Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m well into my fifth decade of working in financial services – the City is unrecognisable (both physically and in its core business lines) from the place where I started work in 1980. After a degree in Modern History at Oxford University, I joined the small London investment office of a Canadian Life insurance company and was lucky enough to be given the chance to run equity portfolios within a couple of years. After spells of proprietary trading at Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) and Phillips and Drew (now UBS), I set up my own business market making in single stock options. For a few years I was a “red jacket” local on the LIFFE market before the trading floor was closed down in 1998. I traded “on-screen” for a further 13 years before closing the business in 2011. I then switched career, taking a qualification in compliance before joining what was then a very small consultancy newly established in London, where I stayed for a decade before moving to Cosegic last year (2022).
What excites you about working for Cosegic?
The most exciting and enjoyable phases of my career have been working with small organisations that have big upside potential. They pay the closest attention to what their clients want and every member of staff has the opportunity to make a difference. Both of these are definitely true at Cosegic.
The two-centre locations of Cosegic, with a significant part of its operations based outside London in Hitchin, has created a very strong, team-based culture where everybody looks out for each other. A “great place to work” equals retention of both staff and clients for the long-term.
Why did you choose to work in the compliance industry?
I’m a latecomer to the industry and the first 30 years of my career might seem unconnected to my subsequent move into compliance. However, I’ve worked at the very sharp end of financial services so I know the pressures of trading and running a small business. As it happens, both these experiences are very relevant to running a small hedge fund which is one of our core areas of expertise.
What areas do you see as the biggest challenges, and what opportunities come with them?
Compliance consulting is first and foremost a people business. For me, attracting, developing, and retaining key talent is the biggest challenge and the one to which we devote a lot of time and resources.
The fast pace of regulatory change has been another fact of life for as long as I have been in compliance, with politics usually the primary driver. The years following the 2008 financial crisis saw a raft of new regulation aimed at curbing some of the perceived excesses. Recently, the regulatory tide has well and truly turned, with an emphasis on the UK using its newly won freedom post-Brexit to gain competitive advantage by scrapping unnecessary restrictions. Frequent rule changes can of course be a curse for those working in financial services, but they also underline the need to access first-class compliance support.
What are you working on at the moment?
Looking after the compliance needs of a portfolio of clients is the daily constant of consulting. That includes helping business start-ups jump the hurdle of FCA authorisation and ensuring that regulated firms meet the expectations of regulators, clients and investors alike.
I’m also putting a lot of effort into ensuring that our subject matter leader programme is 'best in class'. Our regulatory expertise is a key differentiator, and it is vital that we are consistent in delivering to our clients up-to-date insights and peer benchmarking across the regulatory spectrum.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Recruit outstanding people rather than those that tick all the boxes. The former will learn what they don’t know very quickly and are much more fun to work with.
Describe yourself in three words.
Tall, thoughtful, methodical.
Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
My wife, Karen, and I have been doing up a house on the Suffolk coast over the past year, so the logistics of moving back is keeping us very busy at the moment. We’ve also taken on an allotment in our village which has returned disconcertingly quickly to a state of nature.
Sport and keeping fit is a preoccupation – early morning swims in the North Sea, tennis and exercise classes. I love walking and recently completed a 26 mile charity hike in the Cotswolds with one of my two sons.
I also love reading and acquiring books – my wife is losing a long-term campaign to downsize my collection.