The interview: Mark Bousfield

Written by: Nick Kirby Posted: 20/09/2018

BL58_MarkBousfieldRavenscroft Group Managing Director Mark Bousfield has a keen eye on where clients want to invest globally, as well as where in the Channel Islands they are looking for opportunities. He spoke to Businesslife about the local and global landscape

How did you get to where you are now?

I was born and bred in Guernsey and went to school at Elizabeth College. Then I went to university in Leeds, where I took politics and geography. After that, I had a couple of years of not really knowing what I wanted to do, before realising that I needed to start earning. So I returned to Guernsey and got a job at Credit Suisse as a dealer in the securities department. From that point, I was hooked on investing and markets and have been looking after clients ever since. 

After Credit Suisse, I worked in a variety of places running money, in portfolio and discretionary management, before joining Ravenscroft in 2008 to set up the investment management business. I’ve been here 10 years now, building that side of the business and managing clients’ money. 

In the past year or so, however, my role has changed and now I help oversee the broader business, though I’m still part of the investment management team and continue to enjoy managing money and dealing with clients.

Ravenscroft seems to have evolved quite significantly in the time you’ve been there. So what does the firm currently do?

In the broadest of terms, we’re a client-focused asset management business. We service a really wide range of clients, so we look after people with £5,000 to invest or those who have monthly savings schemes or pensions, all the way up to looking after clients with many millions. We look after intermediaries as well. So, it’s a fairly wide gamut in terms of size and wealth. 

We’ve evolved into a financial services business as opposed to a pure stockbroker, which is what we were when we set up in 2005. We now offer a variety of services – from execution-only and an advisory investment service, all the way to investment management and a discretionary service. And we have our own range of ‘Huntress’ funds.

We also offer cash management and most recently we bought BullionRock, which is a precious metals service, where we can buy, sell and store precious metals. 

Alongside that – and what we’re known for across the Channel Islands – are our specialist funds, which are predominantly Channel Islands-focused. These are Bailiwick Investments, the Channel Islands Property Fund, the Financial Services Opportunities Fund and, most recently, the Guernsey Investment Fund. These give local residents – and potentially non-locals – the opportunity to invest in the islands. 

But in a nutshell, we’re a financial services or asset management team, offering a wide range of services to clients of all shapes and sizes.

You’re unique in offering these Channel Island funds. Can you give us an example of what they do? And is the fact that you’ve created them an indication of your faith in the islands?

Let’s take the Channel Islands Property Fund. It invests in 12 high-end properties predominantly in the islands – there’s Carey House and Regency Court in Guernsey; Liberty Wharf and 11-15 and 17-21 Seaton Place in Jersey; and our more recent acquisitions of Fort Anne and First Names House in the Isle of Man. 

There’s always been a demand from Channel Island clients and our broader client base to invest in the islands. And these investments are tangible – clients either know the businesses, the management of it, or they can see the asset on the street. They feel comfortable with it and they can invest locally to meet their own investment outcomes.

Do these funds reflect our optimism about the islands? Well, I think it’s indicative of a number of things really. We’re a client-led business, based in the Channel Islands, and many of our clients live here, and care about and want to invest in the islands. So, while we’re meeting some of our client demand, we do have a great amount of faith in the islands. 

A lot of us were born and bred here and are bringing up our families here, and we think it’s a great place to do business and is undervalued in many respects. We think there are great businesses and people here and, as a result of that, there are great opportunities.

Is there anything in the Ravenscroft pipeline? Cryptocurrencies or blockchain, for instance?

We’ve restructured the business and also added a holding company at the top, which allows us to run the separate strings of our business and also gives us the opportunity to look at different things. So yes, we’re looking at other services and opportunities, both in the Channel Islands and further afield, and will make announcements as and when we can. 

Whatever we decide to invest in, we must understand the fundamentals on behalf of our clients. We have to be absolutely clear what it is we’ve invested into and why we’ve invested into it, or the value a service will bring.

Take gold, and our acquisition of BullionRock last year. Robin Newbould, who created the business, has been involved in gold for many years. It’s a precious metal – we can buy it, sell it and store it. We know exactly what it is. We understand it.

But when it comes to cryptocurrencies and blockchain – how they operate, what services we would offer our clients, how it would benefit them – it’s different. I can say for certain that I’m not a cryptocurrency expert and I don’t think our clients are either – so it’s not a space we’ll be looking at offering a service in at the moment.

Basically, it’s about doing more of what we do, sticking to our knitting, and looking for other opportunities.

Looking more broadly – you have a presence in both islands. What’s your view on how financial services in Jersey and Guernsey are doing?

I think the islands are performing well. Financial services, like most industries, have a cyclical quality, so will ebb and flow. Over the years, we’ve become much better at the services we offer – more professional and more competitive. So I think the offerings we’re providing from the islands are in good health.

Yes, there are always obstacles – we’re always going to have to work hard and fight for business – but I think we’re doing a good job. I do think there’s plenty of action in the Channel Islands and we remain optimistic for the future. That said, we do have to stay on our toes and remain competitive.

The great unknown, of course, is Brexit. Is that affecting the investment decisions your clients are making or, indeed, the decisions Ravenscroft is making?

Well, I think that ‘great unknown’ sums it up. Let’s talk about it from how we go about investing on behalf of our clients. On the discretionary side, one of our investment mantras is that we can’t forecast short-term political or economic outcomes – or at least not with any reliability or repeatability. 

There’s a great deal of work that’s been done on this over many years – mankind just fancies itself at being able to do it, but actually is very poor at forecasting outcomes. And you can really see this with Brexit at the moment. No one can tell you what the outcome will be.

So, first and foremost, our standpoint when we’re investing on behalf of our clients is not to build portfolios that are too reliant on a certain political outcome. 

