Tell us about your job…
Though born and based in Newcastle, I go to London or to one of our 27 other offices most weeks. A big part of my job is meeting fund managers in person. I want to get a feel for how they approach their job and what they really think. Like all investment analysts, I absorb vast piles of research material and financial news every day. I combine all these thoughts into short, digestible ‘buy, sell or hold’ notes that go to our client investment managers. We also make a broadcast at 8.30 every morning that goes around the group. This is transmitted from London but sometimes I take part while in Newcastle.
How did you get into the financial sector?
I went to the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond and I didn’t like the idea of more desk work straight from school. Instead, I headed off to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth as an officer cadet. That way you saw the world before returning to study for your degree – in my case in electrical engineering. After a bit of travel and excitement, I didn’t find that easy! I got there in the end, got my degree and ultimately became a chartered engineer. I left the service in 1994 and studied a full-time MBA degree at Edinburgh University. That kick-started my new career in the financial world, where I have worked ever since.
What did you want to be growing up?
Fleetingly, I wanted to be a professional golfer! I was quite good as a teenager, out at Tyneside Golf Club, and I played for County Durham at a junior level. Later, I played for the Royal Navy team but I realised early on that I wasn’t good enough to take it further.
What was an early lesson in your financial career?
Firstly, always work out the numbers yourself; don’t rely upon other people’s comments or calculations. Go back to the original data, check everything and draw your own conclusions. Secondly, ask yourself what information might have been left out of a presentation or a research note – and why. Omitting comparative performance against rival funds that have done better would be a classic example.
Are you a North East sports fan?
Yes, I am a Newcastle United supporter. When I was a young boy my grandfather had two season tickets at St James’ Park. I can still taste and feel the heat of the Oxo drink we’d buy on the way in. The crowd in the Leazes End, all standing, would be so packed that children would be rolled, like logs, down to the front so they could see.
Nowadays, I drive past the directors’ entrance to St James’ Park on my way to the Newcastle office. In London, on the other hand, I can see Smithfield meat market from my desk. I’ve decided the latter contains the most turkeys but sometimes you can’t be too sure!
How did you make the jump from being a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy into financial research?
I was always a technocrat. I spent my last few years in an odd corner of the Ministry of Defence in London. I discovered I rather liked sifting huge piles of information and getting the key points onto an A4 sheet. This made me realise that I loved writing. I have since written three books, all financial histories. My past and present careers also both involve travel, socialising and meeting people, so it’s not as different as you might think.