“How long will this take?” was his opening salvo when asked to sit for a brief discussion. Alex Oxenham is everything you might imagine a highly skilled Co-Chief Investment Officer of a $1.5B strategy to be. He doesn’t look at you as much as he looks through you; it’s almost as if he’s determining whether you’re a high performing asset worthy of further examination. A proper discussion reveals a man who is as thoughtful and considerate as he is hard-charging and deliberate. But make no mistake, Oxenham doesn’t mince words.
“War. Brexit. The economy moves forward no matter what. But I get it. It’s hard to see past your immediate constituency.” The question was whether political machinations impact his decision-making process as an investment officer. “Politics can impact sectors but you can typically see that coming. Market fundamentals and data are more important than which direction political winds are blowing.”
Oxenham is a data machine who possesses the rare ability to see both the forest and the trees. When Hilton Capital decided to add some depth to its bench, the firm initiated a wide search for someone with Oxenham’s pedigree who was additive to the investment strategy. At the time Oxenham was making a name for himself at HSBC Private Bank in New York. With his star rising inside a large organization, the chance of crossing paths will Hilton Capital seemed highly unlikely. “You’re doing well in a big organization, getting great reviews and impacting the business in a positive way,” Oxenham recalls of his time at HSBC. “And yet the needle doesn’t feel like it’s moving.
“Honestly, I answered the recruiter’s call on a whim. I always had this entrepreneurial hair growing in my neck so I decided to give it a shot. For me, it was about more than financial rewards. You don’t get many chances in your life to make an impact.”
In everyone else’s estimation it was inauspicious timing at best. The European debt crisis had taken hold and fear was running rampant in the market. In what would become a hallmark of Oxenham’s view of the markets, he was unphased. “My impression at the time was that the world was fine.” While pundits and politicians were hand wringing, Oxenham was looking at market fundamentals and looking beyond the headlines. “I believed in Bill’s philosophy, bottom line. And while we saw the world in much the same way, our views were nuanced enough to be complementary and sound. We made the necessary adjustments, as we always do, then dug in to do the work.”
Oxenham was fresh eyes for Hilton, but not just in terms of investing. “I was stepping into a winning team when I came to Hilton. But I thought we were missing a codified philosophy and were in need of an institutional process.” Oxenham worked closely with Craig O’Neill to harden Hilton’s infrastructure as he scratched his entrepreneurial itch, each year moving further away from the institutional megabank mindset.
“Bill [Garvey] let’s his leaders drive the boat, without question,” says Oxenham. “But he’ll always be there to make sure you’re not headed for a rock. It took a while to get used to the environment but once you get a taste of seeing your ideas implemented and making a positive impact, it’s hard to imagine any other way.” Oxenham’s presence boosted the confidence in the investor community and the Tactical Income Strategy has continued to thrive, allowing him to ask the team hard questions about the future.
“My focus became to create a firm identity. What do we stand for? What does Hilton mean to you?” Oxenham comes alive when tackling the subject of culture. Not exactly what one would expect from Hilton’s “Spock.” “I was all over them. We ‘whiteboarded’ the mission statement and it was filled with answers within a day. I hit everyone individually to help craft the Hilton story and it really started to come together.” Oxenham synthesized the Hilton story into a pitch book and took ownership of creating an identity that everyone at the company and beyond could rally behind. “Especially considering the institutional mindset I came from, this was such a rewarding process.”
As for what lies ahead for Hilton, Oxenham is relatively unimpressed with the current state of affairs. “As far as we have come, I still see Hilton as an unfertilized plant. There is so much opportunity for growth, particularly in the Tactical Income Strategy. I see us doubling that strategy alone in the next couple of years.”
As he utters these words, it’s clear the Spock has returned. There is no equivocation in this sentiment.