Jeff Prestridge  

Alan Steel: 'He was a beacon in an industry not known for its lights'

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

It’s why he was such a successful business person. It’s why he was a brilliant, confident speaker, full of wit and funny anecdotes. It’s also why he was a super financial columnist.

He would have been a formidable full-time journalist, although I am not sure he would have liked reporting to an editor telling him what to do.

Sadly, the Woodford debacle did it for us. We held opposing views on Woodford’s culpability in the wake of the suspension of the Woodford Equity Income fund in May 2019. He defended Woodford, I didn’t.

When I didn’t run some of the comments he made supporting Woodford, it was the beginning of the end. Weeks later, he texted me to say our relationship was over and that he would never speak to me again. He was true to his word (and I knew he would be).

It doesn’t detract from my view of Alan. No way. He was a brilliant ambassador for the financial adviser community. Of course, he was interested in building a successful business – and loved getting new clients – but he always put consumers first. He was a consumer champion before the term was invented.

A very kind individual 

But there were other aspects to Alan that swept me away. Underneath the self-confident exterior lay a very kind individual. When my dad was about to retire from a lifetime spent as a commercial salesman, Alan sorted out his pension (dad was always self-employed).

He used the open market option to secure dad a higher lifetime income. More importantly, he ensured the annuity would not die with dad, but continue at half rate in the event of his death. For more than four years, mum has benefited from Alan’s financial acumen. Like me, she is devastated by Alan’s death (she had a little bit of a crush on him).

Alan was also kind to me. He would always support my charity raising endeavours with generous donations. Brathay Trust, in particular, benefited from his kindness. He also arranged for me to travel up to Scotland and deliver a speech at a dinner to celebrate his business’s 40th anniversary. 

Although a fellow journalist told me later that he had been Alan’s first choice but couldn’t do it – but I wasn’t that bothered. I was still honoured to be asked. For the record, I don’t think Alan really listened to my words. I suspect he believed he could have delivered a better speech himself, and he’s right. He was a born raconteur, I am not.

In the end, Alan’s bloody-mindedness did for him. He was an anti-vaccine supporter and Covid-19 sadly took his life.