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Meet The Managers - Q&A with Chris Eccles and Catherine Tennyson

  • 08 April 2024 (5 min read)

How did your interest in the sector and investing in healthcare come about?

Chris

I’ve always been fascinated and passionate about biology and medical science, which ultimately led to me studying Physiology at university, or “medicine for those who already know they don’t want to practice”! My lab dissertation (which lasted a year longer than it should have done) soon made me realise that I didn’t much fancy the idea of research either. I remember feeling slightly rudderless at the time: I wanted to find a career where I could leverage my existing medical knowledge in a more practical or commercial way, while continuing to learn and remain current, but I had no idea where to begin looking. The biggest ‘Butterfly Effect’ moment of my life was bumping into an alumnus while ordering drinks at my college bar while watching the Champion’s League with friends. He was an MD in Fixed Income at Morgan Stanley and in town for a student careers event earlier that day. We got talking, and it quickly turned out that something I’d never heard of called “Equity Research” appeared to be quite a good match for me. As a result, I interned at Morgan Stanley that summer, and the rest is history. If it hadn’t had been my round at half time, who knows where I’d be right now!

Catherine

I naturally gravitated towards STEM subjects at school and initially studied Medicine at university. I loved that medical science is a field that is always changing and every year we are uncovering more and more aspects about how the human body works and how we can treat disease with better outcomes. It was only when I studied medicine, I started to appreciate how investment in the field is essential in order to drive forward healthcare innovations and I decided I wanted to pursue a career that combined both the rigors of medical science and something with an entrepreneurial edge… healthcare investing is a perfect mix of both of those things!


Why did you choose AXA IM for this next stage of your career?

Chris

I’ve been relatively familiar with AXA IM and my predecessors on the Healthcare team throughout my career, meeting either as clients while I was on the sell side, or peers at various industry conferences and company gatherings. The reputation of the team and the funds are second to none, and if I was sitting with one of my companies for 15 investor meetings through a week in London, you could always guarantee the most constructive and thorough meeting, with the highest level of due diligence, would invariably be with AXA IM. Through my recruitment process and my first few months at the company, it’s clear to me that this high level of quality is made possible by how we are able to work, the level of access to companies and KOLs afforded by the AXA IM platform, and how safeguarded PM time is, allowing us to focus on researching companies and managing our funds effectively.

Catherine

Ever since I started my career on the sell side AXA IM has long been a revered name in Healthcare investing. The AXA IM healthcare funds have a great track record and long tenure and the teams were renowned across the street for their rigorous investment process. I wanted to work somewhere that has a strong investment philosophy and a great team of investors across various sectors and geographies. 


What motivates you to do well in your role and outside of work? 

Chris

I think it’s important to be able to appreciate the uniqueness of the role: every single day brings a completely new and often unpredictable set of challenges and circumstances, where you are in constant competition with both yourself and all other market participants. In addition, we invest across all healthcare sectors and on a global basis, which brings with it an incredibly varied set of business model, end markets and regulatory or policy bodies and actions. The job is never ‘over’ and there is always so much more to learn. The opportunity to continue to learn and evolve with our underlying companies and markets is rewarding by itself, and there is certainly a satisfaction when we are able to correctly distil these complex variables into investment decisions which perform well for our clients. 


How do you feel you complement the team’s skills and add value? 

Catherine

I started my career covering Medical Technology companies on the Sell Side and that compliments the strong Biotech and Pharma expertise we have on the team with Chris and Cinney. Having worked at a hedge fund & other firms with various investment time horizons & strategies, I bring a different perspective on positioning, set up and risk which compliments the rest of the team. 


What are some of the current trends you see that support the growth of the sector? 

Chris

In my opinion, the key tenet for successful healthcare investing begins with acknowledging that healthcare systems globally are often flawed and nearing breaking point. The pot of money isn’t bottomless, patient outcomes are too often still sub-par, and we need to be able to do better for less; this will lead to business model transition and disintermediation, and we seek to understand the long-term winners and losers from such shifts.

With this in mind, we believe there remains plenty of room for innovation within targeted therapies and complex biologics, functional cures, and areas of rare disease or high unmet medical need. With respect to stock market fundamentals, biotech currently has a more robust set up for success now than it has done in many years. Outside of drugs, we believe the growth runway is strong for specialized pockets of outsourced pharma service companies, which can help drive improved returns on R&D expense for their customers. Within life science tools, the use case for genetic and spatial medicine continues to grow at a rapid pace and, likewise, the continued secular growth drivers for bioprocessing activities remain intact. The current elevated trend of healthcare utilisation – especially in the US – provides a good backdrop for growth for many companies across medtech and facilities. 


Looking further ahead, what excites you about the investment opportunities in healthcare?

Catherine

I am excited that as a society, as scientists and as investors we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible with regards to improving healthcare outcomes. Investing in healthcare is becoming increasingly important when we think about the challenges facing populations today mainly aging demographics, rising cost and shortage of skilled healthcare professionals to meet the growing demand. Investing in companies that provide the solution to these problems is not just critical for payers and patients, it is essential to all of us, healthier populations lead to healthier economies. One of the exciting things as a healthcare investor is that we get to research the innovative companies trying to solve these problems, and in our own way help these companies to make the healthcare system better. 


And aside from work, tell us something interesting about yourselves that most people won’t know?

Chris

I’m quite competitive by nature, and outside of work the usual outlet for this is online gaming. I started out early, building my first computers while I was still at school, and at 15 I was part of a 5-man team who became world champions in the most competitive FPS eSport at that time – although I don’t believe the term eSport had even been coined yet. Unfortunately, I peaked about 20 years too early to earn a living and play in front of tens of thousands of people in arenas as they do now! It’s a young man’s game, and I’ve definitely lost a millisecond or two of reaction time over the years…

Catherine

For many years I have been involved in amateur drama productions, writing and performing in small shows and murder mysteries. Whilst I won’t be nominated for an Oscar any time soon, it is a great way to unwind and is an excellent tonic after working on an excel spreadsheet or Bloomberg terminal all day. 

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