REP.: Discuss your firm’s investment strategy.
Jim Baird: Our foundations are in strategic asset allocation. It’s where we’ve always started, and I can’t foresee us ever moving away from that, frankly. But we also recognize that every client situation is unique. By the time we get involved with a client, they’ve already established themselves. You have to take what’s there and you have to adapt to it.
REP.: You came over from the advisory side. Has that impacted your approach as chief investment officer?
JB: I think it was hugely beneficial in terms of being able to think of things not only from a theoretical or technical standpoint, but also from a practical standpoint. With every client, every investor we work with, they each have their own goals, their own needs, their own preferences, their own tolerance for risk. But it can be really easy, when you get caught up in the technical elements of portfolio construction and investment strategy, to forget that this impacts the individual at a very emotional level.
REP.: Is it more difficult for firms to differentiate themselves on investment management today?
JB: This is the direction that the industry has moved towards: Greater independence and true “value add” that extends well beyond just investment, which resonates well with clients. The relationships where we’re able to add the most value and entrench ourselves as the clients’ trusted advisor are those where we are assisting and adding value well beyond their investment portfolio. Certainly for most clients, the investment portfolio is a big piece of it, but the relationship extends beyond that.
REP.: Plante Moran made news recently by reportedly pulling a majority of its $1.1 billion stake in PIMCO Total Return Fund.
JB: We do continue to have a substantial, ongoing relationship with PIMCO as a firm. Our intent would not be to pull all of our assets that we have there. Even as it relates to PIMCO Total Return Fund, there are some circumstances in which we have clients that would continue to hold positions there. Certainly Bill’s abrupt departure from the fund was significant, and definitely played a substantial role in our decision to head in a different direction. We do believe as an organization, PIMCO is bigger than Bill Gross. We will continue to monitor the fund, and if at some point in time in the future, returning to PIMCO Total Return is in the best interests of our clients, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.