Jonathan Webster Feature
Co-founder and Director of Jameson Capital, Jonathan Webster, shares his fascination for financial markets and how Jameson Capital are navigating the challenges and opportunities of the modern world. Image – supplied
  • Mr Webster spent eight years at Macquarie prior to co-founding Jameson Capital, with a particular interest in agricultural assets
  • Says firm has experienced the usual growing pains since launching, but are optimistic a wealth of opportunity lies ahead
  • Announces launch of first special situations fund, aimed at plugging funding gaps brought about by pandemic

As part of our mission to interview those leading the charge in Australian real estate’s evolution, The Property Tribune spoke to Jonathan Webster, co-founder and Director of Jameson Capital.

Mr Webster has a breadth of experience in financial services and investment management, having specialised in both Australian and New Zealand markets during an eight-year stint with Macquarie Bank.

In 2015, Mr Webster departed from Macquarie to launch Jameson Capital with co-founder Nick Browne, who The Property Tribune spoke to earlier this month.

The Melbourne-based funds management firm specialises in alternative assets, with a focus on Australian real estate and private equity.

Fascination turned career

An interest in markets came naturally to Mr Webster, developing further through his studies at high school and university.

“Even when I was in high school I had a fascination with markets and that sort of just permeated into the subjects I selected in high school,” he said.

After graduating, he received a scholarship to Bond University on the Gold Coast. Here, he pursued a degree in commerce and electronic commerce in the early 2000’s, developing an interest in the evolution of new business models arising from the emergence of the internet.

“After completing those degrees I got a role at an independent platform called Netwealth Investments and there it really opened my eyes to the different asset classes that were available around the world. The platform hosts a number of different investment products and enables individual investors to access wholesale funds, shares and property trusts and all sorts of stuff.”

In 2007, Mr Webster joined Macquarie where he focused heavily on developing an agricultural platform in addition to working on hedge funds, clean technology funds, long only equity funds, global equities, Australian equities and more.

He spent the next eight years diversifying his experience by working across a variety of asset classes.

“I was conscious to always volunteer to move to new and exciting projects.”

“Whenever there was an opportunity to move horizontally or laterally within that organisation I always stuck my hand up. I think that’s a bit of a character trait, whenever there’s something shiny and new I tend to gravitate towards it,” he explained.

Returning to the Australian market

As part of his role at Macquarie, Mr Webster was often responsible for presenting Macquarie’s investment products to institutional investors across Australia and New Zealand.

Since returning his focus predominantly to the Australian market at Jameson Capital, he noted that the major differences between the markets were the size and scale of each.

“The difference between those two markets specifically is probably the weight of capital and the number of investors that are available to you.

“That’s not to say there’s no less sophistication in New Zealand, in fact they are as sophisticated as Australia across the pond,” he said.

Mr Webster commended the New Zealand market for the use of investment strategies however, highlighting some of the phenomenal returns achieved in the market given the reduced amount of money they are managing.

Jonathan Webster Jameson
Jonathan Webster. Image supplied.

Launching Jameson Capital

Mr Webster and Mr Browne worked together at Macquarie prior to the establishment of Jameson Capital, though the pair had crossed paths as early as high school through overlapping social circles and sports.

Though both were making their way up Macquarie’s ladder, Mr Browne’s focus was primarily in real estate while Mr Webster’s interest lay in agriculture and other alternative asset classes.

It was during a stint spent by Mr Browne in China managing a portfolio of retail funds that the idea for Jameson Capital was born.

“He noticed that what we were doing was really trying to develop assets offshore instead of onshore.”

“He brought to my attention that there were a number of investors that were seeking deal flow in Australia that just weren’t being serviced.”

“I guess you have to be a bit naïve to think that you can start a successful funds management business from scratch because it takes a few key ingredients that you only really learn about once you’ve started down that path, and we were naïve enough to start the business.”

Modern challenges and opportunities

Since establishing Jameson Capital in 2015, Mr Webster said the firm has experienced the difficult growing pains that come with launching a business on top of the challenges of the pandemic.

“Part of our business model sees us raise capital in particular offshore and investment them in excellent Australian development deals or structured credit deals,” he said.

Describing himself as more of a salesperson than an investment banker, Mr Webster detailed his struggles with not receiving the face-to-face interaction he values when creating business relationships.

“Being stuck behind a laptop doing Zoom or a Teams call isn’t really conducive to that sort of stuff.”

Jameson Capital refuses to let the pandemic hold them back however, as Mr Webster said the firm continues to manage well.

“We’ve been presented with that challenge but there’s nothing quite like pressing the flesh or soliciting capital on a road show,” he said.

Despite facing the trials and tribulations of Covid, Mr Webster highlighted the wealth of opportunities ahead for Jameson Capital.

“I think Australia has a huge amount of opportunity for investors, particularly offshore investors, to access.”

According to Mr Webster, Australia has long punched above its weight in many aspects, with finance no exception – and Jameson hopes to capitalise on this.

“We focus on mid-market or midsize transactions so we try to play in a deal size that’s slightly higher than an individual investor or family office could afford, but its below where the big US and European credit funds would otherwise play.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to grow into that space, to lean into it, and provide capital to not only businesses but to individual transactions,” he said.

Jonathan Webster Nick Browne
Jonathan Webster with Jameson Capital co-founder Nick Browne. Image supplied.

Finding solutions to funding gaps

Jameson Capital are doing just that – with the announcement of their first special situations fund, designed to meet the needs of investors during these trying times.

“We identified that there would be a shortfall in equity for a lot of those asset owners and went about raising a fund to plug that funding gap that they had.

“We think there’s a large weight of senior debt capital that’s available for developers and property owners to leverage those assets but in terms if building our portfolios , raising equity during a crisis is a very challenging thing and most investors tend to sit on their hands,” said Mr Webster.

To combat these issues, Jameson Capital devised a solution that would enable developers to not to have to sell an asset at a reduced price during a crisis, and not to have to dilute their equity holdings by raising more equity.

“We’ve raised $50 million for that fund and we’re currently deploying it across a number of different strategies,” Mr Webster concluded.

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