‘There is no excuse not to manage risk’
Ingenious’s Guy Bowles talks to Jenny Lowe about mastering maths, spurning Madoff and realising his entrepreneurial ambitions.
In 2001, Guy Bowles left his coveted role as director of Newton Investment Management to take on a postgraduate course in finance and mathematics at Imperial College London.
The self-confessed maths geek admits studying is not everyone’s idea of fun, but for those that know him it certainly didn’t come as a surprise.
He explains: “I had some equity in Newton so when we sold the business [to Mellon Bank], I had some cash, which meant that I didn’t have to work for a while if I didn’t want to. That is what I chose to do.
“It isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – a gap year is usually going around the world or something. When someone who didn’t know me well heard about it, they were baffled.”
He was sat in the maths department of Imperial’s Kensington campus contemplating a PhD when he was headhunted for the head-honcho role at Ingenious Asset Management.
Maths, however, is not just a hobby for Mr Bowles. It has played an important role in his career since his first job as a graduate trainee at Singer & Friedlander (later Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander) in 1986.
“After 12 months, [the company] allowed me to act as a private client portfolio manager and look after some money for their clients. That is where it all began. I was there for three years and after a while specialised in running smaller companies,” Mr Bowles explains.
“At this point I was approached by Banque [BNP] Paribas to work on the broking side for smaller companies. I joined them in 1989. They were putting a team together with me and two other guys – I was joining on Friday and they were joining on Monday. [But] also joining on Friday was a new head of securities and the first thing he did was freeze all recruitment, including the rest of my team.”
Having joined with a plan to create a “great smaller companies team”, Mr Bowles was left contemplating his next move.
He says: “They very kindly didn’t get rid of me and after a month they offered me a role in the equity derivatives team, which I was delighted to take. This was really because of my maths background – they saw me as someone that would be good at working with institutional clients.”
This, according to Mr Bowles, gave him his most valuable insight – an experience of both the fund management and broking worlds.
“It was pretty clear to me which side I was more suited to. I just did not suit the broking culture at all,” he says.
So taking a pay cut, Mr Bowles took a job at Newton Investment Management – a period which, he says, “shaped me in terms of what I am doing now”.
He adds: “I joined Newton when they had £1bn in assets and 100 employees, and then we grew that to £23bn, 1,000 employees and sold it to Mellon Bank in 2001. I found that experience of growing a business hugely exciting and rewarding.”