Tell us a little bit about yourself, where do you live, work and do you have a family?
I live in Bristol with my wife and twin boys aged six. I retired in 2015 and am now a stay-at-home Dad.
Describe Oswestry School in 3 words
Green tweed jackets
Which House were you in and who were your best friends?
I was in Donne
. During GCSEs my best friends were Christiaan Schrag
and Mark Whitelaw
. During A Levels I was a boarder and it was more about the boarding house. I was in Holbache with Stu Cave
, Piers Hunt
, Rob Jenkins
, Scott Ramsey
and Roland Leung
. During the lower 6th Ranjan Chakrabarti
was also there. Ranjan was an oasis of calm and common sense in a storm of teenage chaos. In sixth form I had a girlfriend called Winnie Cheng
What did you study?
My A levels were physics, chemistry and maths. I thought I wanted to be a scientist and went to Nottingham University to study joint honours "Chemistry and Management". I absolutely nailed Chemistry at A level and knew it inside and out. But when I got to university everyone else was way ahead of me and I was completely lost on day one. Most people also had four A levels and many had an A in "Further maths", while I struggled with the regular version. Suddenly I was at the bottom of the class instead of the top and started falling behind. The practical side was also very different from school and I found that I really disliked labs. In contrast, I found the management side really interesting and I was quite good at some parts of it. So I dropped Chemistry and did single honours instead. There was no Management degree though. If you did single honours it was called "Industrial Economics", so that's what I have a degree in.
What were your student hang out spots?
Do you mean were we used to hang around during school days? That would be the cafe in town. I have no idea what it was called or where exactly it was though. Occasionally the owners would get annoyed at all the kids in there and kick us out.
There was also somewhere that Howard Burch
(R.I.P) and I would play the classic 80's video games Double Dragon and Afterburner. I think they might have been in chip shop. There were two days a week when we were allowed into town at lunchtime. You were supposed to still go to the canteen for lunch but Howard and I never did that. As soon as the bell rang we'd run to the chip shop, eat our chips on that little hill with the steps near the church, then play those video games until five minutes before lessons started. Then we'd run back to school. Good times. During sixth form, there was a pub just around the corner from Last Day. I forget the name, it's someone's living room now.
Which teacher stays with you to this day?
Loads of them. The most influential were Mrs Betty
who taught Science in what was then the junior school (1985/86) and Mr Haslem
who taught me GSCE and A Level chemistry. Although I didn't become a scientist I have a very scientific worldview and the roots of that are in Mrs Betty's Science lessons. If everyone had lessons with Mrs Betty, perhaps there would be fewer anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers! Mrs Betty was also the only teacher I remember who actually taught us something about the science of learning and how to study. She explained the science of revision and how often you should take breaks, whether you should listen to music etc and it was all based on scientific research. So she didn't just teach us what was in the textbook but brought some real life science into the classroom that was relevant and helpful to our lives. I'd love to meet Mrs Betty and thank her for the inspiration, if anyone knows how to find her. Another junior school teacher who influenced me was Mr Potter
. He was Head of the Junior School but also taught English. Every Monday he would set some sort of writing assignment and we always had to hand it in the next day. At that age, no other teacher gave homework that had to be completed within 24 hours. I found it really stressful. In Maths, Science or French you were either right or wrong but could always put down *something*. Whereas Mr Potter's homework required you to be *creative on demand*. You had to dream something up out of whole cloth. As a result I really dreaded Monday nights. But I think it might have helped me later in life when I became an analyst and had to send out 400 words 30 minutes after a news item broke. By that time I'd had another eight years of study but I like to think Mr Potter laid the foundation! Other teachers I still think about include Tony Watson
, Mr Foster
, Mr McCrea
, PS Jones
, Murray Smyth
, Jon Gibson
and "Rocket" Ron Roberts
. Mr McCrea
taught English and one year the class collectively had to do a survey. We asked to do it on smoking and he agreed. We surveyed everyone at school anonymously and perhaps surprisingly, everyone seemed to tell the truth. It turned out something like 20% smoked regularly. We were going to publish the results in some form but the headmaster Mr Templeton
heard about it and shut it down. This was perhaps my first encounter with a form of censorship politics. The truth was inconvenient so the truth got buried! I can still remember the four equations of motion from GCSE physics as Mr Roberts
tested us on them so many times and would recite them over and over, "v equals u plus at, v-squared minus u-squared is 2as" etc. I haven't needed to know them since 1991 but remember them perfectly. I think I will remember those when I'm 90 years old on my death bed. I'll probably forget my name before I forget the four equations of motion. Mr Watson
