Financial adviser Alan Steel, who passed away on Wednesday September 15, aged 74, was an extraordinary individual.
During his 46 years at the helm of Alan Steel Asset Management, he did more to raise the reputation of the financial services industry than any bloated regulator could ever achieve in 100 years of pontificating.
He was a force of nature, a formidable human being. God, he will be missed.
I first met Alan in the early 1990s when I was personal finance editor at The Sunday Telegraph. I was introduced to him by John Allison, a brilliant marketing individual (a ‘creative’), whose lunchtime company I thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, more liquid than pie and mash, but always informative and entertaining.
John had (and still has) a wonderful financial brain and knew me and Alan would be a match made in heaven.
"Boy, he’s got some stories to tell you," he informed me as a cork was pulled from another bottle of crisp Viognier.
He was right. Alan came down to see me from his bolthole in Linlithgow. I was instantly hooked. He was charismatic (and good-looking), forthright, full of stories and wasn’t frightened to pull his punches. He was a breath of fresh air: someone who despised financial wrongdoing. A perfect marriage. Like John, he also liked a drink (Rioja in particular), which endeared him to me even more.
He proceeded to feed me a string of stories over the next couple of years that lifted the personal finance pages I was putting together from the mundane to the near sublime. He helped expose a string of anti-consumer practices that the pensions industry was committing on policyholders.
He also assisted me in exposing the scandal that lay beneath the financial behemoth that was Equitable Life. He simply did not believe that its business model was sustainable – and he said so in the pages of The Sunday Telegraph.
Equitable Life came crashing down on him, threatening to put him out of business unless he shut up – it didn’t pursue The Sunday Telegraph because we had far more financial muscle to fight its bullying. Of course, Alan was right because Equitable Life eventually went into financial meltdown in late 2000.
Our relationship was two-way: he helped me write some award winning articles, and he also gained some new clients (rich ones) as readers sought his advice. When I joined The Mail on Sunday, our ‘marriage’ blossomed.
Trouble in paradise
Yet it wasn’t always hugs and kisses. We would occasionally fall out if I didn’t use one of the ideas Alan pushed my way. Alan was convinced that every idea he came up with was front page news. That was his way: he had incredible self-belief.