York is a city drenched in history. With one of Europe’s biggest gothic cathedrals dominating the skyline and locals claiming there is a pub for every day of the year, it is no wonder my guest today is proud to call himself a born-and-bred Yorkshireman, writes Katie Gilfillan.
Venturing into one of these plentiful pubs, the Black Swan Inn, I am greeted by Wesley Coultas, an investment director at Walker Crips, and the sound of a ruckus in the room next door. Coultas informs me that a beloved member of his team is retiring after 21 years and they are all enjoying her leaving lunch.
Coultas notes that the impressive longevity of staff in the northern office builds trust with clients, 90% of which are classed as locals.
‘The average length of service at Walker Crips in York is around 15 years,’ he says. ‘We have 10 people in the office who have been with us for over 20 years! I think this says a lot about the company.’
‘I have been here for 22 years myself,’ he adds.
After starting out as the filing boy straight out of school, he has come a long way, if you were to ask his teachers.
‘I was a bit cheeky at school, and now they have my business cards in their staff room! Oh, how times change.’
He has been through a lot over the course of the office’s history. Originally part of what was London York at the time, the firm merged with Walker Crips in 2005.
‘It created perfect synergies for their existing business and ours,’ he reflects.
We pause briefly while I order the steak and stilton pie and Coultas orders a fish cake.
‘He’s going to be hungry later just having a single fish cake,’ I think to myself. Oh, how wrong I was. The staff were not lying about the portion sizes here – the fish cake was approximately the size of my face.
Having been with the firm for more than two decades, it must be an enjoyable place to work, so I ask Coultas about the working culture up north.
‘We are a tight-knit financial services group in York – I play football with local IFAs,’ he says.
It seems that another factor contributing to the positive culture here is the benefit of having complete autonomy from Walker Crips’ London office. Coultas notes that this it is imperative when managing direct equities for clients, as it gives way to a whole range of different options, where a one-size-fits-all attitude just doesn’t work. He mentions one area in particular where he is seeing value.
‘I’m seeing UK equity as being undervalued. Marston’s is a good opportunity at the minute, as it’s yielding 7% and has a robust balance [sheet].’
UK equities could very well be his ticket to the gravy train, I reflect as I finish my gravy-soaked pie.
All puns aside, conversation quickly turns to other areas of interesting investments. A pretty hot topic at the moment is environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, and I am keen to get Coultas’s opinion on the matter.
‘ESG is the future – we’ve got to change our mindset to cater for a more ethical future.’
He adds that it is not as clear cut as some people might think.
‘Some funds say they’re ethical, yet their top holding might be GlaxoSmithKline. A lot of people would contest and say this holding is not ethical at all. It’s all about perception.’
Coultas continues to surprise me and gives an insight into his life outside of work and his very interesting hobby, collecting and showing off his bonsai trees. Piquing my interest, he shows me photos, and they are very beautiful.
‘My favourite bonsai tree is the Acer Palmatum “Deshojo”, which is translated to “red dancing monkey”.’
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‘Brexit. We will survive Brexit, we will still have food and water, life will go on. We are a resilient people!’
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