So how exactly did a former pilot in the RAAF find himself managing the multi-billion dollar Oppenheimer Family endowment?
2012 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Matthew Brown, is a partner on the investment team which helps manage the investment portfolio of the Oppenheimer Family (former owners of De Beers and Anglo American and family of South African business man and philanthropist, Nicholas Oppenheimer).
“While I was at Harvard Business School (Matthew completed an MBA with his scholarship), the Oppenheimer Family sold their family business and transitioned to a multi-asset class investment firm, very similar to most US university endowments.
“I was referred to my current CEO by the CEO of the investment firm I was at before school and things went from there,” Matthew said.
Matthew joined the team at its inception which meant heavy involvement in developing the investment philosophy, strategy, process, operations and the investments themselves. “In doing so, we have really re-invented how asset allocators such as university endowments should manage long-term capital.
“We primarily invest in funds across all asset classes with three primary functions – asset allocation, manager selection and risk management. We also do limited direct investments.
“It has been a great place to learn and refine my ability to manage a permanent capital portfolio,” Matthew said.
Matthew says his Harvard experience gave him a unique set of skills he could apply immediately in his career.
“The MBA was the first time my studies felt practical, relevant and tangible. Harvard Business School (HBS) is a unique school in that every single class is a real life case study whether learning about accounting or corporate strategy.
“The professors and my peers never ceased to impress. As an investor, studying over 600 companies in the classroom environment helped me appreciate what makes companies succeed and fail, a critical skill in the allocation of capital,” Matthew said.
While he is currently concentrating on building a great investment track record with a very successful endowment portfolio, Matthew maintains an interest in the management of Australia’s superannuation capital, which was one of his stated ambitions when he was awarded his scholarship.
“The Australian superannuation industry is the fourth largest pension base in the world at $2.1 Trillion with strong growth into the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the allocators of the capital do a fairly poor job for the fees they charge, with strong structural incentives to minimise career risk and produce middle of the road performance. There is serious need for skilled, globally-experienced, professional asset allocators as well as lower cost technology alternatives for those who don’t believe in active management,” Matthew said.
Based in London, Matthew says he has a love-hate relationship with the city.
“London is a culturally-vibrant, amazing city but there is no escape. I’m an outdoors kind of person more at home in the surf or mountains so Sydney is massively appealing. I can definitely see Sydney on both the personal and career agenda at some point in the future.”
Outside of work, Matthew volunteers his time and expertise as an investment committee member for the Rhodes Trust, which funds Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University. “I see it as a great way to give back to the organisation that funded my Oxford education. I am privileged in this role in that I get to learn from a number of great investors that have had great success in their careers.”
Aside from that he’s into reading, catching up with friends, playing tennis and working out. “I am obsessive with travel and spend many weekends around Europe. I regularly discuss business ideas with my HBS classmates and have been helping several on the side to launch their own businesses.”