(Pictured above: Alex Foster, left, Simon Powell-Jones, right)
Since joining Citywire, one of the most fascinating revelations I’ve come across is how diverse and unusual the paths into wealth management are, writes Alex Foster.
Simon Powell-Jones, senior investment director at Investec Wealth & Investment’s Exeter office, is a perfect example of how building a career in the financial world is anything but a straight line.
Sitting down in the delightful Rendezvous Wine Bar, with fishy delicacies of brill and bream on their way, Powell-Jones details his life before Investec and just how varied it has been.
After studying a history degree, Powell-Jones worked as an estate agent from 1988 to 1989.
‘This was a tough period for the property market, as mortgage tax relief was withdrawn – a real baptism of fire – but I very quickly decided that it wasn’t for me.’
He then went on to study a postgraduate decorative and fine art course with multinational art dealer Sotheby’s, which led him to a job with Bonhams auctioneers.
‘Like most people, I started as a porter but then moved to the furniture and rugs department in Chelsea,’ he explains.
‘The pay was dreadful, however, the work was fascinating – but not always glamorous. One day I recall rolling out a Chinese carpet only to find that a cat had done its business on one of the corners. It was at this point I thought it might be time to move on.’
Following this, Powell-Jones joined a Mayfair-based 18th-century English furniture dealer called Stair & Co.
‘This was a wonderful experience, dealing with super high net worth clients. However, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, our American clients, who were our key buyers, stopped travelling and sales ceased, too.’
Powell-Jones could see the writing was on the wall, so he moved with his family to the South West, entering another contrasting profession.
‘I begged my friends at the Otter Brewery for a job and subsequently spent the next five years happily brewing beer,’ he says. ‘Sounds idyllic, but, on top of being physically demanding, it is in many ways like making the same cup of tea every day – so five years of that was enough for me.
‘I’d always considered going into finance, and I wanted a career with longevity, that provided an intellectual challenge, and I wanted to deal with people.’
After talking to friends and family, he took the SFA Registered Representative examination, passing in the summer of 2000. He sent his CV out and received an offer from Christows Stockbrokers in 2001.
Christows bought Williams De Broë in 2007 before they were subsequently taken over by Investec in 2012, with Powell-Jones remaining throughout these two transitions
‘As you can imagine, there has been little turnover. I’m still working today with the man who I sent my CV to way back at the end of the dotcom boom.
‘It’s been a big learning curve over the last 20 years – portfolio management has changed so much over this time. But it has been even stranger for clients who have been with us for years – their portfolios are unrecognisable from what they would have had 20 years ago.’
Although Powell-Jones informs me that the Exeter branch is one of the smaller Investec offices, the team has the freedom to make its own decisions while working off the central research the company provides from London.
‘One of the most impressive things is our research team and what they find,’ he says. ‘There’s an average of 19 years’ experience across them. One really underappreciated area I like is structured products, an area where I feel our research team is the best in the business.
‘People tend to dislike structures, especially post the financial crisis, when we saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent losses on the structures they were backing.
‘This is why diligent research is required,’ he adds. ‘However, they [structured products] do offer protection on the downside and decent returns in the long run, even if markets are difficult over a few years. I like this defined return element and believe it offers clients something different.’
GLAFF HALF FULL:
England’s chances in the Ruby World cup!
GLASS HALF EMPTY:
The depressing state of global politics – we seem to be heading back into a cold war type era rather than one of cooperation.