He joined Argonaut in 2012.

Greg graduated from the University of Natal (South Africa) in 1994 with a BSc. Agricultural Economics.  He holds the CFA charter.

Edward James – Chief Operating Officer
Edward James has 15 years experience in the fund management industry.  As Head of Operations at Octopus Investments, Edward enabled significant growth in both group profits and funds under management and was instrumental in the set-up of the operating model to allow the funds business to grow from two to 13 funds.

He was previously with Euroclear, facilitating the firm’s expansion into the UK fund processing model and managing the purchase of EMXCo – and at Gerrard Asset Management, where he was part of the management team responsible for restructuring the business, enabling its sale to Barclays Wealth.

John Lester – Partner and Head of Distribution
John joins Argonaut having spent the past six and a half years at Neptune Investment Management, building a widely respected boutique investment funds distribution team focused on Nationals, Networks and Strategic Partners in the UK and overseas.  In 2011 he took on the strategic oversight of Neptune’s European sales team.

Prior to Neptune John held the position of Associate Director, Financial Institutions at HSBC Asset Management, focusing on strategic alliances with key UK and International Life Offices.  He has held various senior sales management roles with leading financial institutions in South Africa, including mCubed and ABSA Investment Management Services (AIMS).  John has more than 17 years experience in financial services distribution.

Dennis Pellerito – Head of Intermediary Sales
Dennis joins Argonaut after five years within Neptune Investment Management’s Strategic Partners team, where he held the position of ‘Manager: UK Strategic Partners’, earning the respect of his colleagues and peers with his leadership, hard work and attention to detail.  Dennis will be responsible for sales through Intermediary, Life Company and Fund Platforms channels within the UK.  He began his career in financial services with Fidelity Investments in 2004.

Andy Nickson – Sales Support
Andy joins Argonaut having spent the past two years with Neptune Investment Management in a sales support capacity.  Having impressed his peers with his hard work and enthusiasm he was the natural choice to develop the sales support function at Argonaut.  Andy graduated from Nottingham University with a degree in Economics and is presently studying towards his IMC.

Issued by Argonaut Capital Partners LLP.  Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.  Registered in Scotland: No. SO300614.  Registered Office: 50 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 6HR.

Business

How to use data to protect and power your business

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How to use data to protect and power your business 1

By Dave Parker, Group Head of Data Governance, Arrow Global

Employees need to access data to do their jobs. But as data governance professionals, it’s our job to protect it. Therefore, we must perform a fine balancing act to weigh robust data protection against the productivity of workers who need the data to maintain business-as-usual working processes.

Data grows exponentially, and most organisations will admit that they simply don’t know what data they have, where it is, and the controls that exist around it. This creates 2 challenges:

  1. Burgeoning amounts of unstructured data makes the business increasingly vulnerable from external attackers or internal data breaches.
  2. Because data is the key to understanding a customer’s wants and needs, if the business can’t identify its data and unlock its value, it’s at a competitive disadvantage.

As a European investor and alternative asset manager, here at Arrow Global we take care of £50bn of assets and own a data estate exceeding 160TB. How we manage our data is key to our success. We understand the difficulties involved in opening up environments to allow people to work productively, while at the same time locking them down to protect our organisation.

When it comes to analytics, I believe that Arrow is highly proficient because we employ a talented team of data scientists. But even for us, the sheer volume of raw and processed data, that resides in both our structured systems and unstructured data repositories, has the potential to put our business at risk.

We know there’s always more that can be done to strengthen our security posture and ensure regulatory and contractual compliance, while at the same time using our data to drive the business forward.

Data protection isn’t just about compliance

For many organisations, data protection has centred on demonstrating compliance with the GDPR. At Arrow, our efforts have gone one step further to include our contractual exposure.

Being a more mature data organisation, we had previously tried to develop an application in-house to manage our data estate. However, with 160TB across the company in production data alone, we simply couldn’t achieve the scale we needed to handle the sheer volume of data. Of course, the volume is just the start – once you know what data you have, you then need to be able to categorise the data and put it into a structure, so the business can analyse it for a specific use case.

We knew we needed to go to market to find an industrial-strength data discovery product to replace our in-house application. By aligning our choice of product to our overall IT and change strategy, meant that ultimately, we ended up with a far better outcome than we’d anticipated.

Position data as both a risk and an asset

Data touches every part of an organisation, so when it came to building a business case for buying-in a data discovery software platform, we approached it in a way that would speak to different people at the same time. We did this by posing the question:

“What do we want to do with data in a way that is GDPR-compliant, contractually-compliant and enables us to better service our clients?”

These are the black and white tests of data governance – to recognise the importance of securing and protecting data. They’re applied in a way that enables us to commoditise data and use it to drive the business forward, by forcing us to consider how we would use the data – for example, creating value-based pricing for our clients.

In aligning the business case to initiatives that were already priorities within the boardroom, we knew that we’d gain the attention of the senior leadership team and it would be easier to get the buy-in and budget we needed. And in the end, everyone wins – we get what we need to protect the data, and the business gets to distil the data’s value to better meet our customers’ expectations.

