Natixis Investment Managers Graduate Challenge 2020: managing portfolios in times of crisis
Here at Natixis, several students with varying study paths and profiles have the opportunity to get involved in projects, initiatives and labs specifically devoted to their talents. From innovation, to new technologies and business cases, these talented profiles bring a dynamic attitude and open-mindedness to the table in several teams, but what are their expectations and how do they see the world of work, especially in the banking sector? Hear from Nathan Grapin in our report.
Nathan Grapin : "The Natixis Investment Managers Graduate Challenge revealed my flair for finance".
Nathan Grapin, along with his Ocean’s Five team, won the new Natixis Investment Managers Graduate Challenge for their excellent management of a virtual portfolio right in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Nathan Grapin, aged 23 and a chess fan, was not interested in the financial industry initially. However, after studying science at high school, then taking preparatory classes in Annecy, in his home region, he joined business school HEC two years ago. In the fall of last year, he had the opportunity to get involved in this new adventure when Natixis Investment Managers launched its Graduate Challenge on the college campus in Jouy-en-Josas (Ile-de-France). “After an initial internship in the asset management business, I joined the investment club on campus. I teamed up with my friend Nathan Breen, who was finishing an internship in green bonds, along with Marie Destailleur, Maxime Brun and Loïc Cantin to make a very close-knit group comprising complementary profiles. When Natixis Investment Managers launched its Graduate Challenge in November, we were keen to take up the challenge! It was a really inspiring project – we had a virtual portfolio of one million euros, and the aim was to grow our investment over three months.” However, the selection process was just as challenging: like actual portfolio managers with their clients, our would-be fund managers had to outline their investment strategy and the performances expected, while complying with ESG criteria (environmental, social and governance), which are the cornerstones of responsible investment and sustainable development, and key priorities at Natixis Investment Managers.
Committed to promoting sustainable development
Nathan Grapin explains the next steps: “we had to think about our planned investments during the first part of the project between September and November 2019. We carefully selected some French business gems, companies that truly generate clean electricity and are really growing. We worked to prepare for investment committees thanks to privileged support from our mentor Nolwenn Le Roux, fund manager at responsible investment leader Ostrum Asset Management.” Did these aspiring portfolio managers plan for the vast effects of the Covid-19 crisis? Mission near-impossible when the world stock-markets plummeted between 30% and 40% in March 2020. As Nathan explains, “when we kicked off at the start of February, the markets were rising, but at the end of the month, the trend began to reverse. But even during lockdown, we kept on working together on the challenge via Teams and Zoom. And we felt lucky that we were only investing virtual money during our first experience of a stock-market crash! Investment committee meetings were an opportunity to defend our positions and show that we were undertaking the relevant groundwork.” So, the overall outcome for Nathan Grapin? “A challenge is actually a long-term practical case study and we had real support from teams at Natixis Investment Managers International. I wasn’t familiar with this universe, but I felt really comfortable. I now want to work in finance – the sector provides an opportunity to learn every day and really work upstream to promote ESG causes.”
Laurent Giraudel, COO of Natixis Investment Managers Solutions: “The Graduate Challenge is a unique collective experience, enabling participants to really step into the shoes of a fund manager”.
Natixis Investment Managers launched its new Graduate Challenge, the #Supercase, in November 2019 – an inter-university portfolio management challenge for Masters’ level students from business schools, engineering schools and universities.
“Our role is to manage savings, pensions, mutual funds and life insurance policies for our clients, who are increasingly aware of the importance of their investments. They do not just want a performance-driven approach, but they are also seeking team engagement based on shared values. Each team of students was supported by a mentor from among our experts at Natixis Investment Managers or its investment management affiliates (Natixis Investment Managers , Seeyond, Ostrum AM, Mirova, Dorval AM, DNCA Investments, Ossiam et Thematics AM).
Despite the lockdown period, our student teams all remained really active. We could not have imagined a worse environment for them, but like real portfolio managers, they had to adapt and defend their investment choices and their convictions, just as we would with our clients. Their performances admittedly showed a decline, losing around 10%, but that’s not so bad considering that some markets plunged 40%.” The outcome for Natixis? According to Laurent Giraudel, “a sort of magical connection developed between students and portfolio managers, so it was a definite success”.