About

JamesHeadshots_0141
James Aitken

For over 25 years, James Aitken has advised many of the world’s most sophisticated investors. Discover why they trust him. 

James’s long story short

Beginnings as an investment consultant

James, an Australian, has worked in financial markets for 30 years, the last 22 of which have been in London. His background was foreign exchange sales and trading, helping risk-seeking investors understand then capture global macroeconomic trends.

In March 2002, James was hired for a similar role by AIG Trading. When AIG Trading was taken over by AIG Financial Products a year later, he was one of the very few people retained by Joe Cassano.

Over the next 3 years James continued to advise investors across all assets classes, whilst learning everything he could about the plumbing of the global financial system.

The rising tide

In September 2006, James was hired by UBS on their hedge fund FX desk in London, and tasked with building upon his existing relationships with buyside CEOs & CIOs. From that seat, and drawing upon his AIGFP expertise, James soon started advising people on how to short subprime, and how subprime would expose and jeopardise the plumbing.

Via the powerful UBS network, James’ daily email – Notes from a Small Island – soon became required reading for investors and policy makers alike. 

Throughout 2007 & 2008, this investment consultant’s unique ability to understand and explain the plumbing not only prevented his clients from losing money, but helped some of them make a fortune.

It was this particular period in James’s career that would lead to the founding of his macroeconomic consultancy Aitken Advisors as we know it today: in late 2008 a number of these clients strongly encouraged James to set sail on his own, as it were. And he did. His one-man consultancy Aitken Advisors LLP went live on June 1st, 2009, and grew rapidly via word-of-mouth alone.

Building reputation and rapport in economic consulting

As much as his reputation was built during periods of extreme market disruption, James always knew there were two sides to the distribution of macro outcomes: there is a tendency for macroeconomic or macro-financial advice to focus on what is going wrong, but it’s important to keep an open mind on what could go right.

While he will always take a keen interest in the plumbing of the financial system, ranging from monetary policy, to Brexit, to COVID, to strategic competition between western capitals and the CCP, to inflation, to ESG, to the climate transition and a myriad of other topics, it’s James’s thoughtful, proportionate interpretation of global events that his long-standing, loyal clients appreciate the most.

In their view, the ROI of a subscription is high. Especially since James avoids being a run-of-the-mill, group-thinking advisor. 

He doesn’t just advise clients on what is happening: he always follows up with the ‘so what?’ and ‘now what?’ whereby clients can understand exactly how to implement his ideas, across all asset classes.

Client base today

James’s global client base is today quite multidimensional. Here are just a few of his long-standing client types:

• the world’s largest family offices, endowments and foundations

• insurance and pension funds

• mutual funds

• long-only investors

• the world’s largest credit investors

• the world’s largest fixed income investors

• sovereign wealth funds

• HNWI

• special situations investors

• distressed debt investors

• and hedge funds of every description

In addition, he continues to be sought out and to advise Western policy makers, particularly when it comes to unfinished financial regulatory reform.

If James had a motto…

It would be “I want to be less wrong.”

In a world that is endlessly shouting at itself, James prefers to spend as much time as possible reading books and other material in the public domain that he believes important to his clients’ success, but which his clients may not have time to read. 

James’s bi-annual booklists are much admired by his clients, their colleagues, and their families: across the first 13 years of his business, James has dispatched over two thousand seven hundred books to clients, and there’s plenty more to come.

 

Biography

Interviews and podcasts

Testimonials
What do you get if you combine relentless curiosity, relentless reading, and relentless listening with an extraordinary network of contacts, an extraordinary memory, and an extraordinary pair of pale blue moccasins? The unique insights and colours of James Aitken. An invaluable guide to anyone trying to navigate the future of our complex world.
Henry Maxey
Chief Investment Officer, Ruffer LLP
Always avoiding the comfort of conventional wisdom and the safety of momentum trades, James has been humbly and relentlessly following the money for decades. He digs deep through plumbing as diverse as SIV liquidity, euro clearing and SFDR so we can better understand how finance works, when it’s failing, and where it’s going.
Mark Carney
Vice Chair of Brookfield Asset Management, former Governor of The Bank of Canada, and The Bank of England

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