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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.


Is Digital Transformation the Key to Business Survival in the New World?



Is Digital Transformation the Key to Business Survival in the New World? 1

After a turbulent year, enterprises are returning to the prospect of a new world following an unprecedented pandemic.

Around the country the way we interact with customers, how consumers buy, and what interests the public has rapidly changed. Successfully managing these digital transformations may be the difference between your success and failure at this stage of continuing economic uncertainty.

Of course, the investment may appear unviable, but the benefits maintain growth and profitability. Digital transformations change the way you conduct your business. It allows you to take a step back and reconsider every aspect of your business. This includes the technology you use, how your staff operate, and how customers interact with your brand.

The World Economic Forum has predicted that the value added by digital transformations across all industries could be greater than $100 billion by 2025. Digital transformations are allowing organisations to rapidly innovate.

Accepting this innovative approach to your business right now may spell the difference between company liquidation and prosperity. Here, we look at the benefits of digital transformation and why it’s essential for your business.

Transform your customer experience

The main objective for a business is to fulfil the needs of their customer. A positive experience is vital to retain customers and encourage new consumers to interact with your brand. Likewise, positive customer experience is a core principle of digital proficiency.

A recent study found that 92 per cent of the top 100 organisations have a mature digital transformation strategy in place to improve their customers’ experience. This is compared to all other organisations where only 22 per cent of responding companies have these strategies in place.

One way to achieve this is to recreate your e-commerce platforms to better represent the needs of your customers. A complete rejuvenation can help to identify problems and obstacles in your current system.

SMEs have the opportunity to base their digital transformations on the successes of other businesses. In terms of customer satisfaction, 70 per cent of the leaders reported a significant and transformational value in overall customer satisfaction.

Data-based insights

Digital transformation can help you to better understand your market. By tracking metrics and analysing the data that you collect, you will be able to better understand your customers. You can also gain a clearer understanding of how the sector operates under varying circumstances. This helps companies to make better business decisions.

One survey on the use of data in business showed that 49 per cent of businesses believe that analytics are of most use in driving business decisions. Two-thirds of businesses surveyed believe that data plays a pivotal role in driving strategies.

There’s a plethora of ways that businesses can collect essential data. These include surveys, transactional data tracking, social media monitoring, and in-store traffic monitoring.

Greater collaboration across departments

By centring your organisation around digital infrastructure you can create a consistent working experience. Sharing data and information with your staff can promote idea sharing and innovation.

Organisations are beginning to create companies based on a digital culture. This shapes the way that staff communicate with each other and how technology influences the way they work. This culture reinforces their other digital strategies.

It’s important to maintain engagement with staff during a digital transformation. One report indicates that 79 per cent of companies that focus on culture sustain strong performance throughout their transformation.

When organisations are built around a common goal, business transitions will be smoother.

Improved agility and innovation

Digital transformations allow your business to stay agile, in that it is always prepared to and welcomes change.

The most successful organisations do not follow the beaten track. They look to see how their company can diverge from their original mission and build on their successes. Technology allows these new approaches to be developed alongside extending business enterprises.

One survey shows that 68 per cent of businesses believe that agility is within their top three most important initiatives. This means ensuring that every interaction between customer, technology, and staff is meaningful.

These agile interactions can include, for example, the development and improvements of chat-bots. It all works towards helping locate the best possible options for staff and customers.

Frequent technological innovations  make it difficult to predict what business will look like in the future. Organisations can prepare themselves for this through digital transformations, allowing any future developments and changes to integrate into their business operation.

Being recognised as a digitally transformed business, customers and staff will recognise your attempts to innovate and provide the best possible service. The ability to create additional revenue also highlights the need to adapt to the digital age. The future is showing its face through technology. Businesses must take advantage of the transformed society to change how they operate and reap the rewards.


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Virtual communications: How to handle difficult workplace conversations online



Virtual communications: How to handle difficult workplace conversations online 2

Have potentially difficult conversation at work, like discussing a pay rise, explaining deadline delays or going through performance reviews are hard to do successfully under the very best of circumstances. Now many of us are faced with the additional challenges that remote working presents meaning you need to have these kinds of conversations virtually. A little preparation and advance thought about the direction of the discussion can really help to make the interaction feel more natural and improve your changes of a successful outcome.

Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development, shares advice on how to handle difficult workplace conversations online.

