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Tuesday, 23rd April 2024
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John Brennan, managing director of Fitzgerald Brennan Asset Management (FBAM) tries to drum up business while monitoring the markets
6:15 Alarm sounds. I stagger to the bathroom and perform the tedious and often fraught daily ritual of the wet shave. I look forward to the day when a company invents an automatic stubble removing gel - that is one stock I will definitely invest in. After years of early starts I have a well-organised morning routine. I make coffee for my wife Rachel at 6:30, she works with Ulster Bank Financial Markets and also has an early start. After a strong mug of coffee and some cereal I’m on the road at 6:50.

7:20 I’m always in first, someone once said it was my ‘competitive streak’, but for me it’s a quiet time to review the latest news and get some research done. I immediately tune into CNBC, which provides comprehensive coverage of breaking market news. They also have a guest fund manager on each morning, who usually gives an interesting alternative perspective on the market. Simultaneously I power up my Reuters screen and review the previous night’s activity in US and Asian markets. I then review client equity and capital market positions. I take note of how US equity futures are trading, an excellent guide to the opening direction of European markets.

8:00 I use this time to make a checklist of tasks to be performed during the day. I have a hands-on approach to running the firm. Although, I am good at delegating, I believe it extremely important to be conversant with all aspects of operations. Therefore, apart from my funds management duties, I have a host of other administrative tasks to oversee.

8:15 I drop down to the local caf? for two lattes with extra shots. This really gets the heart pumping and the brain cells motoring.

8:30 I get my first call of the day from one of the top institutional equity brokers, although wary of the markets on a fundamental basis, he thinks there is value in certain key Irish stocks, which I happen to hold for clients. The next hour is given over to calls from Irish, UK and US broking houses (based in London) giving the usual swift but comprehensive run down on markets and stock recommendations. As a firm we conduct our own in-house research and sectoral analysis, however, if a broker points me in the direction of a good stock with strong fundamentals and in keeping with our investment strategy, they may be rewarded with the order.
9:30 The firm’s head of administration/settlements arrives in. We have a brief chat about upcoming settlement and client account activity. As it is month end Paul is responsible for producing client valuations. As a small investment firm we provide tailored monthly reports for all our clients as part of the personalised service that we offer.

9:40 I have a monthly meeting with the FBAM compliance consultant, reviewing all regulatory and compliance issues concerning the firm. Generally I handle most of the day-to-day correspondence with the Central Bank, but I need to be kept up to speed on the latest regulatory developments. Like all other financial institutions, the firm operates strict segregation between front and back office operations in addition to observing to the letter the stringent regulations set down by the Central Bank for management of client funds.

10:30 The US and Asia market investment manager and I have our morning meeting, which today revolves around our current asset/stock strategy and preparations for a bi-annual trustee meeting. With over 25 years experience in investments he has a fantastic gut feel for international markets.

11:20 I review the European banking sector in preparation for a lunchtime presentation by a team from a leading London investment bank. Lunches are organised most days either to meet analysts or clients and so the waistline suffers.

2:20 Back from the presentation, today’s meeting I felt was very beneficial. A good analyst with strong technical focus and a well-researched view can be extremely useful either to provide extra weight or to challenge one’s own strategic perspective. She firmly believes that the market will turn in the first half - my views tend more towards a rally in the second half with volatility still a key factor.

3:30 I take a call from the head of institutional equities at an Irish brokerage. He recommends a switch idea, which I act on. I finish another coffee as I review a number of key stocks recommended by another broker. I’m not happy with a couple of sectors they recommended - particularly with the threat of war still very much on the horizon. I dump these ideas with the empty coffee cup.

3:45 Finally, I get some free time to start my quarterly client strategy report. Actually this proves a false start as I receive two calls from London brokers - one of whom I worked with in the city when I was with what was then UBS, now UBS Warburg. He talks of the present post-Christmas gloom in London, where two of his friends have lost their jobs in the face of the most sustained bear market since the 1930s.

4:35 The London markets have just closed positively, making a pleasant change. I get a call from a UK based accountant, a contact from my days in the city, who has referred a number of new clients to me in the past year. Generally, my average day is so busy I have very little time for client development. This is one area of operations I intend to improve this year.
Most of my marketing is done through contacts and word of mouth, however, and I recently won a sizable account to manage the funds for a client who was extremely unhappy with the performance and impersonal service of her UK broker. I figure there must be many other people who could similarly use the bespoke services of FBAM.

5:00 Making solid progress on the client report. I take time out to call two of the firm’s non-executive directors, filling them in on current developments. Both have given tremendous supportive and wise council over the past five years, especially Leonard Abrahamson a former president of the Irish Stock Exchange.

5:30 Review the European and US markets for any news or movements pertinent to client portfolios. Pretty quiet all round, no leading economic indicators from the US to get too excited about.

6:00pm Switch off the computers lock up the office and head for the hills. Drop in on my Grandfather who at the ripe old age of 96 is in rude good health. His life has spanned practically the whole twentieth century. He has many amazing stories from the First and Second World Wars - a heritage which undoubtedly gives all of us courage in current uncertain times.

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