A Global Perspective on Asset Management
Like many Atlanta transplants, Kevin Lyman is totally committed to Atlanta but still carries a torch for his former hometown football team. “I love Atlanta, but I will always remain a Saints fan,” he says. His commitment to our city is reflected in the 17 years that he has lived here, his participation in the Leadership Atlanta class of 2018, as well as his service as a vestry of All Saints’ Episcopal Church - a recognized paragon of virtue and service to the Atlanta community—and work on behalf of the Atlanta Public Schools attended by his children, among other civic engagement. But perhaps Lyman’s most interesting activity revolves around his day to day work as Director of Global Investment Initiatives for Atlanta-based Invesco Ltd.
With fintech all the rage, it’s important to remember that Atlanta is an important finance center for the South and the world. And no company illustrates this point better than the independent global investment management firm with its prominent headquarters on Peachtree Street and 20 additional offices worldwide.
Invesco was created from the divestiture of the money management operation of Citizens & Southern National Bank in 1978. Dramatically increasing in size after that - from both organic growth and acquisitions - Invesco has become one of the leading independent investment management firms in the world and now counts over $970 billion in assets under management spanning almost every asset class and region around the world. Its clients run the gamut from US retail mutual fund investors to European pension plans to Asian sovereign wealth funds. As Invesco continues to grow, the company has more recently turned its attention to ensuring that its clients are benefiting from the full complement of its investment expertise and insights. Lyman is playing a key role in these efforts, aided by an education and background that suit him well for working with both clients and colleagues across the globe.
Kevin Lyman was born and raised in New Orleans by a lawyer father and homemaker mother. “I was the youngest of 5 kids and very lucky in the parents I had. Dad was the managing partner of a law firm in New Orleans and he and my mother blessed me with a great many opportunities during my youth despite my not altogether stellar performance at school,” he says. “I was interested in politics and travel from a young age,” he notes but admits that he was “not so interested in applying myself in the classroom early on.” At the end of high school, Kevin decided to take advantage of a program that would allow him to study for a year in an English boarding school before attending university. He was accepted into Harrow, the elite “public” school chartered by Queen Elizabeth in 1572 that boasts such illustrious alumni as poet Lord Byron and former British Prime Ministers Robert Peel, Henry Palmerston, Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill.
“It was a fantastic experience and very different from high school in the U.S.,” says Lyman. “First of all, the boys had all been together for years and so I came in as an outsider. Still, they were very welcoming and I got along with everyone. They just viewed me as a curiosity – the crazy American.” While the social side was fine, Lyman immediately recognized that the academic side would require hard work. “At Harrow, students were given quite a bit of freedom but this came with a lot of responsibility”” he says. “It was great preparation for college and law school in that I was solely responsible for how well I did. At the end of the year your “A Level” exam results were the sole determinant for your entrance into university.”
After completing his year at Harrow, Lyman did some backpacking across western Europe and then returned to the US to start college at Duke in the fall of 1989. Majoring in Political Science and French, he still speaks French fluently. He also played intramural rugby, joined the Sigma Nu fraternity, sang in an a capella group and participated in musical theater. Lyman also attended a lot of basketball games. “We had a lot of great teams when I was there,” he says, “winning two national championships in 1991 and 1992.”
After graduating from college, Lyman worked for six months in Paris and then did extensive backpacking through eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia before returning home to the US.
After starting law school at Vanderbilt, Lyman discovered that he liked it a lot. “We had a very collegial atmosphere at Vandy,” he says, “in which we all supported each other. Some law schools follow a more dog-eat-dog model.” He worked for an American firm and a French firm in Paris during the summer after his first year and then for Davis Polk & Wardwell (including a stint in their Paris office) after his second year. Between all of this work, Lyman also met and began to date his constitutional law professor’s daughter. “I didn’t meet her through my professor!” Lyman is quick to point out. “She was living with a friend of mine from Duke when I arrived at Vandy.” They both graduated on the same day; he from law school and she from the Vanderbilt medical school. After traveling for a few weeks in Europe they were engaged in Paris and subsequently married.
Lyman’s next stop was New York City, where he worked as a corporate associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell while his wife Jenny completed an ob/gyn residency. After spending four years there, he and his wife moves to Atlanta, where she joined a medical practice and Lyman reviewed his career options. He considered returning to a corporate law firm and interviewed with several but in the end he decided to move in-house and joined Invesco as an Associate General Counsel in 2001.