Plan your communication airtime

Planning for a call can be an unpopular task, but taking a few minutes to think through the structure and purpose of your conversation can really help you to achieve your objectives – assuming you know what they are! Work out your primary, and also secondary objective as a fall back, so you will not have to rely on pressing for just one outcome if that becomes too difficult to resolve in one conversation.

Think about how you will show empathy

It can be difficult to observe someone’s body language over a virtual camera call so tone of voice is more easily interpreted. Listen carefully for clues to how the conversation is going from their tone and note that nerves tend to make the voice higher and this can be very noticeable – a warm drink may help to relax your vocal cords and deepen your voice. Smiling when you speak (if appropriate) will also help to relax you and the other person. If you need to get it all right first time, practice makes perfect. Practicing with a friend of colleague can help to produce the relaxed tone of voice necessary to sound sympathetic or authentic.

Active listening is essential

Listening is what separates skilled communicators from unskilled and using active listening is key to ensuring the conversation goes well. We demonstrate active listening by acknowledging statements. Acknowledging is not the same as supporting, by acknowledging we show we are listening but do not necessarily show agreement. Using phrases such as ‘I understand’, or paraphrasing statements show that we are aware of their opinion and their thoughts without necessarily agreeing with them. Taking care to allow people to fully express themselves, especially if they are agitated or excited, is key to defusing the situation.

If we must disagree with them, we should take care to make a positive statement before and after the disagreement. This means saying things like ‘I fully understand what you’re saying, and will do my best to help. However, I will need some time to investigate the situation. Let me come back to you in X time’.

Remember counter offers can be counterproductive

Communicating online can bring a sense of urgency to get the conversation over with quickly, especially if people are not used to virtual communication methods. This unnecessary pressure can cause people to make hasty, often ill-considered counter offers or proposals in a bid to reach an agreement about the difficult conversation they’re having or to tick the task off our list. Whether this is agreeing to workloads for the week, or discussing a pay rise – rushing conversations and making hasty proposals can be counterproductive and may show you’re not really listening and intent on pushing your own agenda. Good communication is about listening and understanding the needs of others, whilst maintaining a strong stance.

Avoid irritating verbal behaviours

Having a difficult conversation in the workplace is hard enough without the added complication and tensions that communicating virtually may present! Try to avoid adding to this by keeping the conversation free from irritating verbal behaviours. This means avoiding self-praising declarations by using words such as ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ when talking to people. This can cause tension as they can undermine the person you’re speaking to and may cause lasting damage to your relationship.

Other verbal behaviours such as telling someone you’re ‘being honest with them’ or ‘that you’re trying to be frank’, can indicate that you may not have been completely honest in the past, or that you may be suggesting your counterpart is being intentionally dishonest. Steer clear of this use of language. It can lead to tension and a breakdown in communication further down the line.

Remember to show emotion

Perhaps surprisingly, skilled communicators show their emotions and indicate how they are feeling towards a situation more than the average communicator. This skill is particularly important what dealing with a difficult online conversation. For example, phrases including ‘I am pleased we are making progress’ or ‘I’m worried that this won’t work out’, can be used as a substitute for an outright agreement or disagreement as it’s difficult to argue with someone else’s emotions. This verbal behaviour also reveals something personal, which is likely to encourage trust within a conversation. If someone expresses that they’re concerned a deadline won’t be achieved – it’s then difficult to retort with ‘no you’re not.’ When used in the right context, showing emotion is a highly effective way of deescalating confrontation.

Ensure you avoid defend/attack spirals

Defend/attack verbal behaviour is when the focus shifts from the problem to the person and the conversation becomes personal. Skilled communicators avoid this behaviour during a difficult conversation, as it can generate frustration and end very negatively. Usually, involvement in a defend/attack spiral is a heat of the moment reaction and it can be tricky to avoid. Difficult conversations tend to be high pressure, so to avoid this behaviour communicators should aim to understand and resolve, rather than react. This allows the conversation to become open and a solution to be achieved harmoniously.

If you want to learn more about how Huthwaite International can help your team develop a highly effective virtual communications strategy visit:

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Brand guidelines: the antidote to your business’ identity crisis



Brand guidelines: the antidote to your business’ identity crisis 3

By Andrew Johnson, Creative Director and Co-Founder.

