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“It’s in my blood, it’s my interest and my passion.” It sounds like someone describing their love of sport or dance. In fact, it’s NAB’s Head of Investment Specialists, Nandita D-Souza, describing her love being part of the investment community.
Nandita knew in high school she wanted to be in finance. It carried over into her university studies and landed her a job with Citibank on the investment team of its Australian operations. She rose to Head of Investment Specialists, a title she carried across to NAB after it purchased Citi’s Australian wealth and retail operations last year.
Perhaps it’s not surprising Nandita was just 20 when she made her first investment in shares of the big four banks. She was able to do that because her father had instilled in her since childhood to always invest 60% of disposable income in investments.
Nandita acknowledges maintaining that level of discipline is not always possible as you progress through life’s stages, but she maintains it’s the discipline of investing that was drilled into her that has helped her own wealth journey.
From shares, Nandita has spread into fixed income and hybrids through ETF’s, property, and managed funds. She has international investments to get exposure to industries difficult to invest in locally like pharmaceuticals and big tech, due to Australia’s relatively small market and isolation and heavy exposure to financials and resources.
Given Nandita’s background, her level of diversification is not surprising, it is after all the type of portfolio wealth managers are likely give a nod of approval. However, there is a refreshing realism in Nandita’s outlook on investing.
“The one thing I’ve learnt is no matter how much you understand markets, no one can predict the future. Everything can be going well, you have invested in stocks that have great fundamentals, and then something like COVID-19 hits, and markets tank beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Everyone is hit across the board,” she says.
But ever the investor pragmatist, she says those ‘hits’ may present great opportunity to enter the market.
When investing ‘household money’ Nandita says it’s important to be aligned with your partner: “We have a likeminded approach to investing but our risk profiles are a little different. My husband is more conservative but likes the tactical stuff (shorter term share plays), while I like the long term approach. When we do invest the household money, we make sure it matches both our investment thesis, and that we are both comfortable with the investment.”
When Nandita’s partner does make an investment, he makes a note of reasons behind the decision: “It’s a great strategy, as down the track if the investment is not going as planned you can go back and see if something behind the thesis has changed, she says. “If it has, it can help you reach a point to offload it, even if it means a loss.”
For Nandita, it has provided an interesting insight. Currently she holds several of the big US tech stocks, which she bought for the long term. But now that reports keep surfacing of new staff layoffs, it has prompted her to review her own proposition on those stocks, and whether the vision of the companies when she bought them has changed. Nandita says it may lead to the taking of profits so they can be redeployed elsewhere.
Because Nandita is a long term investor, she is not panicked by sudden market moves, and it leads to some advice: “Don’t look at market pricing every day, that can cause panic, but it also lead to justification of what appears to be a great decision, which down the track it may not be so great.”
There is a second part: “Don’t try and time the market as no-one has a crystal ball – as much as you think you know about markets, they can always crash. If you have bought companies with good fundamentals, your thesis hopefully remains intact.”
For Nandita once a quarter is a good space of time to do a portfolio review, although she admits to peeking at prices when those big market events do occur - but that’s just human nature.
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