23 March 2020
This article was published in Industry Moves in April 2020
Joe Marassa recently joined Warakirri Asset Management in the newly created role of head of marketing and product. He spoke to us about his plans for the new role, potential product opportunities and why a focus on ESG and sustainable investing will become even more important.
What are you looking forward to in the new role?
Warakirri is looking to grow its existing business with institutional and charitable clients where it has been operating for over two decades, but also has plans to expand and grow the business in the family office, High Net Worth (HNW) and retail (adviser) segments of the market.
The role is a new one within the company, created to support its ambitions and represents a greenfield opportunity which is what attracted me to the role.
Recently, Warakirri announced a strategic partnership with specialist investment manager Northcape Capital as the exclusive distribution partner for their Australian, global and emerging market equity capabilities – so it’s an exciting time and great opportunity to build out the Warakirri brand and a range of product offerings to meet the needs of these new client groups.
How do you plan to build the Warakirri brand?
Warakirri is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “to grow” and the premise behind the launch of the firm over 25 years ago was simply to grow wealth for its investors. Warakirri has a strong history of providing charitable and tax-exempt investors with investment vehicles managed specifically to their tax-exempt status.
Over the years the company has brought new and tailored solutions to institutional investors across agriculture (in fact, Warakirri was recently ranked in the top 30 global ag investors investing in farmland), after-tax benchmarking and performance analytics, and currency management, however the Warakirri brand is still relatively unknown outside of these market segments.
Warakirri is at a stage where it is positioning itself for accelerated growth, with some exciting initiatives coming up which will help extend the brand in other segments of the market. At the same time, I’m keen to put in place some additional building blocks to set the business up for success – right from building a new company website, spreading the news around the new investment solutions we’ll be bringing to market and developing day-to-day strategies to deliver improved communications to our existing and potential clients.
How do you expect to shape Warakirri’s product strategy in the face of Covid-19? Will it force major changes?
The need for high quality investment solutions in traditional asset classes won’t go away because of COVID-19. The current situation offers quality active investment managers the opportunity to show that they can add value across all market cycles and the current environment may end up being a true test for some managers.
I believe that the focus on ESG and sustainable investing will become even more important as we move forward. Warakirri is a leader in the field of ethical investing, having managed funds with an ethical overlay since the mid-90’s and the impact of the coronavirus will see sustainable investing become more significant in investment decisions.
Do you see opportunities for new products at the moment?
Agriculture is a sector with considerable potential as an asset class. The sector is largely uncorrelated to the main growth sectors within investor portfolios, mainly equities, and few investors have a meaningful exposure to this sector.
While exposure to the agriculture sector offers great potential, access has historically been difficult, as has diversification to adequately manage the risks specific to the sector. Warakirri has a long history in managing agriculture assets for institutional investors and sees a unique and attractive opportunity to bring diversified agriculture strategies to a different segment of the investment community, including the family office and HNW space.
Our new relationship with Northcape – the winner of the Golden Bull Award for Australian Equities at last year’s Australian Fund Manager Awards (sorry, I’m a marketer and had to mention this!) – means we will be bringing to market the outstanding capabilities of Northcape to retail investors in coming months.
If you could tell investors one thing right now what would that be?
Hang in there! We all need to rise to the current challenge both personally and professionally.
It’s understandable that the types of market falls and increased volatility we are experiencing right now can create concern and discomfort for many investors. It may be hard to believe right now that this may be one of those situations where eventually we will look back at it as a unique long-term opportunity. Envisioning ourselves in that position in the future isn’t easy right now. It was hard to see green shoots in 2008, when few could envision the emergence of a positive market coming out of the financial crisis.
It’s important at times like these that investors take a step back and remain focused on the longer term.