When I was young, what did young boys want to do when they grew up? Army generals, explorers, scientists, pilots, engine drivers all come to mind. Back then, ‘financial life planning’ as a concept would have been scoffed at, but not now.
Being an Army child (Kuala Lumpur, Malaya) we were forever moving as my father got posted. I have lost count of the schools I have been to, but I knew that making friends on day one was imperative.
In the summer of 1979 when I was 25 I faced key decisions: take my place at Cambridge University to study for a B.Ed, or get married. An ex member of the Military Intelligence suggested that I talk to a friend of his. Within weeks I was working for Imperial Life of Canada, and I married Diane in the September.
The year 1979 was pivotal on the wider stage, with the May general election putting Margaret Thatcher in power. Little did I know then when I embarked on my career in financial services based in London, just how powerful these changes would be.
Imperial Life led to Commercial Union, then to Royal Life and on to Scottish Amicable for the ‘Yuppie’ years 1984-1990. Concentrated learning amongst some great characters, all within the epicentre of the financial revolution (well not quite, that was the City, whereas I was based in the more reserved Mayfair).
Having served the needs of ‘brokers’ as they were called I was then invited to become one. It was more than that. I was asked to head up the London financial planning office of PKF (Chartered Accountants) and my first day was spent dumping dead pot plants into bin bags. An inauspicious start to a 10-year spell. However I was now able to give impartial and unbiased advice to clients – which I took to like a duck to water. What a beginning of my advisory career: the Poll Tax riots; Thatcher resigns and John Major takes over; Desert Storm; a major UK recession (it was in 1991 that we moved to Harpenden). In September 1992 Black Wednesday and the exit from the ERM.
A decade later I am asked to join Grant Thornton (Chartered Accountants) in 2000 to head up their London Financial Planning team, which I did until early 2013. Welcome to the bursting ‘dot-com bubble’; Foot and Mouth; Twin Towers, another Iraq war.
The big learn is that life goes on no matter what the external ‘noise’ or environment and you simply can’t plan for the unexpected or the uncontrollable.
With almost a quarter-century of working with accountants and by now in my late-50s I knew that I needed something more colourful and with more freedom and independence of voice and action. This was when the paths of mine and Alan Smith began to cross and before we knew it, I had flown the gilded cage and joined Capital in February 2013 and haven’t looked back.
As a Director I am responsible for a client portfolio of about 30 wonderful families with a specialism in the media sector, along with duties relating to Finance and Marketing.
Family: married to Diane, three daughters – Charlotte, Sophie and Olivia
Sport: was an amateur but devoted Rugby Union player up to age 48. I now manage and coach the Harpenden RFC 2XV. I follow Saracens.
Pub: my favourite has to be the Alford Arms in Frithsden near Ashridge.
Place: that part of north Northumberland between Alnwick and Berwick which is my mother’s homeland centred around Wooler. Wild, remote, empty and beautiful.
Book: the one I loved reading years ago is ‘The story of San Michelle’ by Axel Munthe and the one that most changed my thinking about economics was ‘Fooled by randomness’ by Nassim Taleb.
Holiday: would be Nice on the French riviera.
Film: very difficult because I love cinema and film (as opposed to movies) but I will plump for Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garret and Billy the Kid’