Home' Superfunds : Superfunds June 2017 Contents Rachel Farrell started her career selling china – on the shop floor
at Bloomingdales New York department store. Three years into
a store buyer traineeship, however, the international relations
graduate decided to fast-track her career by doing an MBA at
Columbia Business School where she discovered a passion for capital
markets and marketing financial products. She also had an epiphany:
“I realised I would much rather travel the world selling investment
products than teacups,” says Farrell.
Casting off Bloomingdale’s limitations, Farrell earned Beta Gamma Sigma
Honour Society membership for excellence at business school and was
recruited by Bankers Trust, now part of Deutsche Bank, eventually becoming
head of its global discretionary portfolio management team in Switzerland.
A move to Singapore’s Citigroup saw Farrell become the bank’s first asset
manager to sell alternative investments to Asian sovereign wealth funds – a
coup that “delivered exceptional returns to some of the largest and most
sophisticated investment organisations in the world”.
Rachel credits much of her global success to the encouragement of her
husband Edward, who persuaded her do an MBA with him at Columbia,
then instigated their move to Switzerland in 1994. The couple met as
students at Rhode Island’s ivy-league Brown University, where Edward
studied engineering, and had their two children while working in Geneva for
10 years. A move to Asia in 2004 allowed them to successfully “co-manage”
global careers from Asia for 12 years: “I followed Edward to Switzerland,
where Bankers Trust agreed to move me to the asset management unit of
its Swiss Private Bank, then I was moved to Singapore and he went to UBS
Private Bank. When I transferred to Hong Kong, UBS moved him.”
Switzerland marked a turning point in the couple’s global perspective.
“The US has such a strong domestic bias; the Swiss investment community
is agnostic by comparison,” Farrell explains. “The Swiss are very open-minded
and their entirely global view is the basis of the Swiss banking industry.
Everyone in Switzerland was talking about currencies, whereas in the US,
there was only the dollar... I became very aware of global versus local, and
that there is rarely one answer. There are rational reasons to have a domestic
bias in a portfolio but it is important to constantly monitor and investigate
that trade-off between not taking a currency risk, versus limiting your
“The beauty of J.P. Morgan Asset Management is that it has such deep
resources to inform investment decisions, including an expert currency team.
The first thing I did when I came to Australia was to discuss the impact of
investing globally from an Australia base currency perspective with our multi-
asset solutions team. In this lower-return world, investors need to look for
the broadest set of opportunities, which will force everyone to look outside
the domestic market. The size of Australian superannuation assets is just too
large to invest only in the domestic market.”
Farrell is “excited” to take up residence as Australia’s first country head, a
role she took up in March, after managing J.P . Morgan Asset Management’s
Asia Pacific ex Japan institutional business from Hong Kong. She says she
has made the move because “Australia has the third largest pension fund
assets in the world and is the last significant market where J.P. Morgan Asset
Management does not have a significant footprint”.
The interview follows an early morning flight from Melbourne and a
Market Insights breakfast briefing in Sydney, as her husband arrives in
Melbourne from Hong Kong. The Farrells seem to occupy a parallel universe
to the Flash Boys, Margin Call, Wolf of Wall Street cynics featured on our
movie screens. Rachel is a charming, skilled communicator, quietly confident
and considered in her guidance.
“The Australian market is receptive to new ideas – that is its characteristic,
and Australians are possibly more open to sharing their thoughts than
Americans, which is so refreshing after 12 years in Asia where people tend to
keep things close to their chest,” says Farrell.
Bloomingdales may have taught Farrell the “nuts and bolts of business and
customer service”, but it is global perspective that largely informs her work.
Superfunds June 2017
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