All the Fun of Macquarie, Minus Sleepless Nights

From my desk in our Pitt St office, I look straight into the Macquarie Bank in which I used to work. We are close enough to see former colleagues walking around the floor.

While the culture at Intelligent Investor is worlds away from an investment bank, there is something in the air at the moment that reminds me of the Macquarie I joined in 2000.

We worked exceptionally hard. In the last three days leading up to a bid for Sydney Airport, I slept approximately four hours cumulative. We worked straight through the Monday night, lodged the bid on a Tuesday and somehow ended up at Kings Cross’s notoriously dodgy Bourbon & Beefsteak until three o’clock in the morning.

While the media drools over up the huge bonuses and over-paid investment bankers, it’s not money that gives you the adrenalin to work like that. It’s a sense of achievement. Jim, my boss at the time, was 31 and from Dubbo in central west NSW. I was a 23-year-old public school boy from Wellington, just 30 minutes drive away from Jim’s home town. Us two country kids had just successfully lodged the largest bid in the bank’s history (subsequently dwarfed many times through the investment banking boom years up until 2007). The sense of achievement we shared that night is something I’ll never forget.

Fear not. We aren’t making investing decisions with your money after sleepless nights. Nor are we at the Bourbon until 3am*. Investing successfully requires plenty of sleep and clear, rational thought.

But we are making progress, with your money and our business.

In the past six months we’ve done a national roadshow, taken over permanent management of the old Mosaic Special Situations Fund (now the Intelligent Investor Wholesale Fund) and launched a new international equities fund. Our younger team members are developing into outstanding analysts and we’ve added a couple of well-credentialed senior people to the team.

The Value Fund has had a stellar two years of performance and, more importantly, most of the underlying investments have been working out as planned. Magellan’s Chris Mackay and Hamish Douglas wouldn’t notice us in their dust, but with $70m under management we have a real business that enables us to invest in the right people and systems.

We are, of course, only one stupid mistake away from undoing all of that good work. We don’t pay financial planners commissions. We aren’t affiliated with a bank or any dealer group through which to sell our product. All we have is the trust our clients have in us and we will live or die by our custody of that trust.

That thought is never far from front of mind. But for now the sense of achievement is making life a whole lot of fun. Long may it last.

*The Bourbon was destroyed by a storm in 2009 and has just re-opened as a fancy New Orleans pub. My wife and I had a very nice meal there last week, but hopefully the sticky floors and pool tables will return in time.

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