Walking into the Cumberland Bar in Edinburgh felt a bit like swinging through the saloon doors into a deserted bar in the Wild West. The barman stopped idly polishing a glass that he had probably polished four times already that day for lack of anything else to do. Through a dusty haze, he looked up at us, somewhat dumbfounded, the silence only broken by the tinny country music playing in the background.
Or maybe that is just the reaction two English women get when they walk into certain pubs in Scotland.
Our dining partner, Craig Joiner, reassured us it is much busier in summer, being one of the few pubs in Edinburgh with a proper beer garden.
Joiner is portfolio manager at Standard Life Wealth although you’re more likely to recognise him scorching down the wing on the rugby pitch.
‘I’m blessed to be able to have two careers I enjoy’, he says looking back on his time playing professional rugby and the 12 and a half years to date he has spent within investment management.
Before we got too carried away discussing his career change, we ordered. Sausage and mash all round, although they did not have enough sausages so Joiner valiantly surrendered his for a steak club sandwich. The 18th man got his chance to step up to the plate, literally.
Back to career switches, whilst drinking pints of soda and lime, Joiner explained how he first struck up an interest in wealth management.
‘I shared a house with Will Greenwood who was a trader at HSBC in the early days. City boys used to come and watch some of the games – and they talked about markets,’ he said.
‘Everyone has to do something after they retire from rugby,’ he continued. ‘When I was aged 30 or 31 I was looking for some part-time work. I thought the CISI exams seemed like a good option as a start to an alternative career.’
Fresh off the rugby pitch, Joiner had to make a decision about his future when he took up a position as a trainee investment manager with Cornelian Asset Managers.
‘I gave up the last year of my rugby contract when I got offered a permanent role in investment management.’
Rugby union turned professional in 1995 and Joiner represented Scotland between 1994 and 2000. He also had a contract with Leicester Tigers between 1997 and 2000.
‘I played nine years of professional rugby. I played my last cap in November 2000 and finished my rugby career in June 2005.’
Joiner worked through building his qualifications and getting used to life behind a desk.
‘It was a change from being very active to sat down most of the time!’
I asked him what he does in terms of exercise now and he was quick to tell me: ‘not enough!’
At that rather opportune moment, the biggest steak sandwich any of us had ever seen – it was three storeys high – was placed in front of him.
Perhaps worried we were going to get the wrong impression of his new lifestyle, Joiner did divulge that he plays a bit of football, runs and took part in the Henley open water classic and that sees hardy swimmers go against the water flow of the Thames, in 16C without a wetsuit.
As he attempted to tackle the tower of meat and bread, conversation turned to facing another giant, the late Jonah Lomu, who he came up against in the 1995 World Cup quarter-final.
Joiner explained that one of Lomu’s crowd-pleaser moves was to run over the top of people. Even in the face of that, he was not fearful. ‘If you are the speed bump that slowed him down, that can only be a good thing.’
With that kind of unflappable character, Joiner is well suited to what can at times be a bumpy ride with markets.
‘I’ve been in the pressure cooker, it helps.’
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The uncertainty of the unwinding quantitative easing
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Despite the high valuations of equity markets in general, there is still the opportunity to make good returns from investing in companies with strong management and where their sector is well supported by structural change.