Martin Jones is the managing director and head of the fixed-income group at First Asset Management, a division of First Bank in Minneapolis. Mr. Jones was named an All-star Proprietary Bank Fund Portfolio Manager for the performance of the First American intermediate Term Return Fund in the one-year intermediate investment grade debt fund category.
In his position, Mr. Jones is ultimately responsible for some $4 billion in institutional fixed-income assets.
Mr. Jones has spent his entire career managing money for midwestern financial institutions. in his current position, he said, he prefers to take some very moderate bets against the various fixed-income indices. Those bets, he continued, involve duration, term, structure, and sector. We take a fairly conservative approach to managing money. We don't take extreme positions.
"We keep the quality of the fund very high. But we have been successful over the years in making some strategic bets," he said,
Last year, he added, was one of the times when his bets paid off. "We shortened up our portfolio late last year. Our timing was really very good. I think us and three other people in the country expected that," he joked.
Mr. Jones said he had bet that the yield curve was going to flatten, so he employed an investment technique called "barbelling," in which the short and long ends of the portfolio matched each other, while the intermediate part remained flat. When charted, the portfolio mix looks like a weight lifter's barbell, hence the term.
"We lightened our exposure early on, with moderate lightening in the two- to five-year area, with an overweighting in short maturities with an even weighting at the long end," he said.
His fund rarely takes a big sector bet, because Mr. Jones is convinced that "it's hard to make money that way."
Though he has spent most of his professional career in and around Chicago, Mr. Jones prepared for his investment management profession in a most unusual way. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Texas Tech University and the University of Texas, respectively. He received a master's degree in business administration in 1980 from the University of Chicago.
Mr. Jones joined the trust department of Continental Illinois bank in 1972. He also spent four years in the Chicago offices of the former investment banking houses of Dillon Read & Co. and Loeb Rhoades K Co. He later moved over to managing institutional fixed-income and equity assets for Harris Trust, & Savings bank, before joining First Bank.
Despite his immersion in the financial world, he hasn't ignored his musical background. "There's a certain mathematical element to music that I find helpful in my currentjob. You can approach the [investment] discipline the same as with music," he said. Mr. Jones is an accomplished trumpeter, but he's not part of any band. "I play every day. I spent so many years with it, and I just can't give it up," he said.