Few investors have been as successful at investing in the developing world as Mark Mobius. He has spent over 40 years travelling and working in emerging and frontier markets, including over three decades with Franklin Templeton Investments. It was here in 1987 that he launched the world's first emerging market equity fund, which would grow from $100m to $50bn over the next 25 years. The self-titled 'full-time nomad' recently launched his own investment firm to apply his expertise to improving governance standards in developing market companies.
Born to a German father and Puerto-Rican mother, Dr. Mobius's research skills were honed after taking his newly gained Ph.D. in Economics to Asia during the Vietnam War. This followed an earlier scholarship in Japan, which provided a culture shock to his East Coast US upbringing - "that changed my life", he recently told Bloomberg TV.
His early research career in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Korea led to Mobius analysing the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for a client project and then to the legendary investor Sir John Templeton, who asked Mobius to launch his first emerging market fund. The self-confessed 'perennial student' soon began to invest beyond Asia into other countries across the globe as new emerging markets started to open-up in the 1980s and 90s.
Alongside his illustrious investment career, Dr. Mobius has been a key figure in developing international policy for emerging markets, including for the World Bank, and has served on a number of company Boards in the developing world. His influence has earned him numerous industry awards and he has authored several books on emerging market investing. In 2014 Dr. Mobius also featured in The World's 99 Greatest Investors, alongside SKAGEN's Kristoffer Stensrud.
In 2018 he launched Mobius Capital Partners to combine his knowledge of identifying undervalued companies with engagement to help them improve governance practices. He sees this as the next frontier in emerging market investing and firmly believes that sustainability means enhancing, rather than sacrificing, performance: "I've realised over the years that if you engage with companies you can improve your returns because if they improve corporate governance, they can also improve their earnings and the stock price will perform better," he told Bloomberg TV.
Accelerated political reforms
Dr. Mobius would typically spend 200 days a year travelling the developing world in search of the latest investment opportunities before COVID-19 forced the nomad into full-time lockdown in Europe. Nevertheless, his long-term enthusiasm for emerging markets is undimmed and Mobius believes that the recovery from coronavirus could accelerate reforms in countries like India and South Africa, and we could be on the cusp of another bull market.
In addition to establishing his own firm, Mobius last year wrote his latest book Invest For Good, which promises to give readers a clear understanding of "how to balance sustainable investing with good returns". Those joining us at our New Year Conference will hope to hear some similarly useful advice.