24 JAN, 2024
By Johanna Zidani from RankiaPro Europe
Johanna Valta is Vice President and Fund Selector at Laicorn Asset Management, a Luxembourg based Investment Fund and Family Office investing globally in all asset classes. Her role includes Fund Selection (Equities, Fixed Income, Hedge Funds, Private Equity) as well as strategic ESG and Impact planning and advisory in her additional role as Head of Sustainability. Prior to joining the world of Family Offices, she worked in various roles for Nordea Asset Management for nearly 10 years as well as for other Banks and Asset Managers in the Nordics. Johanna is passionate about everything related to ESG and Impact and is also a founding Member of Finland’s Sustainability Investement Forum FINSIF. Recently she was featured in the Citywire’s 40 under 40 Fund Selector list. She holds a Master’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration and is also a certified CEFA Financial Analyst.
I started my career in Finance back in 2006. I was still doing my master’s degree at the university and got my first banking job at the stock settlement department of Opstock Ltd in Finland. I never taught I would stay in the investment world for a long time (back then I was more marketing and communication oriented) but was positively surprised by the working environment and how much I liked the topics I used to work with. I was really lucky to start in a company where everybody was helpful and supportive and I managed to learn so much about stock markets in a short time. So this excitement lead to my next adventures in asset management and 18 years later I still find myself working in the industry. I’m grateful to be still learning something new all the time and meeting bright people. The industry also has taken huge leaps in topics like ESG, which has been one of my drivers during all these years.
What I like about my current role is the fact that I can organize my time quite flexibly. Most of my work week consists of independent work but after the long covid period, I also really enjoy meeting people in person, so I always try to squeeze in a few face-to-face meetings with fund managers when they are in town. I also talk to a lot of fund managers over Teams/ Zoom and we discuss ideas that we have gathered in our weekly team meeting. Furthermore, I enjoy updating my team about various topics that I follow - lately we’ve been focusing quite a bit on regulation and the EU taxonomy. When I’m on business trips I like to schedule my days full to get the most out of it. My last business trip was to India where I attended a Private Equity seminar and met some interesting new Listed Equity Funds as well as a current investee Fund. I met also a lot of local entrepreneurs from tech companies building from India to the world.
First of course you look at the numbers - but that is the easy part. I think fund selection is very much a people business. When I find a fund with great track record and a suitable risk profile, I try to understand how the portfolio manager thinks, if it fits our investment philosophy and if the investment process is repeatable. As we invest in many thematic funds, we also focus a lot on the general industry knowledge and macro views of the manager although fundamentally we prefer bottom-up stock selecting. I always ask about ESG integration as well.
Our portfolio is currently very equity heavy. We like a lot of thematic funds, the largest themes being tech, biotech and energy transition at the moment. We are also bullish on India and have been increasing our allocation in Indian funds in the past years. Lately, we have been doing more and more stock picking ourselves, as there are many good quality companies at a reasonable price available in the market. Thus, we can have a larger bet on those companies when investing directly.
Getting too attached to the funds. Sometimes you work with managers for years and get to know them personally. However, if the fund starts lacking in performance of does not fit your asset allocation view anymore, it’s time to say goodbye. The mistake we have been making more than once is to stick with an investment for too long.
I’m just finalizing a book about China during Xi Jinping’s era. I’ve recently become somewhat addicted to audio books, I usually listen to them on my way to work or even before falling asleep and like to cover a broad spectrum of topics. I might easily have 10 books on my list simultaneously and choose what to listen depending on my mood and level of focus they require. With a physical book I really like to focus and read for a longer period of time, which is not always possible.
I love traveling and studying languages.