Byron Hittle – Janus Henderson Investors
When Byron Hittle decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a trial lawyer, it wasn’t because he didn’t want to be like him. Hittle just wanted a different experience than arguing cases and being at the whim of court schedules and judges, so he went the corporate route.
“I wanted to be more than just a lawyer in a law firm or an in-house attorney cranking out memos,” he says. “I wanted to be a business partner with legal expertise helping the business achieve something.”
Both skills come in handy at Janus Henderson Investors, where Hittle has been in-house counsel since 2008. Among other tasks, he’s now helping the firm develop its environmental, social and governance program from an investment perspective—an area experiencing “explosive demand” globally with investors.
“We’re an active manager, and we have portfolio managers actively picking stocks, bonds and other investments,” he says. “We’ve been known for our equity prowess, but over the last 20 years, we’ve broadened and diversified our areas of expertise around fixed-income, multi-asset and alternative-asset type investments.”
Changes in the biz
A lot of recent changes at the firm are related to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, which led Hittle and others at Janus Henderson to consider internal operations and how successful they could be while working remotely.
“We still have a significant number of people working from home on any given day, so we’re continuing to evolve how we work and how we can continue to deliver for clients and our shareholders in a new hybrid working environment,” Hittle says.
He believes the company will be most successful in a hybrid model—balancing the efficiencies of working from home with the continuing need for face-to-face interaction. For example, for big institutional investors, or boards of trustees who oversee Janus Henderson Funds, he says seeing these people cannot be replicated on Zoom. However, for other clients or for internal meetings, he says remote work has often proved just as effective.
In addition to helping the company navigate a new workplace environment, Hittle has been at the forefront in 2021 as Janus Henderson has launched six exchange-traded funds, with a seventh launching soon. There’s considerable legal work when launching a fund, he says, including getting approval from the board of trustees that oversee the suite of funds and registering the fund with the SEC and the applicable exchange.
That involves writing a prospectus and other related offering documents that are about 150 pages on average, including the objective of the fund, its investment strategies and risks, and other information that is both required by the SEC and important to investors.
“The legal department is responsible for building out the entire registration, starting with a product outline and term sheet,” Hittle says. “Overall, it probably takes four to six months on the short end, and sometimes they can take longer depending on the complexity.”
Doing right by ESG
Hittle’s other big task right now is the company’s global environmental, social and governance initiatives. How the company incorporates ESG into its investment strategy, as well as how Janus Henderson operates its own business, are questions Hittle is helping to answer.
“From an investment perspective, how are we analyzing companies and their contribution to, or reduction of global warming, and from a corporate responsibility perspective, are we hiring a diverse workforce?” Hittle asks. “What is the current make-up of our employee base and senior management, how do we better obtain a diversity of ideas through a more diverse work force, and how are we governing ourselves?”
He says the company’s senior leadership, including CEO Richard Weil, has embraced social change and has committed to making the company more diverse and ESG-investment focused. At the same time, he says Janus Henderson still needs to accommodate investors who aren’t interested in ESG investing, and “the fact that many clients are solely focused on financial returns” regardless of whether ESG factors are considered.
“We’re seeing that we can and should try harder and get creative in ways to become a more open and diverse institution, as well as provide investment solutions for clients that align with their values,” Hittle says.
An enjoyable, exciting career
Hittle’s father, a successful litigator, told him at a young age that it didn’t matter what he did for a living if it was something he enjoyed and worked hard at. When Hittle told him he wanted to be a lawyer, his dad told him there were better things to do.
So, after earning a degree in English literature from DePauw University in Indiana—where he was also in the Management Fellows program—Hittle worked for several years for Accenture in its computer consulting arm. Realizing he didn’t have the background or passion to be successful there, he earned his law degree from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and spent more than five years as an associate at Vedder Price.
There, he learned a lot about the technical aspects of asset management and corporate law and gained the skills necessary to become a successful in-house attorney. At a law firm, the lawyers call the shots, Hittle says, but for a company, it’s the CEO and other executives in charge. He’s happy to advise and strategize with the decision makers at Janus Henderson.
“There are always new initiatives and new things the company is looking to get involved in, and I’m excited about being a part of its growth plans,” Hittle says. “We’re global and have the resources and talent to deliver solutions to a wide range of clients.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2022 Edition here.
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