How well do you really know your business?

Do you know which derivative of your logo to use on a pink background? Have you got a preferred font for PowerPoint presentations? Would you be able to look at a range of social posts and pick out the ones from your brand?

If your answer to any of the above is no, it’s probably time to think about your brand guidelines. Whether you’ve already got a set but feel they need a refresh or you’re starting from scratch, it’s crucial to have a firm grasp on your marketing do’s and don’ts.

Consistency makes you memorable

Before we get into the details of what to include, why do you even need brand guidelines? The simple answer is consistency.

Consistency is arguably the most important element of marketing. It makes your brand recognisable and helps you become known for a certain look and feel. Having a consistent brand also builds familiarity with your audience. People want to know what to expect from you. If you’re persistently using the same logos, imagery and tone of voice (TOV), people will start to take note and, over time, become fond of your brand. This is how brands become household names.

What’s more, just because you think you know your business inside out doesn’t mean everyone who joins your team does. For anyone creating marketing materials for your business, brand guidelines are an invaluable tool to ensure everything is in line with your desired look and feel.

Building your brand

Having a set of concrete brand rules will help your company look its best at all times. So, what type of things should you include in your brand guidelines?

  1. Define your vibe with TOV

Tone of voice is your brand’s personality coming through in words. Do you want to appear funny or serious? Casual or formal? Cheeky or respectful? Enthusiastic or matter of fact? Your TOV will be a blend of these different elements and work on a scale.

In your brand guidelines, you should clearly state “we write like this” and “we don’t write like this”. Are there any words you don’t like? Can you use casual contractions (“you’re”, “it’s”, “can’t”) or would you prefer to take the more formal route and avoid them? Are you comfortable shortening your brand name from, say, “Hyped Marketing” to “Hyped” or should the full name be used at all times?

These are all important things to consider if you want to make sure anyone writing marketing materials for you is on the same page.

  1. Pick (and stick to) your colour palette
Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Colours have a remarkable way of evoking certain feelings. For example, blue is often associated with trust, which is why you’ll see banks and hospitals use it a lot. Once you’ve chosen your colour palette, it’s important to stick to it to create a cohesive feel across all materials.

Your brand guidelines should contain CMYK, RGB, Pantone and Hex colour references for each colour in your palette. These references make it easy for anyone producing or printing materials for you to ensure they have an exact colour match — rather than just taking a wild guess!

  1. Learn your logos

Your logo should reflect what your company does day-to-day and marry together your colour palette and TOV into one little emblem.

Most businesses have derivatives of their primary logo, which should be used wherever possible. Your choice of logo will depend on where it appears. For example, you might use a white version of your logo on a solid colour background or a black version when colour printing isn’t available. Icon logos (with no accompanying text) also tend to be more suitable for social media profiles.

It’s also important that your guidelines include the correct proportions, opacity, colour usage and exclusion zone so that your logo always appears as intended. No one likes a squashed, off-colour logo!

  1. Tune into typeface

Selecting one or two fonts to be used across all materials is vital for maintaining consistency and expressing your brand personality. Do you prefer serif or sans serif? Sans serif is becoming increasingly popular (particularly for online materials as it’s easier to read on a screen) but serif still has a more formal effect.

In your guidelines, define where these fonts should be used. For example, you might use one  for internal communications and another for external or different ones for online or offline materials. It’s also worth choosing one font for headings and another for body copy or sub-headings. Make sure you note which colours from your palette should be used as well.

  1. Include the right imagery

Elegant copy, snazzy colours and a slick logo are all essential for your brand’s identity. But what about images? It’s key to include a section in your guidelines about the kind of imagery that should be used across your marketing materials.

Do you prefer photographic or illustrative imagery? Should your images feature people? Will you take the photos yourself or are you sourcing them elsewhere? If so, where are you sourcing them from? Get it all written down to ensure all imagery used is in line with the look and feel you want to create.

It’s never too late…

You may be reading this and thinking it’s too late for you to draw up brand guidelines for your company — but it never is.

While it may feel daunting to overhaul the way you produce your marketing materials, progressing with more consistency only cements what works for your brand and helps dispose of anything that doesn’t.

Are you looking to refine your brand and ensure it’s instantly recognisable? Get in touch with us today to learn more about our branding services and how we can help create brand guidelines and a TOV document for your business.  

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