Grassroots support, building a network, and doing it well - Simeon's hat-trick for future female leaders

In this wire, you'll learn about the three tips she offers for emerging female investors to succeed as she has.
Chris Conway

Livewire Markets

Finance and investing are in Camille Simeon's blood - a life-long passion that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Simeon's grandfather was an economist and her father was a commodities trader during the boom of the 1970s. It will come as no surprise then, having covered most sectors in her career, that miners are her favourite area of coverage.

She also credits her father and the extraordinarily talented people she has worked with for helping her along the way.

"My father always said, 'If you're going to do something, do it well'," Simeon recalls. 

"That's always stayed with me because it means doing your job well in a literal sense but also doing everything well. If you're going to have a career that requires all these hours, make sure you're doing something that works for you."

Beyond the dedication to her day-to-day work, Simeon notes the importance of building a strong network of female peers. 

“We all know the power of having a close female network in our private lives, but there are also similar important benefits to having female networks that translate in our professional lives," says Simeon.
“Build a network of female peers that can provide support and knowledge as you navigate your career - it can also be a lot of fun along the way." 

In this wire, Simeon discusses her great interest in mining, her passion for integrating ESG and climate change into her investment process, and shares how this philosophy has evolved over her career.

Livewire is pleased to feature Camille Simeon as part of its International Women’s Day coverage, profiling established and up-and-coming female investment leaders in Australia. We are dedicated to featuring more female chief investment officers, portfolio managers and analysts in our articles, podcasts and videos.

abrdn's Camille Simeon 

  • Name: Camille Simeon
  • Firm: abrdn
  • Years in the industry: 20+
  • Speciality: Long Australian equities, with a focus on integrating ESG risks and opportunities
  • Biggest personal portfolio holding: Property
  • One thing very few people know about you: I once got a hat trick in cricket at school. And I was given the ball mounted as a trophy, which I've still got.
  • Your guilty secret TV or reading pleasure: Definitely reading autobiographies, and that's because I find it opens up access to different cultures, people's experiences and journeys. I find you get a lot of really great insights into social behaviours, a lot of great takeaways on how people have been challenged and, ultimately, proved resilient. The one I'm reading now is The Girl With Seven Names.

From dealing desk to portfolio manager

While Simeon was exposed to finance and commodities at an early age, she still somewhat fell into her career.

“I started on a dealing desk in institutional research sales and that's where I spent the earlier years of my career before moving to the buy side as an analyst and fund manager at abrdn where I've been for the 15 years," says Simeon.

Covering nearly all sectors over her journey and earning her stripes as an analyst in the process, these days Simeon covers the mining, energy and tech sectors, while she is also the co-portfolio manager for the abrdn Australian Sustainable Equity Fund and abrdn Australian Equity Fund. 

The role involves “a lot of fundamental bottom-up stock analysis and portfolio construction”, says Simeon. "But ESG is a material part of my investment approach and that's because of the high-risk nature of the sectors that I cover, and also because I'm a co-portfolio manager for the abrdn Australian Sustainable Equity Fund." 

Simeon does a lot of work understanding material ESG risks and how that translates into investment risk and return. Because of that coverage, she has built up deep expertise in climate change, in cultural heritage management, workplace conduct and culture.

Rising to the challenge

Simeon speaks to juggling motherhood and her career as the biggest challenge she has faced over the journey. 

"You can't have it all at the same time and choices always have to be made," she notes. 

Finding a balance between raising two children with the demands of a career has had its challenges. Humbly, Simeon credits her supportive husband and a flexible workplace in abrdn as being essential. 

With a view to helping future generations of female leaders better deal with such challenges, Simeon would like to see more support – like the support she has received – made available at all stages of a woman’s career path.

“My view is it starts in the grassroots. It starts in the grassroots at schools and at universities and it's getting the female talent from the very start to think about careers. And then it's providing support for them as they come through their career and as they climb the ladder," she says. 

Simeon is big on support and she stresses how much it is required, at all levels, to create a suitable environment for future female leaders. 

“It's all these things that help ensure that for females there is a tangible career path, that it can be real and that you can have support and have fun as you go along," Simeon adds. 

Market uncertainty to drive volatility

When asking Simeon about her investment philosophy, her response is succinct: 

"For me, investing is about understanding risk and reward," she says. 

“It's about understanding the businesses that you invest in. Understanding the key earnings drivers, how resilient those earnings drivers are, and what are the risks to that outlook?”

Simeon adds that it is important to understand ESG factors because these can be financially material for a business. It's important to understand a company's impact and dependencies because that can also impact risk and reward.

Finally, Simeon notes, "You don't want to overpay for a good business, as you could still lose money." 

“You need to be aware of valuation and that again goes back to risk and reward." 

Regarding the current market environment, Simeon is mindful that despite the Fed raising rates at the fastest pace ever, the data still shows that the US economy is robust. And it’s a similar story in Australia.

Given further rate hikes are likely, Simeon posits that it's difficult to see a scenario where a recession doesn't eventuate with a potential policy mistake by the central banks. 

"There is also a very valid scenario where a soft landing is possible," she adds. 

Ultimately, with so much uncertainty – which we all know markets hate – volatility is the most likely outcome.

“My view is it's just going to be volatile until we have a better picture of if and/or when a recession will eventuate or if we're able to execute a soft landing," she says. 

Finding opportunities

Unsurprisingly, Simeon likes the mining space and is searching for opportunities.

At the time of the interview (Tuesday, 28 February), Simeon noted that the miners had run hard earlier in the year, on the back of the Chinese reopening narrative, but have subsequently pulled back "because we haven't yet seen physical activity catch up to where market sentiment was," Simeon says. [Miners have been volatile since the interview, with Chinese PMI coming in hotter-than-expected and pushing them higher]

Commodity prices had moderated, as have mining stocks, and in the short term, Simeon sees some opportunities.

“There's a risk because there is still that recession scenario, but on the other hand, you've got China, which is reopening and activity is expected to pick up. It's just the extent to which that picks up," she says. 

On a longer-term view, Simeon notes that raw materials are critical to the low-carbon energy transition and decarbonization. 

“So there's a structural demand piece to come through," she explains. 

Throw into the mix some supply constraints for numerous reasons, and Simeon thinks the fundamental setup for miners is attractive.

“Again, it's about understanding risk and return and it won't be the same for every commodity, but I'm certainly finding some opportunity in mining," she says. 
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Chris Conway
Managing Editor
Livewire Markets

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