JAMES ST. AUBIN
HEAD OF INVESTMENT STRATEGY
HIGHMARK CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
What’s top of your to-do list right now?
We recently onboarded additional private alternative funds to our existing menu of options, so creating client portfolios with the new fund options and educating our clients on the role alternatives play within our asset allocation framework are both top priorities at the moment. In addition to private funds, we are also spending our time researching factor-based investment strategies, or ‘smart beta,’ in an effort to sort out the ever-expanding universe of options available in that space.
What is keeping you awake at night (work wise)?
Part of my role includes leading the team that determines our tactical asset allocation positioning. Thinking about how a given view might perform under various scenarios is what often keeps me up at night.
Where have you seen the most inflows this year?
We added the Vanguard Growth & Income fund to our approved list in August 2016. Over the past year, the fund has seen the most flows. As a quantitatively driven domestic large-cap core fund, the low expense ratio and multi-subadvisor structure serves as a strong complement to other active and passive options available to our portfolio managers.
Best meeting you’ve ever had?
No single meeting stands out, but I always appreciate portfolio managers who exhibit a healthy dose of humility when discussing their process and performance. Understanding what managers have learned from their mistakes also helps me build confidence in their investment process.
Worst meeting you’ve ever had?
Typically, any meeting where a manager’s representative cannot go deep into the weeds on the product they’ve come to talk to me about turns out to be mildly painful. One manager was having such a hard time explaining the merits of his product relative to his competition that I felt sorry for him. I then coached him on what to say to folks in my role.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I’d like to teach financial literacy. Some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers. In my opinion, the subject tends not to get enough attention in our education system.
What are your interests outside of work?
I have three children under the age of six, so spending time with them is occupying most of my non-working hours. I try to squeeze in a workout whenever I can.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’ve never been to Africa. Going on safari and visiting several countries on the continent are at the top of my bucket list.
If we gave you $1,000, how would you invest it?
I have a long time horizon and a high tolerance for risk, so European equities offer the best risk/reward opportunity from my perspective.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I have three daughters, so I am getting reasonably good at braiding hair.