Dave Parker

Dave Parker

Get visibility of data at scale

For us, things got really exciting once we were able to see all of our data at scale. We chose Exonar because it allowed us to discover our data in ways that other products couldn’t. And the interface between the user and Exonar meant that everyone – both technical and non-technical users – could understand the technology and the findings it revealed.

When we saw exactly what data was in the estate, where it was and who had access to it, data security became much easier and the risk of data being compromised was dramatically reduced. We can see exactly where the vulnerabilities are and restructure how our data is stored to strengthen security. Then over time, we can use search, workflow and analysis to optimise the infrastructure and continually identify new areas to improve.

Commercialise the data

From a wider-business perspective, once people can see the data, they can start asking “What if…” to query it and distil its value. But it’s more than just the data itself. It’s not uncommon for data relating to the same thing to exist in unconnected systems across the business. For example, customer interactions and incidents or events.

Exonar is capable of joining the dots in disparate data sets. By stitching these data sets together, we can get a better overall view of our customers and use the outcomes to think of new, different or better ways of serving them through enhancing or adapting our offerings.

Why other financial services businesses should also take a smarter approach to data

  1. By changing the way you approach data, you can use it to protect and power your business and the people you serve.
  2. By positioning data as both a risk and an asset, you elevate its position to give it priority in the boardroom. Ultimately, it’s data that helps the business make informed strategic decisions about how to strengthen its competitive advantage.
  3. By gaining visibility of data at scale, you can see exactly what data you have and where it is. This gives the business confidence about the actions needed to ensure it is secured in both a regulatory and contractually compliant way, and that people are doing the right thing with data at all times.
  4. And joining different data sets provides you with a single view of ‘X’ within your data, no matter where it is. Helping to support your wider-business strategy and priorities, it gives you the information you need to secure a business advantage and generate value.
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How business leaders can find the right balance between human and bot when investing in AI

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How business leaders can find the right balance between human and bot when investing in AI 2

By Andrew White is the ANZ Country Manager of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio

The digital world moves quickly. From keeping up with consumer behaviour patterns, to regulation and compliance, the most successful organisations are always on the cutting-edge of technological developments.

However, when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence (AI), a hard and fast strategy does not guarantee a top spot amongst the league of tech greats. Instead, it pays to take a considered approach to balancing reliance on automated processes with a human touch. Why? Because creative and strategic thinkers are the true propellers of innovation; automation is simply the enabler.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) developed the ‘Routine Task Intensity’ (RTI) index as a measure of which processes are likely to benefit most from automation. According to this metric, jobs requiring analytical, strategic, communicational and technical skills score low on the RTI index, while simple, repetitive tasks scored highly.

The lesson for business leaders here is simple; your digital investments are just as important as your stake in talent. When deciding which processes to automate, start simple, and remember to value the skills and potential of your people.

Keep customer-centricity at your core

Customer-centricity means that every business decision, dollar spent and new hire is centred on one question: how does this benefit my customer? Investments in AI are no different. To be truly successful, they must have a customer-focused outcome.

Where companies get this wrong is by implementing cost-saving measures or ‘copy and paste’ software that fails to improve the customer experience – often having the adverse effect.

Take the virtual chat-bot, for example; if implemented poorly, it can send your customers into a frustrating and seemingly infinite cycle of dead-ends. The modern consumer is far too digitally savvy for this shortcut, and will quickly move onto the next merchant offering a more seamless customer service experience.

To guarantee your investments are delighting rather than infuriating your customers, it helps to take an outside-in perspective of your business processes, aided by Customer Journey Mapping (CJM).

Before you commit to digital investments, CJM can trace and map each customer touchpoint, signalling pain points or conversion rates throughout their journey. These data-driven insights lead you to the areas that would benefit the most from automation, instead of implementing a broad band-aid solution.

Avoid the ‘set and forget’ method 

When investing in enterprise-wide AI, the ‘set and forget’ method rarely works. Real transformation requires an ongoing dedication to refining and improving AI-driven processes, as well as adapting them to the evolving needs of your customers. This is the best way to achieve customer loyalty, by proving that your organisation listens to, and understands its users.

A human perspective is invaluable here, paired with process mining – a method that thrives on finding process inefficiencies – to create a consistent feedback loop of improvement.

During periods of uncertainty, customer loyalty is everything, so aim to protect it at all costs.

The power of your people

The rise of automation can be linked to the corporate world’s obsession with speed and efficiency. However, the psychology behind this goes deeper than being the biggest and fastest producer; it’s also about reallocating resources into attracting and retaining the brilliant minds that drive companies into the future.

When communicating digital change, it’s critical to highlight the valuable impact AI has on augmenting jobs; removing the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks and allowing for more strategic skill-sets to shine through. For lower-skilled workers, invest in upskilling or re-education where possible.

