May 31, 2018
It’s funny how inspiration is sometimes only appreciated in hindsight; in many ways that’s probably the best way of looking back on the events that led to the creation of Vertem.
Back in early 2009, Matthew Riley, founder of Daisy Communications, presented at the Entrepreneurs Forum Conference at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. He recounted stories of his time as an employee in various businesses and of how he repeatedly had ideas to replicate the businesses he was at, in better and more efficient ways.
At the time I noticed several similarities in our mutual mindsets, his instinct towards unearthing and developing alternative ways of doing things, and the revelation that he kept a note pad next to his bed to jot down the ideas that would otherwise keep him up all night. The latter was something I really related to, as mentally crunching formulae and developing investment theories were often the source of sleepless nights for me.
His story of how his original telecom infrastructure business was started and then took off, of how it was able to deliver better solutions than its rivals and how that business developed into a full-service telecom provider to small and medium-sized businesses really impressed me. When I left the event I remember thinking about Matthew’s story and how I’d love to run my own business one day. I also recall thinking that as my skills only seemed to lie within the investment world, such a scenario would be unlikely to unfold.
Incidentally, I was impressed enough in Matthew’s vision and sufficiently convinced that he was destined to become a great business leader to invest in Daisy shares when they listed via a reverse takeover of an existing smaller rival. It was a decision that proved fruitful to clients both at Vertem and those of our then employers.
As the next few months developed, Gary Stockdale (who eventually set up Vertem with me) and I found ourselves frequently frustrated by the inability to invest in many interesting ideas.
Regulation had developed in the investment industry to such an extent that large firms were now having to adopt what were effectively centralised buy lists. Due to the sheer scale of assets they managed, the largest firms became more constrained to investing into the most liquid investments, whether they be funds or shares, due to the volume of money now being directed their way.
Having fallen in love with investments via the analysis of companies and thrill of pitting our wits against the market, we now found ourselves as idea implementers rather than generators. We used to discuss the potential, interest and excitement of companies outside of the FTSE 100 – or of top performing funds currently off the general radar – and how sad it was we could no longer invest in them.
Alongside this we also had our own thoughts on a more dynamic way of managing assets classes and risk. Gary said to me: “if we had our own platform, we could do a much better job for clients than this”. Suddenly, the memories of that day at the Entrepreneurs Forum flooded back, not just the desire it created to run my own business, but also the inspiration from clearly likeminded Matthew Riley, that if we did things right and did things better, we could make a genuine go of it.
When I look back now, I know that without the seed of desire and hope that was planted by Mr Riley, Vertem wouldn’t be here today.