«Onus on the State.»
Chief Economist at Mirabaud Asset Management
Dr. Gero Jung, Chief Economist at Mirabaud Asset Management and member of the Investment Committee, is responsible for macroeconomic analysis and studies. Before joining Mirabaud in 2012, his roles included Global Macro Economist at Zurich Financial Services, Senior Economist at the Swiss National Bank (SNB), and Advisor to the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund. Prior to that, Gero worked at UBS, the World Bank, and Deutsche Bank. He has a BSc in economics from the London School of Economics as well as a doctorate in international economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and has worked as a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.
What is it that motivates you?
The desire to always be aware of the current environment and market challenges. At Mirabaud Asset Management, we’re active, long-only managers. It’s important to have clear, straightforward views in order to build high-conviction calls for investment decisions.
Who do you think of when you hear the word «successful»?
I don’t think the field or role you work in is the most important aspect when it comes to being considered successful. For me, successful people are those who accomplish a dream, pursue their passion, and are happy in what they do. In that respect, someone like Bobby Fisher is worth mentioning. He was the USA’s first and to date only world chess champion. He became world champion while rigorously pursuing his one and only passion, and he did so without the support that Soviet players, for instance, had at the time. This took a lot of dedication and effort, in Fischer’s case up to 14 hours of chess a day, seven days a week. As he himself once said, 90% of his thoughts were focused on chess.
What drove you to do what you do today?
It was a genuine interest in economics and financial markets. I studied economics at university for an extensive period of time, so my academic background matches with my current profession. What I find stimulating is the interaction between economic data and financial markets –what you learn at university doesn’t always apply in practice, but sometimes it does. It’s clear, though, that financial markets can be driven by irrational behavior or herd behavior or react in a way that’s contrary to economic theory. One further stimulus – and challenge – is the diverse aspects of the environment, as many topics of interest vary – be it an electoral cycle, a pandemic, central bank actions, etc. The list is endless.
If you were having dinner with Warren Buffett, what question would you ask him?
I would wonder what brand of bathing trunks he uses when he goes swimming. More seriously, a discussion on using financial market prices as a tool, not an indicator, would be of interest, especially in the current environment.
What importance do you attach to social media?
Social media are very important, of course, in the 2020s. The danger is that we get so much information, for many it might be challenging to distill and filter it. There is also a certain vulnerability regarding fake news and «alternative facts».
Which problems should politicians and authorities urgently address?
Debt, both public and private – which to some extent existed even before the crisis – will be a key issue. The largesse of fiscal policy is probably a necessary evil at the current stage, given the situation we’re in. However, those high debt levels won’t go away overnight, and policymakers will have to deal with this in the years – and decades – to come.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
A lot of my free time – and there are witnesses that can effortlessly confirm this – is spent on chess, in particular collecting chess pieces. This is quite an exotic hobby, but there is actually a community of very dedicated people sharing similar interests all over the world. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from very different backgrounds in many countries. Someone once said that chess is a mixture between art, theory, and sports. When analyzing chess, it’s the first part in particular – the art in chess – that I find most appealing.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or your younger self?
Absorb as much as possible, and specialize in one particular area. I think it’s important to find one area of genuine interest where you can spend your whole career.
Who would you like to have lunch or dinner with?
It could even be only for coffee, but I would definitely like to meet with Dr. Alexander Alekhin, the fourth world champion in chess. Unfortunately, he passed away – some say under mysterious circumstances – in 1946. I’d like to ask him why he brought his cat to the chessboard – was it to annoy an opponent who was allergic to cats, or was there something else? I also wouldn’t want to miss out on discussing the memorable 1927 championship match.
What are you thankful for?
I think the big-picture view is that we live in a world where humanity is doing relatively well. It might sound strange to say this in a year where we have a global pandemic, but with efficient vaccines around the corner, we can clearly see some light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t have major wars as there were for much of the 20th century, and the current situation can’t be compared, for instance, to the 14th century, which was a very dark time for Europe and humankind more generally.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I just finished reading John le Carré’s classic «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy». It reminded me that my memory for names is not at its best – which might be excusable, as in Le Carré’s novels, each character has at least three different names, if not more. The intricacies of the plot are fascinating, and the hero of the novel is admirable – a kind of anti-James Bond character.
What background picture do you have on your phone?
It’s a picture of 64 black and white squares.