Eye on the ball

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Working for the same company for most of your career has its high and low points. But if the best fund manager in Germany, one that has been victorious in Standard & Poor’s Fund Awards for the ninth year running, employs you, then you can have no complaints.

And Heinz-Wilhelm Fesser has none. After a distinguished footballing career as a striker at German second division team Göttingen, Fesser kicked off his banking career 18 years ago. After two years he joined DWS as a fixed-income manager for the Asia-Pacific region.

Now after three years in his position of head of fixed income for Germany, Deutsche Bank decided in March to pool the resources of DWS’s retail operations with Deutsche Asset Management’s institutional business into one division within the bank. Combined, fixed-income assets under management in the group’s German office is a mammoth €80 billion, making the fund entity the market leader in Germany.

Each entity may have different clients, but at the end of the day, the funds still have to be managed according to clients’ requests. “My objective is still what it was before the merger: to create performance for customers of the fund. To do this, you have to be close to the market, and to co-ordinate your views within the team,” says Fesser.

“ It is difficult to keep being at all times on the competitive edge in developing new products. This is certainly not easy to achieve and is a challenge, and one that I enjoy. Here at DWS/DeAM we strive to be innovative, quick in perceiving what clients need and bringing new products onto the marketplace,” he adds.

One issue Fesser believes is very important, strongly contributing to the long-term performance record of the fund, is the stability of the investment team. The turnover in the team has been very low, he says, and to prove the fact, it is not just Fesser who seems to be a veteran on the DWS team. A number of the fund managers can boast on average seven to 10 years’ experience, not just in banking, but also in the whole investment process within the company.

Despite Fesser’s long-term experience in banking, the market is still throwing up new challenges that he and his team must overcome. “It is very clear that it has been harder to be an investor this year,” he says, “because the perception of the market has been influenced by issues that are difficult to analyse, such as the Iraq war and corporate blowups. Volatility involved with these issues has made it more difficult to be right in the market and to get a clear perception of where the market is going.”

Nevertheless, the fund has weathered the choppy waters of the market and has notably been awarded best fund company in the German market by Standard & Poor’s. Again Fesser heaps praise onto his colleagues in the team.

“ We have a high standard of experts here who have lived through the boom and bust years and they have been able to get the right reading and understanding of the market. Quality really comes through in difficult times and this was shown in the team’s timing on calls and accuracy of credit research.”

According to Fesser the team has worked hard to gain an insight into the market, trying to judge the drivers of the market and how they influence debt securities and currency prices. “Debt reduction is one strategic goal that is not finished yet,” says Fesser. “The opportunity to access capital is getting easier now and companies do not have much need to finance huge investments. There is still potential for spread narrowing.”

In Brief

Age 46.

Married Yes.

Children Two boys – eight and 12.

Car Mercedes.

Enjoys Time with his family and children.

Hobbies Sport: soccer, tennis, volleyball. Striker for Göttingen from 1980–86, second division team in the Bundesliga.

Nickname HW (phonetic pronounciation is Haa-Vey).

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