(Bill Hunt, chartered wealth manager at Raymond James)
Roll up! Roll up! This week’s Pub Club is a first for the series. An interview with two wealth managers at once is nothing new, but two wealth managers from different firms? Unheard of. Could not be done. Compliance nightmare. It is a good thing that Bill Hunt and Dan Partridge, chartered wealth managers at Raymond James and Walker Crips, respectively, go way back, and have shared similar trials and tribulations throughout their careers in the industry.
I joined them for a couple of pints at Graze, a delightfully charming modern bar in Bristol, to hear their stories, writes Alex Foster.
Growing up in Wales, Hunt studied economics at Cardiff University.
‘I was a good Welsh boy who didn’t want to leave his mum too early in life,’ he jokes. ‘I was also an international hockey player and played in a band pushing for a record deal, so there was a multitude of things that kept me in Cardiff.’
At this point, Hunt vents to me about his frustrations of Kajagoogoo, a band that emerged after his band, Cala Go Go, had already been scaling the dizzy heights of the Cardiff pub and club scene during the pre-New Romantic era of pop. Sadly, he did not have the money to sue them at the time.
Pulling myself away from the image of Hunt dressed as some sort of regal pirate with a perm (which he insists was not his style) and back to the investment world, Hunt details how his first foray into the industry was through a stockbroking firm called Heseltine Moss.
‘I was working on a farm for a mate of mine at the time, and in 1981, I met an accountant at my local pub who told me that “a mate of his was looking for a trainee”,’ he explains. ‘I got the job a short while after and started as a trainee stockbroker for Heseltine Moss, on £3,600 per year!’
‘I’d always been tempted by London, so I moved to a London firm called Capel Cure Myers, before I was headhunted by Richards Longstaff, an IFA firm, working in an office just across the road from here in Bristol.’
Richards Longstaff folded when the 1987 crash came along and Hunt returned to Capel Cure Myers, which had opened an office in Cardiff. He then moved to Brewin Dolphin, where he became managing director of its Cardiff office.
‘I later moved to WH Ireland, before moving to Pritchard Stockbrokers, spending several years there, where I met Dan [Partridge].’
Enter Partridge, who gives me a touching summary of his discovery of the investment world as a teenager.
‘I was raised in a farming community in the Cotswolds – certainly not an affluent life, but I had a paper round and many other part-time jobs as a kid, which put money in my pocket.’
‘I remember delivering papers to this big house every week on my paper round, and there was an Aston Martin parked in the drive,’ he recalls. ‘One day, I stopped while the owner was outside and asked him what he did for a living. He told me he was a retired stockbroker and I told him I needed to know more about this line of work.’
(Dan Partridge, chartered wealth manager at Walker Crips)
Partridge began visiting the man every Sunday. Armed with £500 he had scraped together from his paper round over the years, they sat down and went through the Financial Times together.
‘He helped me pick stocks by explaining how the markets worked, P/E ratios, dividend yields, cover and so much more.’
American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said that ‘a single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than 10 years mere study of books’ – a notion Partridge agrees with.
‘I remember him telling me: “50% of what you see is probably rubbish, and the other 50% is definitely rubbish”.’
One of Partridge’s first buys was a company called Marley Tiles, which he bought into at 87p and sold for £1.25, making £120 profit. It was the first time he had ever seen a £20 note. By the time he was 19, he had turned that initial £500 into more than £20,000.
‘For me, it was a way out of a poor background,’ he muses. ‘The factory I worked in at the time was full of people getting in on the game. We all got paid so little that this was a bigger focus for us.’
However, the 1987 crash came tumbling down on him.
‘I lost a load (£10,000 in a month – this was three years wages),’ Partridge says. ‘I remember my friend, the retired stockbroker, asked whether I had told my parents about my losses, to which I said “no”. He then said two things: “don’t tell your parents” and “have you got any more cash?”’
Partridge sold the car he had just bought for £2,200, and by Christmas was back up to £10,000, backing blue chip and mid-cap stocks.
‘I had been interested in making the professional transition into the stockbroking world, but I was basically told that I was a poor boy and I’d just be making the tea.’
Partridge decided to head to Australia for a couple of years, eventually making the professional transition in 1999. Partridge joined US stockbroking firm Edward Jones, where he made an impression through its EU operations, before he moved on to Seymour Pierce Bell. The company was bought by SP Angel and Partridge moved to Pritchard, where he met Hunt.
‘Pritchard’s set-up seemed very appealing,’ Hunt says. ‘It was a private company; a firm where I knew I could operate how I wanted without the influence of someone in London telling me what to do.’
However, Pritchard eventually turned out to be majorly flawed. In 2012, the firm was shut down by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with two of its former directors fined and banned for failing to protect client money in a reckless manner.
‘When the FCA shut Pritchard down, we were left in limbo,’ Hunt recalls. ‘We had to turn to our clients with all their questions and say, “we honesty have no idea what is going on”.’
‘Thankfully, the FCA ensured all my clients got covered for their losses through the compensation scheme. But for us, with our own money in a private company, we weren’t covered by the FSCS [Financial Services Compensation Scheme]. Our pension pots were absolutely decimated.’
‘We were lied to and it all turned to ash,’ Hunt continues. ‘But one benefit was that it allowed us both to develop a model which we both carried forward to where we are today. This model was basically that we can run our own business and manage our own costs.’
Partridge adds: ‘In many ways, I thank Pritchard and all the rest – I’ve learnt so much about the industry.’
It’s safe to say that the positive situations Hunt and Partridge find themselves in now at their respective firms are a far reach from the turbulent experiences they have previously endured.
‘What I’ve got now with Raymond James is ideal for me,’ Hunt explains. ‘I have a big name behind me, great security for my client’s assets, but most important for me, is the freedom. I can run my own life and run my own business, free from any middle manager, and things like their compliance are realistically great for me. I can’t imagine leaving.’
‘I love it here at Walker Crips, too. It’s got a great history, extending back to the two guys who founded the firm following World War l,’ follows Partridge. ‘It’s independent, but, like Bill said, the compliance is terrific. I genuinely see it as an asset, not a liability. I can take on people and do things here that I wouldn’t ever have been able to do elsewhere.’
So, how do they both summarise their careers and their individual learning curves in the investment world?
Partridge has an interesting take: ‘I’d have to refer to an old Clint Eastwood quote from The Outlaw Josie Wales: “Well, ma’am, the good Lord giveth and the good Lord taketh away, and nobody really knows why.” That, for me, is the greatest economic statement ever.’
Much like Eastwood himself, Hunt fires the last shot: ‘And as soon as you think you know what’s next, you’re dead.’