Obviously, we do take into account the world we live in, that there could be upset from Brexit and the subsequent fallout, but we wouldn’t try to forecast that outcome. Far better to invest in companies we really understand, at good valuations, that meet our clients’ objectives. 

In terms of what we’re doing as a business, we’re predominantly a Channel Islands business but our agenda for the coming years is to do more of what we do in other jurisdictions. So we own 75 per cent of a business in Peterborough, and we have a small office in London, which is really focused on raising the profile of our Huntress Fund offering in the UK.

We’d like to do more business in the UK and we’re looking at other jurisdictions outside of the Channel Islands and the UK. 

It’s not a direct reaction to Brexit, but for us it makes sense to have a variety of outlets and revenue streams. The main aim for Ravenscroft is to build a strong hub in the Channel Islands – this is our home, our core – and to push out from here.

With regard to your clients, are you seeing more of an appetite for stock market investment than there was a couple of years ago? And where do you see the opportunities?

Broadly speaking, it’s been a good 10 years to be investing. And yes, I think investors over the past couple of years have been more keen to invest. That’s a fear-and-greed trait. Nobody wants to invest at market lows at the greatest moment of fear, but they become increasingly confident after markets have been strong for a while – the greed side. 

It’s the opposite of buying low and selling high. In general, bonds and equities are trading at elevated valuations and therefore we’re proceeding with caution.

In amongst all that, there are always opportunities. Take a look at Latin America, which has been under a great deal of stress recently – Argentina, Brazil for the past couple of years, Mexico. There’s been a great deal of pressure there and those markets have taken a battering of late.

So now you can buy great businesses at some of the cheapest valuations for many years – and the currencies are much weaker. There’s an opportunity – but that comes with risk and we’d only be investing a small percentage of clients’ portfolios.

Coming back to Brexit, there’s definitely an opportunity growing in the UK. A lot of domestic-facing businesses – ones that are reliant on the UK economy rather than the global economy – have been out of favour for the past couple of years because investors really don’t know what the outcome of Brexit will be. So they prefer to stay away from those type of equities until there’s clarity. 

Our advisory desk, which is much more UK-focused, has been looking at a number of opportunities in the UK where you can also buy great businesses at cheap valuations. While Brexit will probably keep a lid on some of those stocks for the time being, there will be, and there is now, a growing opportunity to buy good-quality UK domestic stocks.

Closer to home, do you think that there are barriers to doing business in the Channel Islands?

I’m 47 now and, apart from the years at university and a bit of travelling, I’ve pretty much spent my entire life in Guernsey. And I can’t remember a period of time when there wasn’t some sort of a barrier. Going back to when my father was trying to build a business in the 70s and 80s, I remember him ranting about the barriers of doing business in the Channel Islands. 

In truth, there have always been, and there continue to be, obstacles – and that hasn’t really changed since I was a kid growing up here. But I have a glass half full view on life, so I don’t worry about the things that I can’t change.

What’s changed markedly is technology. Historically, you had to travel to do business with your clients, but in 2018, you can pretty much do business from wherever you want to do it. And I think that changes how we can behave as a financial jurisdiction. 

Of course, we need to get off the island to meet our clients and it would be of benefit if they could get here easily and at a good price – but we have to get on and build businesses and build Guernsey despite the hurdles. As we always have done. And today I’d say it’s easier to do than it’s ever been. 

Fundamentally, we have a great opportunity to do business. We just need to be optimistic and work hard and clamber over those hurdles and get on with life.

On that last point, do you believe that some islanders generally have a negative attitude?

I don’t necessarily think it’s from islanders, I think it’s a human trait – often it’s far easier to find a reason not to do something than to crack on and have a go at it.

I don’t think that helps anyone – waking up in the morning, putting up obstacles and conjuring up reasons why you can’t do something isn’t going to improve anyone’s day. I do think there are challenges to island life, but I think it’s a fantastic place to live and raise kids and it’s an attractive place to do business in and relocate to.

What I would be critical of is that sometimes you do find islanders forgetting just how lucky we are, in many respects, to have started life here and to have the opportunity to build businesses from here.

And finally, what’s coming up for Ravenscroft in the next 12 months in the Channel Islands?

One of the biggest things for us is that we’re going to be moving offices in Guernsey – hopefully in about February next year. That means we’ll have everyone back in one office – we’re currently scattered across three offices. 

Our headquarters will continue to be in Guernsey. We’ll have everything here, from corporate finance and front-office people, along with all of our operations from compliance to settlements and IT, across three floors. That’s a big move for us.

As a group, we’re looking at improving a lot of our communications and IT and we have a big enhancement that we’re investing strongly into. We’re also looking to take on more people. We’d really like to build out our Jersey team and offer our services in a bigger way to clientele in Jersey. So, on the whole, things are looking very exciting.

FACT FILE

• Name: Mark Bousfield
• Age: 47
• Position: Group Managing Director, Ravenscroft
• Married to: Juliet
• Children: Boris (10) and Rufus (8)
• Hobbies: Football – I coach at Rangers. Surfing – badly while being shown up by my two boys. Rowing and boating – we’re so lucky to be surrounded by the sea and I’ll always find time to be out on it.
• Interesting fact: I once ran the London Marathon dressed as a rhinoceros!

 


Add a Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *
  • Submit

Want to know when we publish new content?

All you need to do is sign up for our newsletter.You'll receive a daily summary email of new items which have been published.

Please be advised that the volume of Business News articles which we publish is fairly high and you should expect to receive an email most days.

You can update your preferences at any time by registering for a blglobal.co.uk account and visiting the 'Your Profile' page.



Subscribe

It's easy to stay current with blglobal.co.uk.

Just sign up for our email updates!

Yes please! No thanks!