Fund managers diary

Michael Ulrich is the manager of the F&C UK Mid Cap fund. His diary runs from November 14-20.

Monday: Having trawled through the morning results I set out my schedule for the week.

The week’s priorities will be those stocks that have seen material price moves or had significant newsflow. A couple of investments require attention, some having performed poorly and some having done well. There have been a lot of company announcements so I update my notes where necessary.

I have a meeting with someone from ASOS, an online fashion retailer. Management are confident about their growth plans, however, parabolic growth, supply chain strain, logistics, fashion change and ambitious international expansion are all potential banana skins.

Tuesday: Off to see Peter Page, the chief executive of Devro, a maker of sausage casings. I bought this stock after hearing about it from Sam Cosh who runs our successful pan-European small cap fund. Page is refreshingly honest about the challenges and opportunities facing the business. The company is benefiting from investment in R&D (research and development) as well as the long-term trend to greater meat consumption in emerging markets. We come away convinced that the business is in good hands.

Back to the office for a meeting with Dido Harding and Amy Stirling (respectively chief executive and finance director of TalkTalk). I am impressed with their strategy, but nervous about the competitive environment in broadband and its conversion with television services. (Diary continues below)

Wednesday: Early morning meeting with First Group, the bus and rail operator, and the third time I have met the chief executive officer. I leave immediately after for a meeting at the offices of Virgin Media, where we get a demonstration of their new Tivo service, which looks fantastic. I am concerned about the competitive environment as services are being launched and I expect a difficult land grab to ensue at some point.

In the afternoon Spectris, an instrument and control development firm, gives a presentation on its acquisitions. I have owned this stock for many years. The session takes place at the British Film Institute on the South Bank. We have a tour of the museum and I get to see a genuine Dalek and Stormtrooper.

Thursday: Italy has a GOAT (Government Of All Talents). Concern about the crisis in Europe is dominating markets. Uncertainty breeds fear, which in turn leads to opportunities for stockpickers and I am adding to stocks that are operationally fine but have performed poorly.

At our weekly portfolio review meeting, our head of team Peter Lees is subject to interrogation on his UK Alpha fund. Being encouraged to challenge and defend investment views is a central part of the team culture.

Friday: It has been a busy week for results and I am glad to have a day without meetings. I update my company notes and reassess the valuations of companies that have reported. I finally clear the schedule of work I had set for myself at the beginning of the week. I start work researching an idea that seems promising and we manage to arrange a time to meet the company’s management the following week.

Late in the afternoon we receive the news that the F&C UK Mid-Cap fund has been awarded an AA rating from Standard & Poor’s. Peter Lees offers to buy the team a drink after work. It would be rude to refuse.

Saturday/Sunday: My family is my priority at the weekend. Some investors allow the market to consume so much of their life that all perspective is lost – standing at the edge of the euphoria or panic is an advantage I am keen to preserve.