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“For me, researching investments and speaking about the results is an ideal combination”

06-09-2016 | Insight | Laurens Swinkels

Laurens Swinkels is back at Robeco. With the researcher's return, Robeco is strengthening its Scandinavian sales and account management team and Investment Research department. “I’m going to explain quant investing and the application of research multi-factor investing strategies .”

“Half of the time I collaborate with account and sales managers Stefan Laszlo and Bas Eestermans for Robeco Nordics, while the other half, I do research at Robeco Investment Research with Tom Steenkamp’s supervision”, says Swinkels, age 40, describing his new role. From 2004 to 2010, he was a quantitative investing strategy researcher at Robeco.

The combination of commercial activities, contact with clients and scientific research is what appeals to him most about his new job. “I’m going to explain factor strategies to investors in Scandinavia. Because I research factor investing myself, I can explain insights on the subject in sufficient detail”, says Swinkels. “I enjoy being in contact with customers. They keep me on my toes with their astute, critical questions. Sometimes I know the answer and other times I don’t, but then I am interested in finding one. I missed the customer contact and commercial incentive in my last job at Norges Bank, the asset manager of the Norwegian oil fund, of which the central government is the sole client.”

With Swinkels there, Robeco will intensify its focus on the Scandinavian countries, where it is relatively unknown as an asset manager and has a small market share. According to Swinkels: “Our brand recognition is growing steadily. And even as a relatively small fish, in our quant strategies we are managing around EUR 1 bln from Scandinavian customers. In northern Europe, we promote ourselves with high conviction, high yield and integrated sustainability, in addition to the quant strategies.”

“I research how multi-factor equity and bond strategies can best be integrated into the same portfolio”

Integrating multi-factor strategies

The list of Swinkel's research publications includes articles on a wide variety of investment categories. “I love not limiting myself to just one asset category and enjoy examining the relationship between various assets.” Fortunately, at Robeco Investment Research, Swinkels’ research will take a broader look at how multi-factor equity and bond strategies can best be integrated with each other in the same investment portfolio.

Swinkels: “I will look at whether the factors within the same and across different investment categories reinforce or, on the contrary, inhibit each other. Are equity value and bond value related, or not? Within one and the same asset class, value and momentum are polar opposites, but what happens between different asset classes? I’m curious to find out. Internationally, Robeco’s investment research has an excellent reputation. It isn’t research for the sake of it−the findings are actually used for quantitative investment strategies.”

Swinkels also does research and explains it at Erasmus University, where he works as a university lecturer at the Erasmus School of Economics, teaching finance and researching pension investments. “At Erasmus University, the research focuses more on pensions, such as properly assessing pension participant risk profiles and pension fund board diversity. Sometimes I borrow research topics from Robeco at the university and vice versa.”

Rotterdam and Oslo

Whereas Robeco’s Nordics team is based in Rotterdam, Swinkels works on-site in Oslo. He used to work there for Norges Bank. Swinkels ended up in the Norwegian capital because his Chinese wife teaches at the Norwegian Business School. When asked, he says Scandinavia holds no special significance for him. “People sometimes ask why we don’t live and work in China or the Netherlands, but we really like the high standard of living and magnificent nature in Norway.”
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