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Investment: Brownian notions

The pat excuse for volatility striking markets in August is that the investment heavyweights are on the beach. Not so Alan Brown. The chief investment officer of Schroders met Euromoney as panic turned to hysteria. Brown believes these are among the most treacherous markets he has ever experienced, but finds a few boltholes for investors brave enough to be contrarians, writes Andrew Capon.

IF IT IS a curse to live in interesting times, chief investment officers must be feeling particularly rueful. Alan Brown has been in his current role at Schroders since 2005, running £205 billion ($337 billion) in assets. But he has been overseeing global fund management teams in various guises for more than 20 years. So when Brown says that "this is certainly one of the most difficult times to manage pools of capital that I can recall," it is worth listening. The noise from markets over the past month has been so full of sound and fury it has been almost deafening. The clear signal from this seasoned investment professional suggests that although we are not yet out of the woods there is still some scope for hope. Brown admits he has no unique insight into the causes of the present febrile state of markets. To coin a phrase, it is the economy, stupid. The drip-drip of poor data has increased the risk of a double-dip recession markedly in the developed world.

The surge of sovereign indebtedness to bail out the financial system was always akin to offering a drunk yet more hooch and the resulting hangover was inevitable.