28 August 2019
“While scientific development has proved a persistent theme in the healthcare industry for decades, it has not yet mirrored the bursts of disruptive innovation that have characterised the technology space… but that could be about to change abruptly.” This is the view of Christophe Eggmann, investment director, healthcare equities, who has been professionally involved in the sector for more than two decades.
“It’s kind of inevitable that people don’t take proper care of themselves in today’s high-paced world. But, the harsh reality is that sociological and biological trends create more of an emphasis on healthcare than ever before.” It is difficult to dissuade ourselves from Christophe’s opening gambit and he goes on to explain why he is something of a healthcare warrior.
“I don’t particularly enjoy fast food as, for me, it tastes artificial and it also raises health concerns. Excessive quantities of fried food are bad for the liver, fur up the arteries and lead to heart disease and diabetes. I am a bit of a fussy eater and I do like to consume wholesome food. I’m relatively indifferent about the origins of the cuisine; I like all kinds of cuisine, but particularly Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Italian dishes. As long as it is authentic, fresh and unprocessed, I am happy in the knowledge that the food is nourishing my body and mind. The simple English paraphrase ‘You are what you eat’ aptly conveys the notion that to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food.
“Of course, the best way to ensure that you know what you are putting in your mouth is to prepare your own food. I really enjoy cooking and could definitely be described as a ‘foodie.” When I’m travelling, I always try to discover new eating spots, but I am more interested in ‘farm-to-table’ cuisine than fine dining. Christophe goes on to mention that he never misses an episode of the TV Programme ‘Masterchef’. With each series running for five nights a week for eight weeks, he must have picked up loads culinary tips over the years. This begs the question as to what Christophe likes to cook most. “I love to prepare pasta dishes - vegetables and meat. With experience I have discovered that something relatively simple and inexpensive can taste fantastic when prepared with fresh ingredients and consumed immediately.”
Christophe recognises that he is in a privileged position in terms of his ability to transverse the globe. “I love travelling in general and have enjoyed some of my best experiences in Asia; Japan, Hong Kong and, more recently, Taiwan. Hong Kong unfailingly delivers a fantastic cultural mix, characterised by really great restaurants, edifying diversity on a singular level and fantastic hiking trails. I love to hike and I guess many people fail to appreciate what a wonderful exercise this is. Modern human life has become increasingly time-constrained but studies show that hiking tones the whole body, helps prevent and control diabetes, is beneficial for cardiovascular health and curbs depression.
Furthermore, I find that hiking allows me to combine physical exercise with reflection. I can look at things through a different lens, reinvent myself and think more creatively – I’ve even cultivated investment ideas on hiking trails! Hong Kong’s diversity only adds to the pleasure of a daily hike and some of the trails are truly spectacular and amazingly accessible. Within minutes, the MTR (mass transit railway or subway) conveys you from the city centre to Ocean Park and one of my favourite routes is to walk from here along the shoreline to Deep Water Bay. For a slightly more serious expedition, I thoroughly recommend the ‘Dragon’s Back’ which is incredibly picturesque and offers a sightseeing platform with fantastic views of the eastern Hong Kong coastline.
“Within Asia, I love to travel to Japan, which offers a virtually unique combination of ancient tradition allied with state-of-the-art infrastructure and an advanced high-tech lifestyle. To round it out, Japanese cuisine is delectable and there is much more to it than just sushi and sake (rice wine which can be served cold or warm).
“Away from Asia, I have travelled extensively in the US for leisure and work as this is where a lot of the companies I invest in are domiciled. I like Los Angeles which, in my opinion, is underrated. Among the experiences the city has to offer, a visit to the iconic Hollywood Bowl, which is rapidly approaching its centenary, is a must. Here you can bring your own food and drink, sit at a table and enjoy live music of all kinds. I have particularly fond memories of a concert with a solo violinist and backing orchestra that literally brought the house down. My own eclectic taste stretches to most types of music, but I wouldn’t say I have a favourite composer, artist or genre. So, I’m a fervent Spotify user, which allows me to assemble a really diverse playlist.
“It also goes without saying that New York is a great destination. I have ice-skated in Central Park, but the thing that stands out most about the ‘Big Apple’ is its cultural diversity, while I also find its high levels of energy stimulating. Finally, in terms of the US, Arizona is a really interesting destination. Contrary to popular belief it is not just a desert state, but offers a really diversified landscape, from alpine, snowcapped peaks to red rock formations and cactus fields. The saguaro - a giant cactus which can grow up to 12 metres high – is native to the Sonoran region of Arizona.”
Christophe grew up in the historic town of Neuchatel, which boasts a rich cultural and architectural past. “As a child the thing I remember most vividly was the summer days spent by, and swimming in, the lake. Neuchatel is very picturesque with its castle, Collegiate Church and the Palais des Beaux Arts (Palace of the Fine Arts). In my early years, I didn’t appreciate the architecture but soon grew to understand how privileged I was to be raised in such a beautiful place.
“It was here that I gained my first work experience as a supply teacher, in several local schools, and a private tutor. I taught mathematics, languages (English and German), accounting and finance. I’m lucky to be able to deploy all of these skills in my professional capacity.
“Although I love languages, I really don’t have much time for leisure reading these days. In fact, it is probably accurate to say that I’ve started more books than I’ve finished. However, I found ‘Into thin air’ so captivating, I not only finished it but read it a second time. The book provides a first-hand account of the catastrophic Mount Everest expedition of May 1996 which resulted in multiple casualties.
While Christophe finds little time for books (factual or fiction), it is clear that he knows his professional subject inside out and his enthusiasm stems from a long-standing and passionate interest in the healthcare industry.
“I have been fascinated by healthcare solutions for years and my curiosity pre-dates my dual role as an analyst and portfolio manager. The two aspects of the industry I like most is that it continuously evolves through innovation and the key drivers of share price movement have little to do with inflation expectations or shifts in Fed policy. As such, I can immerse myself in the micro picture which is predominantly an analysis of what is in the pipeline. The progress that has been made in treating certain diseases over the last 20 years has been astonishing. Consequently, there is always so much to learn and absorb in order to stay fully abreast of new developments with far-reaching implications. There is never a dull moment and it can be intellectually challenging at times. However, I can honestly state that I would never have wanted to do anything else.
“I regularly attend medical conferences where I have met with luminaries and other fascinating people that have pioneered scientific breakthroughs. The advent of genomic medicine promises to provide the ability for doctors to test for hundreds of mutations at once and select the appropriate treatment that precisely targets such mutations. Similarly, advances in gene therapy have the potential to address the very large unmet need in rare diseases; only 5% of these, from a universe of 7,000, are currently treatable.
“Across the industry, the pace of disruptive change stemming from ground-breaking innovation is accelerating. Healthcare has historically been slow to embrace dramatic change by virtue of its numerous stakeholders, each with their own agenda. However, we are now, in my view, on the brink of an era in which healthcare investors have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into these disruptive forces and capture value. My challenge, and that of my peers, is to get into the game early and identify clear winners and losers. This is the most exciting innovation wave I have seen in healthcare, in all my years of experience, and I am eager to embrace this challenge.”
The information in this document is given for information purposes only and does not qualify as investment advice. Opinions and assessments contained in this document may change and reflect the point of view of GAM in the current economic environment. No liability shall be accepted for the accuracy and completeness of the information. Past performance is no indicator for the current or future development.