If you work in the City of London, you may not want to work for Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Conservative MP for North East Somerset is, after all, synonymous with the sort of hard Brexit that most people in financial services would prefer to avoid. Rees-Mogg is less well known, however, for his side-gig as co-founder of Somerset Capital Management, an emerging markets fund manager with around $9.6bn of assets under management.
Now is not necessarily the time to be working for an emerging market fund and Somerset Capital's returns have historically trailed some its rivals. But the company - which says it invests in companies with, 'the ability to earn an attractive and sustainable return on capital over the course of a business cycle' - has several things going for it. Most notable is pay, which appears to be allocated remarkably fairly.
In the last year for which accounts are available (the 12 months to March 2017), Somerset Capital distributed £21m in profits to its members (partners). Somerset Capital had 20 members in 2017 and has 19 (current) listed employees on the FCA Register. Basically, almost everyone there is a partner. And with the highest paid of the 20 partners receiving £1m of the £21m 2017 profit pot, pay seems strangely equitable compared to many hedge funds in London.
This fairness is intentional. “I’m a big believer in an egalitarian ownership structure,” Dominic Johnson, Somerset's CEO and one of Mogg's co-founders, told the Financial Times in 2013. Johnson added that Somerset deliberately kept fixed pay low (it averaged £110k five years ago) and gave everyone a stake in the fund's performance: "We want to incentivise [our fund managers] to reduce risk in each others’ portfolios. They are a tight family, working with each other, criticising each other.”
Somerset's close-knit, highly egalitarian environment might be why people hardly ever leave. The FCA Register suggests no one has quit for a rival firm in the past 11 years. During that time, only three people have gone in total. - Each of them seemingly retiring or leaving the industry.
So how do you get to work for the workers' paradise founded by Mogg, Dominic Johnson and Edward Robertson in 2007?
Pedigree may help, along with political links. Robertson is the son of a former Rolls Royce Chairman. Johnson, who describes himself as a, "good capitalist”, is a close friend of David Cameron, a descendant of 17th-century statesman Lord Somers of Evesham, and an ex-Tory councillor. Other employees include Mark Asquith, a descendant of Britain's Liberal prime minister from 1908 to 1916.
Not everyone at Somerset read classics at Oxbridge and has a rarefied aristocratic background, however. - Partners include Kumar Pandit, a Latin American analyst who graduated from Kingston Business School, and Conor Devlin in client services, who graduated from Queens University in Belfast.
The bad news is that Somerset Capital very rarely recruits senior staff: the FCA puts its last registered hire in July 2016. However, it operates a graduate recruitment program, run by partner Oliver Crawley, which recruits two to three juniors a year, typically sourced from recruitment consultants, university careers fairs and direct applications.
Somerset Capital has a lot going for it. The only downside (which some may see as an upside) is that you won't get to work much with Rees-Mogg. He doesn't run any money and insiders say he's only there 30 hours a month: he's busy doing other things.
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