was the first person I ever met who had a sizeable music collection and he lent me a Paganini CD. I was curious about Paganini because he influenced a heavy metal guitarist I liked. At first Mr Watson thought I was setting him up for some sort of practical joke but when he realised I was serious he was happy to let me borrow it. Mr Foster
is a bit of hero to me for taking Reverend Keith
to task for claiming that evolution was "only a theory". "The Rev", as we called him, said this in a class shortly after we happened to have studied it in biology. I was really confused as in science it was taught as fact and I thought the whole thing was amazing and the concept really resonated with me immediately. It was so elegant and struck me as obviously correct and I was taught it in a science class. So I was really confused when Reverend Keith claimed it wasn't proven. I bumped into Mr Foster at break and told him this. He said evolution was completely proven not "just a theory". He said "thank you for telling me this" and stormed off towards the staff room, presumably for a showdown. It seemed to work as when I asked Reverend Keith about it later he had changed his tune. Mr Foster had science and presumably the National Curriculum on his side, so perhaps it wasn't a surprising outcome but was very welcome nonetheless. Mr Jordan
was also something of an influence. He taught computer studies but occasionally would talk about politics and his time working in the military as an interpreter of Russian radio traffic. These days teachers who speak Russian are everywhere but in the 1980's that was really rare. One of my biggest regrets is not going on the Russia trip he organised, which was only a year or two before Communism collapsed. The only reason I didn't go was that I was introverted and felt intimidated by it. I missed my chance to see it before it changed. Kids, don't be shy like me, go on those trips! I also remember the ageing woodwork teacher Mr Shelly
. He told my parents at a parents evening that I was doing really well in his class. I softly broke the news to my mum that I didn't have lessons with him. French teacher Mr Hooper
was a bit of legend. Famous for his 70's style suit among other things. We settled into a weird relationship where I was the class clown and he sort of played along so long as it wasn't too distracting. He was cool like that. But then in the second year I took it too far and once he had to kick me out of the class. This mirrored a French lesson episode years earlier in Junior School when Mr Chapman
made me stand on my chair. The German teacher Mr Helliwell
was a nice guy. He got sick of teaching and packed it in if I remember correctly. I hope life worked out ok for him.
How would your teachers remember you?
GCSE teachers would remember me as studious, well motivated and quiet. A Level teachers would probably remember me as a slacker, immature and distracted! Mr Williams
would probably remember me as the boy who was going out with Karen Tang
, because he used to get her mixed up with Winnie. Or perhaps he thought they were the same person.
Would you rather double maths or an afternoon of art?
Definitely double maths provided it was with Mr Watson
, as there's a good chance he'd spend the first period reciting Icelandic poetry, telling us about the fourth dimension and the tale of Flatland, or writing a sentence and its mirror image simultaneously with both hands.
Art was a bit of a nightmare for me as I was terrible at it and dropped it before GCSEs. The teacher was really nice though. I think he was called Mr Smith
, but I'm not sure. If I remember correctly his wife was the art teacher in the junior school.
Exams: all revision well planned or left until the night before?
During GCSEs I was a revision meister, partly thanks to Mrs Betty's "science of studying" lesson years before. In most subjects, I knew everything forwards and backwards months ahead of time. At A level, I went off piste a bit and it was a lot more chaotic. I usually copied my maths homework from Andy Bell
(a genius who is probably an Internet billionaire now). As a result I learned very little in the Lower Sixth and got an F in my mock A level. I managed to scrape a C in the final thanks to some private tuition from Tony Watson during the holidays - except that one time when he was too hungover to do it and I spent the session shopping for Alka Seltzer instead. In physics and chemistry I was a bit more organised but my level of application definitely peaked at GCSE. I blame the sixth form bar.
What did you do upon leaving Oswestry School?
After university I moved to Hong Kong to be with my then-girlfriend Winnie Cheng
. Unfortunately the relationship did not survive collision with the real world and we broke up about six weeks after arriving! Hong Kong was amazing though and I saw no reason to return to England. I ended up staying for seven years. First I was a waiter, then got my first 'proper job' at a satellite TV company called Star TV. I was a sort of management accountant, except without any knowledge or training. (Star TV became quite professional later, but at the time it was the Wild East.) Then I joined a tiny advisory company, then a small Malaysian stockbroker, then I found a job editing research reports at a 'real company', the dutch bank ABN Amro. Eventually they made me a junior equity analyst. In the 2001 crash I was laid off but another company offered me a job, this time in Seoul. It turned out to be a much better job, so getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I was responsible for...
