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May 11, 2016  

Round Table Team Preps Global-Macro Fund

Key members of Ian Banwell’s team at Round Table Investment have re-emerged with plans to launch their own global-macro fund.

The new firm, First Ward Capital of Charlotte, is led by co-chief investment officers Donald Banks and Christopher Bessey, who worked together at Round Table for eight years before Banwell shuttered the operation earlier this year. Banks was a portfolio manager for Round Table Global Macro Fund, while Bessey oversaw quantitative-analysis and systematic-trading strategies as well as risk management.

Such were their contributions at Round Table that they’re marketing the track record of a portfolio they ran going back to 2010. That includes a 10.6% annualized return, versus a 1.8% return for the HFRI Macro (Total) Index during the same period. Banks and Bessey’s portfolio consistently outperformed the overall Round Table fund.

They’re now planning to launch the First Ward Global Macro Fund in September. Banks and Bessey are assisted by two other Round Table alumni: operations chief HoWai Ong and Michael Segarra, who oversees finance and business development. Part of their pitch is that the planned vehicle will incorporate rigorous quantitative methods along with discretionary approaches that would allow it “to account for inputs which are inherently more difficult to quantify, such as paroxysmal geopolitical events, critical calendar catalysts and nonlinear macroeconomic dynamics.”

Banks and Bessey are setting up shop just a few blocks from their old offices at Round Table, which Banwell founded in 2007 following a stint as chief investment officer at Bank of America. Round Table launched with $1 billion, including backing from BofA and Harvard Management. But by mid-2015, its assets had dwindled to less than $300 million.

At First Ward, Banks and Bessey are attempting to attract large institutional investors with a founders share class that offers discounted fees equal to 1% of assets and 10% of profits. But those backers would have to invest a minimum of $10 million and leave their money untouched for at least two years. Smaller investors face a 1.5% management fee and 15% performance fee.