My First Month at Castlefield - Barney Timson

I am the new guy in the Investment Management team based in Manchester (my hometown) but currently working from my bedroom. I have a First-Class Honours degree in Economics from Manchester Metropolitan University. When I was a student, I worked at my local pub, The Farmer’s Arms in Poynton; as a result of this, I can make a mean Mojito! At the start of lockdown, the pub staff donated food to NHS staff, and we became a hub for the village to donate essential items to help people who were struggling financially. We also gave Easter eggs to local children and joined the free school meals campaign. In addition, the staff and customers also raise funds for Ollie’s Army, a local charity raising awareness for Battens Disease - which two local children have. 

I first became aware of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) as a topic in an Ethics and Sustainability class at MMU. The concept of investors shunning certain industries and actively embracing others for non-financial reasons intrigued me and it sparked further research into various ethical screening practices and shareholder engagement. Previously, all throughout my academic career, it had been reinforced that investors prioritised returns over other factors such as climate change or diversity. The rise of ESG investing has challenged this fundamental concept and piqued my interest, culminating-in my decision to cover ESG investing as a dissertation topic.

During the initial stages of my research, I attended a conference held by Legal and General regarding the role of ESG in the future of Investment Management, and it was there where I first became aware of Castlefield. I was introduced to one of Castlefield’s co-owners and had a really interesting conversation about ‘the thoughtful investor’. We stayed in touch over the following months and I shared my research findings once completed. My goal was to work in Investment Management and when a position became available at Castlefield, I was eager to apply given that my beliefs mirrored those of Castlefield.

Interviewing for Castlefield was a little different to what I had experienced in the past. Given the restrictions as a result of Covid, any face-to-face interviews were out of the question, so Zoom became my new best friend! I opted for the traditional Zoom uniform of a shirt combined with out-of-view tracksuit bottoms and some treats to keep the dog quiet. The initial interview followed a format where the People and Training team asked about my experience and qualifications before focusing in on my core values. For the next stage of the process, I was given a case study of a company to analyse by using Castlefield’s proprietary B.E.S.T screening criteria to assess the suitability of the company’s inclusion within one of Castlefield’s funds. The next stage was for me to present my findings to the Investment Management team where I explained my objection towards that particular company’s inclusion on environmental and social grounds. The final interview stage was an informal chat with the wider Investment Management team and then a nail-biting weekend ensued, waiting to hear if I had been successful.

My first month in the job has certainly been action packed getting to grips with the nuances of the role but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable. Almost from the outset I was invited to meetings with both current and prospective investee companies and given the opportunity to engage in discussions on various ESG issues. I have attended a number of Webinars and have started making inroads into the numerous online learning modules I need to complete. A couple of weeks after starting, the quarterly Stewardship Committee Meeting took place where I was introduced to our voting guidelines and asked to provide an opinion on particular topics on the agenda such as CEO renumeration packages. This first month has gone really well, the rest of the team have gone out of their way to help me feel welcome and included, and I am really looking forward to my future here at Castlefield!

I would like to expand my knowledge in the fund management area of the business whilst continuing to carry out engagements with companies. I am currently undertaking an investigative research project to discover more information about the importance of energy efficiency within the property funds held in our portfolios and throughout the wider property sector, with findings expected in the coming months. It goes without saying that when the office opens, I can’t wait to meet my colleagues face-to-face.

Written by Barney Timson

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