I'm retired now but in my last job I was the Korean technology analyst for a company called CLSA. My job was to analyse Samsung Electronics, Hynix, LG Electronics and a couple of Taiwanese companies. About half my time was spent on Samsung. I had to forecast earnings, write reports and make recommendations to fund managers on whether to buy or sell the stock. From 2001 to 2007 I did the same job but covering telecom and internet stocks rather than tech stocks.
I wanted to go into my profession because...
Initially it was because it was the only thing I thought I might be able to do. I had missed the whole milk round opportunity as I moved to Hong Kong right after university and always planned to figured it out when I got there. This seems very naive now and I don't recommend that strategy! At first I waited tables, then found the job at Star TV. It was fun to be at a TV company and I saw Rupert Murdoch in the office once, but I was in something of a non-job and I knew the it would go nowhere. So I was always looking around and wondering what I could do long term. I heard about this thing called being a "research analyst" and wondered if I could do that. I had some understanding of what companies were all about from my degree and although my job was a bit of a joke, I was starting to pick up some simple financial concepts. Then I started to meet young people working in investment banks as research assistants or junior analysts. I thought that with a bit of training I might be able to do that job too. Meanwhile, I couldn't think of any other job I could possibly do. I started reading about markets, corporate finance and valuation, all stuff I never learned at uni, and found it really interesting. Even the accounting part was interesting. (That was essential and I really regretted not taking more than one accounting class at university.) By this time I had left Star TV and was in another job where I'd been sidelined from any real tasks because they didn't know what to do with me. So for six months I read textbooks all day, which was like a sort of homemade crash course MBA. When I eventually became an analyst I was one of the people known for being quite technical. I often knew more than people who had studied finance formally because I was highly motivated to understand it properly for its own sake rather than to just pass an exam. Later I formalised it though by taking the CFA exams.
The best part of my job was...
As an equity analyst you get to be your own boss to a large extent. There's not really someone telling you what to do all the time, even when you're relatively junior. There's a phone and a PC and you have to make stuff happen. It's a pretty good job if you're introverted enough that you don't want to constantly navigate office politics but extroverted enough to make presentations, meet clients and the like. Unlike many other jobs, you also are recognised directly for all your successes and failures as your name is on the report. There is immediate feedback from sales on which of your ideas are working and longer-term term feedback from various client votes and polls on which analysts they think are best. There is no sitting around wondering if anyone notices you, or if you might get credit for your work, as I imagine might be the case in some other jobs. You get to be creative in your reports, which can be a lot of fun, despite what to outsiders might appear as dry subject matter. This was especially the case at CLSA. At the time we were known as the edgy and fun broker. We had serious and sober analysis, but we also had cartoon covers on our reports and weren't afraid to say "sell". Our Chief Strategist was top of the analyst polls every year and looked like a rock star. We also had a big conference each year in Hong Kong, the climax of which was a big party followed by a private concert from someone famous such as Rihanna, Elton John or Sheryl Crow. One year it was Duran Duran, which brought on 80's flashbacks. Another positive is that I got to travel around the US, Europe and parts of Asia meeting clients. Many aspects of the job eventually got old and tedious, but I never got bored of visiting New York, San Francisco, Paris, Milan or Tokyo. In addition, the meetings could sometimes be really stimulating. Occasionally you would meet someone brilliant who would make you think about something in a completely new way. It could be tough though if you had to do three different cities in a day, as was sometimes the case, or if there were too many meetings scheduled. Once I did ten one-hour client meetings in a day. In 2013 I had kids and by 2015 I was burned out, so I decided to retire. We decided to exit the Asian expat bubble and return to England. Life is less glamorous now but a lot more heart warming.
My most memorable moment so far is...
That's a big question. Like most people my age, the most memorable moments are my wedding and the birth of my children. I'll give you a less memorable one but a moment that is more relevant to Oswestry School, which was bumping into Mr Templeton at the Hong Kong rugby Sevens. It would be have been about six or seven years after leaving school. The first thing that I noticed was that he was much shorter than I remembered. The second was that he was smoking a cigarello. He was very embarrassed to be caught smoking by an Old Oswestrian, presumably because he had suspended so many kids for it over the years. It annoyed me slightly too as I remembered how he buried that smoking survey!