Having known Jeremy Balfour-Melville, co-founder of Malloch Melville Investment Managers, for a while, I stumbled into the delightfully charming Scran and Scallie knowing this interview would be an open and honest one, writes Alex Foster. Therefore I wasn’t too surprised when, ordering myself a salad, Balfour-Melville commented that he thought I was a big tough Geordie made from gravel and bits of broken glass. Sadly the reality is a composite of sawdust and delicate china.
Balfour-Melville on the other hand is tough-willed, quite simply because he’s had to be. Balfour-Melville set up his own investment management firm in 2015 alongside co-founder Thomas Malloch in an Edinburgh market that was already well populated. But investment experience is something that has been in his family for generations.
‘My family history is rooted in stockbroking, both my mother and father came from stockbroking backgrounds,’ he explains. ‘My grandfather was an investment manager at the Scottish Investment Trust, but interestingly this was after he was a Japanese prisoner of war who built the Burma Railway and the bridge over the river Kwai.’
After leaving school, Balfour-Melville got a degree in business studies, shadowing a senior investment manager at Wise Speke in Newcastle during his placement year.
‘I had some knowledge of what goes on in a broking firm as I had done filing and other menial tasks during summer holidays for my father’s firm.
‘Throughout university I’d never had a job that wasn’t in some way involved in stockbroking – I think this made me realise all I was ever going to do was stockbroking.’
Following this, Balfour-Melville joined Redmayne Bentley in Leeds in 2000 on a beginner’s salary of £8,000.
‘That seemed just about right to me (and was more money than I had ever seen at that point) until I could prove I could pass the professional exams,’ he jokes. ‘But joining Redmayne Bentley allowed me to become my own man. It was daunting, as any first step on the career ladder is.’
Baelfour-Melville spent 10 years at Redmayne before relocating to Edinburgh, joining Charles Stanley for three years, then making the decision to break away and set up his own firm.
‘When Thomas and I set up Malloch Melville, it was a step into the unknown in terms of setting up and running our own business.
‘But the greater risk was not doing it and remaining on at jobs in large firms where we felt we had reached the end of our career progression at far too young an age.’
Though a daunting task, I’m keen to know if there were any advantages Balfour-Melville had which helped him break into the market in 2015.
‘We eventually got the green light from the FCA a year later in mid-2016, which gave us time to plan meticulously and fine-tune our investment process and proposition,’ he explains. ‘We never let the fact that the industry is very mature in Edinburgh deter us. You just need to create your own niche with a smaller target audience and fine-tune your plan to that.’
Now Balfour-Melville finds being the co-captain of his own ship a joy, especially after years of working for larger firms.
‘The thing I enjoy the most is the fact that we don’t have shareholders other than ourselves to answer to,’ he expresses. ‘This means that we can make decisions for the long term benefit of our clients.
‘I’ve spent my career being told it was not possible to have a dream of working for yourself in our industry, so it feels incredibly rewarding to be onto something with Malloch Melville.’
GLASS HALF FULL
‘We are happier at work than at any point in our careers and would recommend to anyone fed up in their current roles to have a go – it is possible!’
GLASS HALF EMPTY
‘If you are two/three years into running your own business and you feel the glass is half empty, then you’re in the wrong game.’