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Pub Club with Tom Sparke, GDIM

Pub Club with Tom Sparke, GDIM

As I sit in the back of an Uber speeding down a country lane on the outskirts of Cambridge without another car in sight, it is clear to me that I am definitely not in London anymore. No, I am not escaping a successful heist of the Bank of England, despite what my Uber driver seems to think. I am actually on my way to meet GDIM investment manager Tom Sparke for a spot of lunch, writes Katie Gilfillan.

We meet at The Golden Ball Inn in Boxworth. Sparke tells me it is a firm favourite and lets me know the quality is due to it being a family-run pub.

‘I have been coming here for over 10 years. It’s the only decent pub for miles,’ he says.

After a toss up between the salmon and the roquefort penne, we decide to choose one each and dive right into how he came to be on this different career path after studying psychology and management at university.

He says: ‘I was at Transact for 18 months. While here, I was commuting from Cambridge into London every day. I cycled to the train station, then took two trains to get there, all while studying for my investment management qualifications.’

After a hefty commute for more than a year and a half, it is no wonder that when the opportunity emerged to work at GDIM the timing could not have been more perfect.

‘I had just completed my qualifications, and the location was 15 minutes from my house,’ he says. ‘I really fell on my feet. Obviously, this has been the best fit for me as I have been here for 10 years!’

Sparke explains that he originally worked at Gibbs Denley Financial Services, but the business later split up into two different firms. GDIM now provides investment management services, not only to Gibbs Denley, but to a number of different firms.

With only three investment managers there, it is safe to say it is a close-knit team. Sparke tells me that he and a colleague are responsible for managing 15 model portfolios, needing to take a view on everything – all asset classes, vehicles and strategies.

‘Since [colleague] Ben has come along, over the years, he has proven himself to be a valuable asset – he’s my right-hand man.’

You can certainly see the Sparke in his eyes as he talks about his team.

‘I feel like decisions [in a smaller firm] happen faster. Big decisions are made in a room with only five people.’

Ten years ago, Sparke’s main job was to move the business away from working on a bespoke basis to centralise the proposition, which happened to coincide with the bottom of the market after the financial crash.

‘We needed a lot of protection in my eyes – more fixed income! However, looking back, we probably should have filled our portfolios with equity and just ridden the wave all the way back to the top. Hindsight is a fine thing,’ he says.

‘The good thing about working around this time is that it sets expectations; it teaches you not to panic in crazy situations. There just isn’t time to panic – it’s all action stations. Hold on and have a little patience.’ 

After finishing our mains and enjoying his Take That reference, I am surprised to discover that Sparke has dabbled in illustration since university (hence the quirky image choice below).

‘A friend and I actually created our own children’s book,’ he reveals. ‘He wrote the story, while I illustrated the pages. It’s called Brollo, a story about an umbrella who doesn’t like the rain, which was a super fun project to be involved with.’

After organising a signed copy of Brollo to be popped in the mail, I realise this is definitely one edition of Pub Club to never forget.

GLASS HALF FULL:

There’s still a lot left in equity markets, although we are cautious, we have decent conviction in our equity portfolios.

GLASS HALF EMPTY:

A classic answer…Brexit

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