In 2005, Marty Flanagan joined Invesco as President and CEO and he immediately began working to make the company a top tier fully integrated global asset management firm. Says Lyman, “Invesco had grown through acquisition over the years and had a lot of management silos. Marty was focused on breaking down those walls and putting business lines and functions together in a more cohesive way.” This included the firm’s U.S. legal department, which had previously been divided into retail and institutional groups but was later integrated and reorganized along more functional lines.
In addition to serving as Associate General Counsel, Lyman also held the title of General Counsel for Invesco Trust Company, a limited purpose bank whose primary role is to serve as sponsor of a series of “collective investment trusts” managed by Invesco and available only to retirement plans. Invesco’s collective trust line-up currently contains over $55 billion in assets under management and is growing in popularity due to their low fees at a time when retirement plan sponsors are increasingly focused on cost due to litigation and regulatory pressure. To help facilitate this trust work, Lyman worked with Clifford Kirsch of Sutherland Asbill in  to co-found the Coalition of Collective Investment Trusts, an industry group that now counts over 40 member firms managing hundreds of billions of dollars in collective investment trust assets. “I felt that the industry participants had so much in common that it would be very valuable to create a forum in which they could meet, ask questions and share best practices,” he said. The group has grown considerably over the years and now also engages in advocacy and regulatory commentary.
At the beginning of 2016, Lyman transitioned from the Invesco legal team to assumed a new role as Director of Global Investment Initiatives. In this capacity he helped to launch the firm’s Global Thought Leadership function, which is focused on providing timely, informative and actionable investment insights to Invesco’s clients around the world. The creation of this new role was part of conscious effort on the part of top management to serve the firm’s customer needs more fully. “We had been doing a great job of serving clients within individual businesses and regions,” says Lyman, “but our goal is to provide our clients with a superior investment experience by bringing them the ‘best of Invesco’ no matter where they are located or what sort of entity they are. We want them to appreciate the full depth and breadth of our investment expertise and capabilities across asset classes and geographies.”
As part of his role, Lyman works with investment, marketing and sales teams in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region to create and distribute thought leadership content such as white papers, market commentaries and investment outlooks. “I love this role” says Lyman “because I get to explore such a diverse array of subject matter. One day I might be working with an investment team on a white paper exploring the investment implications of driverless cars and the next day we could be examining Fed rate policy.” The overarching mission of the group is to arm Invesco’s clients with informed and differentiated perspectives on trends and developments affecting the investment landscape so that they can make more informed decisions about how to invest. “We are not pitching products,” says Lyman. “We are sharing insights.” As an example, he notes that the firm was able to leverage the knowledge of its UK investment professionals to provide its clients around the world with extensive information about the potential market, trade and economic ramifications of Brexit within hours of the vote. Likewise, Invesco clients in Asia and Europe benefited from in-depth analysis of the implications of the recent US presidential election. “That was a late night,” jokes Lyman. “The emails started hitting my in-box at 3 a.m. from Japanese colleagues asking for commentary, before Clinton had even conceded.”
In furtherance of its goal of providing clients with the most up to date and informed commentary, Invesco recently entered into a partnership with the Judge Business School at Cambridge University in the U.K. The goal of the partnership is to pair Invesco’s practical knowledge of markets, asset classes and the global economy with Cambridge’s deep and broad-based academic research in these areas, resulting in deeper understanding for both parties. “In addition to their strong expertise in traditional areas of investment management, we are particularly excited about the cutting edge work that Cambridge is doing in developing fields such as fintech and predictive analytics since we believe that this will allow our clients to benefit from the latest research in these areas.”
Lyman acknowledges that the pace of change in the asset management industry is dizzying, but he notes that Invesco will constantly be striving to provide excellent service to its clients under any circumstances and that offering them relevant, timely and actionable thought leadership content is a crucial element of that goal. “I love what I’m doing now,” he says. “I truly believe in the company and our purpose of helping people to get more out of life by delivering a superior investment experience. The opportunity to play a wholly different but still important role within the firm is gratifying for me. I feel fortunate that after 16 years here, I still get to meet new people and I continue to learn new things about the firm, our clients and the industry every day.”