STRAIGHT TALK: NEW BLUE SKY MANAGING DIRECTOR ROBERT SHAND HAS HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Written on the 6 December 2016 by James Perkins
ROBERT Shand says people have asked him how he has stayed so relaxed in taking control of Blue Sky Alternative Investments (ASX: BLA) from its founder and talisman Mark Sowerby.
What has the reaction been since you have taken over the role of managing director from Mark Sowerby?
Pretty good to be honest. This is a business that was started by Mark Sowerby, and a lot of the investors know Mark - he is a passionate guy and he loves this business - so they were surprised when he announced he was standing down.
Will you change anything at Blue Sky?
Nothing at all. I have been asked that question a couple of times. As boring as that answer is, in reality I have been working closely with Mark on the strategy for his business for six years, and working closely with the board as well. The current strategy is mine, as well as Mark's and the board's.
You recently completed capital raising for the Blue Sky Alternatives Access Fund (ASX:BAF), and the investors didn't mind that he was gone.
That opened and closed in a day. Going back five years ago, Mark was quite involved in capital raising for the business, but in the last couple of years the business has gained a capital raising team, which is a distinct team of key individuals, and it has grown beyond a one-man band.
What is next for Blue Sky?
What I have said publicly is that I see my job as taking this business from $2.4 billion funds under management (FUM) to a $10 billion position. We won't need to change our strategy to do that, you can already see it is working, as we have grown from $1 billion to $2 billion in FUM in just 13 months.
Are there enough alternative investments out there to continue such growth?
The FUM market in Australia is worth $2.4 trillion. Currently, alternatives are allocated 5 per cent of that market, but that is expected to rise to 20 per cent within 20 years it is the fastest growing part of the market and will be the biggest by 2021.
The market has supported of Blue Sky's development so far.
Blue Sky was worth $1 per share when it listed and now it is worth more than $7, and it has a market capitalisation of more than $500 million today. The share price reached over $8 recently.
You had a panel talking about entrepreneurship at your investor day. What is your take on the scene in Queensland right now?
There are two halves to that answer. Things have improved dramatically over the past five to 10 years that is my first thought. The second is that when you look at what Mark is doing now as Queensland's chief entrepreneur, what he is witnessing, and what I have seen, is there is a lot of activity around startups and a lot of energy around the young people starting businesses and that is fantastic.