Welcome to Capital Confidential — a weekly diary column featuring the best tidbits from around the U.K.’s business and political landscape from MarketWatch sister publication Financial News.
This week: L&G fails to arouse student interest in asset management, goings-on from the FN Trading and Technology Awards, and why Tom Bradby’s name is mud in Mayfair…
Bradby takes on hedge funds
Bong! ITV News at Ten presenter Tom Bradby recently took four months off after suffering from insomnia. But the broadcaster has given City hedge funders sleepless nights with his Brexit-related social media posts. Bradby tweeted: “No-deal would mean very radical change to a low-tax, low-regulation economy, but with a very different welfare system and possibly health service. This is why it is so popular with the hedge funders and so on… in that change some people will make a lot of money (one reason it is so attractive to hedge funders) and some will lose a lot.”
A hopping mad, high-profile hedgie, speaking on condition of anonymity, says Bradby’s name is mud in Mayfair as a result. “He’s the new enemy. Those of us who are keen on Brexit like lower taxes and less regulation but disliking the EU has nothing to do with the NHS or welfare state. We have no radical plot on Brexit.”
Newly elected Brexit party MEP Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of Jacob Rees-Mogg, is among those unimpressed. “It seems clear to me that a number of City companies, including hedge funds, see great possibilities for the Square Mile freed from internationally uncompetitive practices promoted by the EU. Conflating that with other areas of policy is a misunderstanding,” she said.
City investor and diversity campaigner Dame Helena Morrissey has hit the road Beto O’Rourke-style to promote asset management to students. Morrissey tells Capital a recent study revealed companies including BlackRock, Fidelity and Legal & General tend to recruit from just seven universities in the UK. “We agreed the easy thing to do would be to get out and about a bit more,” Morrissey recalls.
So she hosted an event at Cardiff University, since L&G has a prominent office there. “It wasn’t just a Legal & General event — Mercer and HSBC Asset Management were with us,” Morrissey says. “We had adverts, free pizza, free beer and we still got about seven people. So we were going round the campus, saying: ‘There’s free wine, you just have to sit through a presentation!’” How unlike students to be slackers…
In vino veritas
Billionaire Nex founder and bon viveur Michael Spencer celebrated in style after being given the Lifetime Achievement accolade at the FN Trading and Technology Awards. Aside from his business and political commitments, Spencer is chairman of BI Wines & Spirits. “I discreetly brought along a 2000 Pomerol,” he told Capital when we enquired what he drank at the ceremony at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
He added that he maintains one of the few City financial institutions that still has a stock of fine wine. Spencer spent the morning on the day of the awards in Bayeux, Normandy, for the 75th D-Day anniversary commemorations. Alasdair Haynes, founder of Aquis Exchange, who won Industry Leader of the Year, said: “My father fought at D-Day. This was for him.”
City veteran Sir Donald Brydon stepped down as chair of the London Stock Exchange last month. Brydon infamously fell out with French former chief Xavier Rolet at the LSE, and his Gallic tussles have continued into retirement. Brydon tweeted to his 578 followers: “Did not know St Feliciene cheese is not allowed in hand luggage. Someone at Nice Aeroport will have good supper. Wiser next time.”
The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, a play about the colourful prime ministerial front-runner, has just finished a sell-out run at Islington’s Park Theatre. Expect another stage life for Jonathan Maitland’s drama if BoJo becomes PM. The show imagines an alternative future in which Boris fights his fellow MP brother Jo Johnson, à la David and Ed Miliband, for the Tory leadership. Is this a plausible scenario? Their environmentalist father Stanley Johnson thinks not. “It’s totally unrealistic,” Papa Johnson tells Capital. Stanley, whose thriller about the EU The Commissioner was made into a 1998 movie starring the late John Hurt, added of the play: “I might give that one a miss.”
Dutch hedge fund charity Alternatives 4 Children launched in London recently. A4C has raised over €1.5m since 2011, and the London kickoff was hosted by Eversheds Sutherland partner Ben Watford at the law firm’s City HQ. Prime broker Sova Capital sponsored the event with the firm’s vice-president Gary Clifford-Newman saying, “We believe passionately that financial market participants have a responsibility in ensuring a better future for our society and A4C helps some of the most deserving children in emerging economies.”
A refreshing alternative to the usual bloke-heavy hedgie bashes was the presence of so many women from the industry, including Catherine Vassallo at Credere, Lucy Balicki of Laven Partners and Augusta McKie at Hentsū. “We take a Dutch approach so I beat up; beg; don’t steal, but threaten and coerce people to give their services, time and money for free,” joked A4C executive director Marc de Kloe.
Iris van de Looij, director of the Dutch Fund and Asset Management Association, highlighted a particularly lucrative A4C fundraiser, when her firefighter husband hosted a birthday party at his fire station in The Hague. She said: “It raised thousands of euros and children said it was the best birthday party ever!”
Old City hands detect eerie parallels between Neil Woodford’s fund implosion and late Phillips & Drew stock-picker Tony Dye. At the turn of the century Kent County Council cut ties with Philips & Drew over losses driven by Dye’s (belatedly correct) belief that stock markets were overvalued by the tech bubble. Fast-forward to now and, as first revealed in Financial News, Kent County Council has grown cold on its £263m investment in Woodford’s disastrous Equity Income fund. Unlike Dye, who was fired by Phillips & Drew’s parent company UBS in 2000, and who died in 2008, Woodford will be hoping he gets a chance to turn his fortunes around.