Successfully rolling-out digital transformation plans means that every employee across all tiers of your company understands the value of AI. The starting point here is education to achieve buy-in. Change communications must be accessible, constructive and value-focused, supported by key culture influencers who champion automation within teams.

Enterprise-wide buy-in is an important element of refining and improving digital processes, as cross-functional collaboration can offer valuable insights into common pain points or inefficiencies ripe for automation. Supported by process mining, collaboration provides a holistic view of how each investment will impact other processes. There is no point investing in automation that streamlines one process and makes another more people-centric, so be sure to take a balanced approach to your investments.

Remember, AI is not about creating an army of robot workers; it’s about increasing efficiency and productivity so that an organisation, and its people, can work smarter.

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Are you a fighter or a freezer? The 4 “F’s” of Surviving Danger.

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Are you a fighter or a freezer? The 4 “F’s” of Surviving Danger. 3

By Dr.Roger Firestien, Author of Create In a Flash.

The fight, flight, freeze survival response – or FFF for short – is designed to mobilize our brain and body to fight an enemy, run from a tidal wave or freeze to hide from a predator.

FFF is how humans react when they encounter a dangerous situation. It is a primal response that happens instinctively even before we are able to think about the situation we are confronting.

The FFF alarm causes our brain to focus on negative memories, probably to scan them to avoid repeating dangerous situations and negative outcomes.  We get tunnel vision as our pupils dilate to increase our focus and long-range vision, but as a result we lose our peripheral vision.   

Humans use the FFF response and so do organizations.

When organizations encounter dangerous situations, like, say, trying to survive a global pandemic, they can respond by either fighting the situation, fleeing from the situation, or freezing and waiting for the situation to pass.

I would like to propose a fourth strategy for organizations to deal with a danger like the pandemic. It is the fourth “F.”  The farm response. More on that later.

What kind of organization is yours?

The fighter organizations were the ones that fought the idea of a global pandemic or pushed back against the research that reported how serious the virus was.  Think of the meat processing plants that didn’t provide proper protective gear or the religious organizations that refused to take a break from large services.

The results were catastrophic for the organizations and deadly to the employees and worshippers.

It is pretty easy to identify the fleeing organizations.  You don’t see them anymore.  Unfortunately, this is the organization that just doesn’t have the resources or the energy to fight.  You will recognize them by the “For Rent” signs in the windows of the buildings they used to occupy.

The organizations that freeze  are a little more difficult to identify.  They are still around but are frozen by fear. They are the organizations that, although they are in a position to move forward, are too frightened to take a risk or even look at the periphery of their business. Their tunnel vision blinds them to opportunity.  The freezers hide and wait for the danger to pass.  They are the ones who miss out on possibilities.

For example, if you are in the business of supplying concessions to sporting events, airports and national parks, your business is in deep trouble now. So, what are some ways to keep people buying food and drinks with so many venues closed?

Dr.Roger Firestien

Dr.Roger Firestien

Many national parks are now open and visitors need to eat.  How can you sell food while supporting social distancing? Answer: Sell picnic meals to your patrons.  And, sell a blanket that commemorates the park that diners can spread out and have lunch while social distancing with their families. Then, they’ll keep the blanket that reminds them of their visit to the park.

Sound like a good idea? It sure does. You can keep your park concession business, allow people to social distance and add to your product line with that commemorative blanket. Did the company implement the idea? Unfortunately, they did not. They froze and missed the opportunity.

However, businesses are finding ways to optimize their organization and capture opportunities. They are the farmers. The farmer organizations study the situation, just like farmers study the weather and the land. They look at the resources available to them and get to work.

Farmer organizations pivot and get creative.

Distillers, who before the pandemic, were making vodka, whiskey, gin and other spirits quickly changed their operation from distilling booze to distilling sanitizer.

Telemedicine, which had limited acceptance before the pandemic, almost immediately became the accepted way to deliver care.  Now, the doctor comes to you.

Fitness trainers are conducting their sessions via Zoom or in person outside on sidewalks in front of their gyms so they can social distance.

My favorite ranch, SK Herefords, sells their beef at local farmer’s markets in the Western New York area. This spring when the large packing houses shut down and grocery stores were limiting the amount of beef customers were able to buy, my farmer friends were there at the markets with locally produced farm-raised beef.  Sales soared and demand skyrocketed.

Why? The farmers were ready.  They used their resources and were not afraid to optimize them in a rapidly changing and volatile environment. Farmers live with constantly changing weather conditions and market prices and are accustomed to rapid change.

To operate with constant change, all of us, like farmers, need to be constantly creative.  Phil Keppler, my philosopher farmer friend from SK Herefords says, “Creativity helps you to not look at things as a problem. It’s trying to find the solution – and that’s the exciting thing about it. Things aren’t problems anymore. It’s just difficult situations and you’re trying to find a solution to that situation.”

A good mindset for what our world is experiencing now… it’s a difficult situation and we are creating solutions daily.

Fight, flight, freeze or farm. What kind of organization is yours? And, what can you learn from “the farmers?”

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