Truffle Asset Management was founded in April 2008 by Louis van der Merwe and Hannes van der Westhuyzen. The business has successfully grown its capabilities, client base and assets under management over the past 15 years. Nicole Agar, portfolio manager at Truffle, joined in 2015 and has been instrumental in developing the business. Nicole shares her insights on the successful growth to date.
As the business has transitioned how is Truffle adapting to being a “larger” boutique?
“Growing up” as an asset manager takes patience and conscious effort. It’s important to ensure the business foresees and prepares for the next phase, whilst still safeguarding the culture and process that have made it successful in the first place. As Truffle has grown, our purpose or philosophy has not changed, however, we are mindful of the need to develop our capabilities effectively to deliver the same purpose to a growing client base. In the early days the business had a singular focus on delivering superior investment performance for our clients. As we have grown, it’s become increasingly important to develop complementary specialist expertise, and strengthen our systems and infrastructure to offer excellent client service along with the best investment outcomes.
The ability to maintain an open, dynamic culture and follow an agile approach is, we believe a key benefit for our clients. In a smaller environment, individuals within the investment team are naturally able to communicate more frequently and informally and have agility to execute on investment decisions as opportunities arise. We have harnessed this advantage and consciously ensured that as we add diversity of skill, knowledge, and experience to the team, we continue to encourage every team member to debate and share opinions. It’s about cross pollination of ideas. We also work closely to agree investment decisions, cross referencing or checking each other’s views as the market shifts. Structures remain flat, and there is no “Death by Committee”. This means Truffle clients benefit from our agility while taking comfort that decisions are well researched, analysed and honestly debated across the team before being implemented.
Do you think the experience of the team at Truffle and the fact that the business is owner-managed has enabled growth and the ability to stay agile?
As our tagline indicates – we believe experience has a high value. However, it’s important to balance that experience with young, fresh thinking and new ideas or approaches to ensure that we are developing our people.
Truffle places a strong focus on managing downside risk and we constantly ask the question “where could we be wrong”. I emphasise the “we” as one of my learnings as a portfolio manager is to guard against adopting an overly defensive, ego-centric approach. Maintaining conviction around investment decisions is critical, however, where there is a fundamental change driving why we would hold a position, one needs to separate conviction from ego. Working in a team that genuinely and openly challenges decisions and thinking means experienced managers work closely with younger analysts to test their conviction when necessary and consider mindfully where we could be wrong. This ensures we are always focused on what is best for our clients.
What’s next for Truffle?
As we’ve grown, we have intentionally strengthened our capabilities and broadened our experience, while retaining what is unique to Truffle. What’s critical as we grow is that a commitment to our purpose of ensuring clients achieve their investment outcomes remains unwavering.
The ability to maintain an open, dynamic culture and follow an agile approach is, we believe a key benefit for our clients.