Tell me a little about yourself: I am male, pale and no longer young. I am also the beneficiary of significant privilege (see “what motivates you” below). I am married with three children. Our eldest is heading towards 14, and my involvement with home education at the moment is being around for him and his brother (our youngest, 10) when they have questions on what they have been set. My wife is doing the heavy lifting with our daughter (12) who has Down syndrome – she (my wife) has the patience of a saint! We have had a puppy in our lives for the last 7 months – a great way to exercise.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? I will start with (what I consider to be) a humorous anecdote – and then I will answer the question properly. I was once invited to present at an event heavy with top-flight academics alongside senior investment practitioners. I decided to let my money-weighted return hobby horse out for a gallop. It is about the time average growth rate rather than the ensemble average growth rate – and essentially my presentation was an invitation to throw away mean variance optimisation as it was not fit for purpose. If I had truly thought ahead, I would have reviewed the guest list and taken evasive action. At the end of the presentation, Harry Markowitz’s hand shot up. I had just attacked / dismissed his life’s work. He talked at length, and by the time he mentioned ‘the covariance matrix of the residuals’ I was in a blind panic – there was no way I was going to be able to answer his question. Thankfully he just needed to get things off his chest, and ended up not asking a question. Apparently the relief on my face was a picture to behold!
More seriously, I count my work with the senior leadership team of WTW’s investment business last year as a career highlight. I was asked to hold a workshop on purpose – drawing on the TAI work in 2018 on purpose and value creation. It turned into multiple engagements and ended with the wiring of a new purpose and vision statement. I can’t go into details here, but the outcome was a significant source of personal pride for me. And definitely a career highlight.
What is your favourite thing about working for TAI? The team nudges out quality engagement with members as my favourite – but it is close. I love the members of the Thinking Ahead Group. They range from unparalleled experience to young and enthusiastic, but are committed to each other – and serving our membership as best they can. I am a better person, and my life is better because of them.
What motivates you? Multiple things. I was brought up with a Protestant work ethic (assuming that is a real thing). I seem to have an intrinsic love of learning, and of pursuing excellence. And over time, and through travelling to a number of very poor countries, I slowly came to realise how privileged I was. I could easily have been born in Madagascar, or a Delhi slum etc. But a seminal moment was my daughter’s open heart surgery when she was only 13 weeks old. For the 24 hours post-surgery she was kept alive on ICU by a 1-2-1 nurse who had 8 years of experience – and was paid less than the starting salary we paid to our graduate intake. That was the seed behind my interest in value and purpose. I find it interesting, during the Covid19 lock down, to observe who the key workers are – who we depend on – and how we have historically paid and treated them…
Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life? Meryl Streep. Who wants to be boxed?
Where is your favourite place to go to unwind? The Antbear guesthouse, an ecolodge in the foothills of the Drakensburg mountains. We have been 4 times so far, and we never want to leave.
What do you listen to when you need to relax? I am currently seriously into Billie Eilish. After that, my choice for relaxing would mainly feature female vocalists like Diana Krall, Eva Cassidy, Natalie Merchant – but Leonard Cohen might sneak in. And there would probably be some classical and some Irish folk music.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be? You don’t get to choose the cards you are dealt. You only get to choose how you react.