Mark H. Rose, Argo Group

Mark H. Rose

The Independent Team

Editors’ Note

Mark Rose oversees the company’s investment strategy. Prior to joining Argo Group in 2013, he was a Senior Credit Analyst at RBC Capital Markets and has held similar roles at Deephaven Capital Management, Goldman Sachs & Co., and Credit Suisse First Boston. Rose has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and is a CFA® charter holder.

How would you characterize Argo’s approach to managing its investment portfolio?

At Argo, we conduct our asset management much as we conduct our underwriting business. We’re not the biggest player in the field, so we have to use our particular strengths. Many companies much larger than Argo have so much money they won’t make investments in the five- to ten-million dollar range because it’s just not worth their time. Our portfolio isn’t as big, so we can invest the time to be nimble and specialized in our investments, just as we are in our underwriting.

Does Argo’s overall culture influence your work?

Certainly. At Argo, everyone asks, “Where do we define the next opportunity? What’s the right risk reward?” It’s the same for investing. We look for the right risks, and we assess whether we’re ready to just own that risk, or perhaps hedge that risk somehow. Both sides of our business (underwriting and investing) share that. We look for different angles. Today, for instance, we’re being kind of defensive because the volatility index is low. The equity market is very high. The bond market seems fully priced. No one thinks there’s a lot of risk out there. That could be an opportunity for us. We’re trying to be thoughtful and manage the whole spectrum of risk more actively.

What qualities do you most rely on in the members of your team?

I gravitate toward people who tell me what they think and who don’t care what I’m going to think of them in return. They just give me their opinion and tell me how they came to it. Where investments are concerned, each opinion may be right or wrong. If acted on, it could drive us up or down, so we need a stream of those independent opinions all day long. I also need people who are not looking for big organizations where they can sit in cubicles. I can’t give them many afternoons off, but I can give them opportunity to use their intellects and build their skills. Here, managers get to manage bonds, stocks, currencies, rates, emerging-market debt, emerging-market equities, and distressed debt in every sector going. That’s attractive to someone trying to get experience.

How has your role as a business leader changed, and how has that affected your team?

Two years ago, I worked almost exclusively with external investment managers. Today, I have a close-knit team of internal managers who really have their fingers on the pulse. We spend all day, every day, looking at opportunities and making sure we’re making the right investment decisions. Our own Argo team is now deeply involved in every transaction. The performance of Argo’s portfolio is our only obsession. That’s how we can react quickly and drive value for Argo. That’s changed in the last couple of years. It feels good now, and we’ll be doing even more internally as we build the team with the right qualified people.