Buzz, buzz – my wrist watch at 6.30am. In my head I countdown ‘3-2-1 Up’ and the day begins, what will the unknown unknowns be today? My opening mantra for the day is the words of Philip King who gave the keynote at a Cork Chamber event just prior to COVID that resonates with me often - ‘everyday look down and know nothing is beneath you, and everyday you need to look up and know nothing is beyond you, and between those two places you find the motive force to live day by day’.
Cold coffee from the fridge is the opening tincture of my day and I start clearing my inbox or completing document reviews residual from yesterday. I like the bird-chirping solace of early morning, it’s immersive and enables deep concentration. The next 45 minutes is a combination of work and concluding the lunch preparation, started the prior evening, for my three children who will arrive in stages to munch, grab their lunch and bolt.
Son No.1 arrives at 7.15am grabs his hot lunch flask, has a quick few words, usually funding or taxi related, and he bolts for the bus. This is my first ‘best two minutes of the day’, engaging with my eldest, launching his day - at least, that’s how I like to see it. Peace is restored for 50 minutes and Daughter No.1 arrives at 8.05am, grabs her lunch and her breakfast, ‘Love you Dad, bye Dad’ – my second ‘best two minutes of the day’. Time to rouse the 8-year-old from a slumber of pink and unicorns. While she is resisting the rise, my wife is in the throes of her departure for her workplace. Three down and one to go.
I have had three chunks of work time and my third ‘best two minutes of the day’ needs a chaperone to the school gate that is 460m from the house. ‘Love you Dad, bye Dad’ and because I am not embarrassing Dad to her, yet, a precious peck on the cheek. This is already the best day ever and its only 8.50am. I don’t return home, I need to do some thinking, process some thoughts, and clear my head. I stick in the head phones and go for an 8km run, from the school gate up and down the hills of West Cork, passing horses, sheep and cows in the hail, rain, sleet or sunshine.
I do this almost every morning and when I am back at my desk by 10am, I'm recharged. My hour running is one of the best hours of my day in terms of production. I usually process or plan my thoughts and responses to the various asks on my to-do-list. If I have an upcoming webinar or conference slot, I ‘talk to the trees’ trying to hone the end prose and delivery. I now have a clear head and a bevy of processed items to conclude.
I don’t run on Wednesdays, that’s the day I have my most unruly 45 minute meeting of the week. That day, I and other coaches from my local GAA club, train the Under 9’s in hurling in Scoil Eoin (actual school name 😊). Its mayhem, its very loud, but it’s the carefree wild mélange of children, sport and laughter. Running and school coaching is a positive outcome from Covid. Lockdown, and working from home, has been an adjustment for everyone, but it has also been accretively sedative. I don’t pop out for a coffee, I don’t go out to grab a sandwich. I don’t meet an industry colleague for lunch. Even the walk to the bathroom, is shorter. It took me some time to notice the impact this sedation was having on my mental clarity, and the solution was on my doorstep.
I live on the doorstep to West Cork, in Innishannon. I’m surrounded by rivers, horses, cows, sheep, punishing hills and dramatic greenery. I get my greatest thinking done when I am out pounding my route – I really miss it when I am travelling. Many of the metaphoric themes and photos of my content pieces draw inspiration from the ecology around me. I’m fortunate to have an interesting role in being CEO of the Asset Management Exchange Ireland.
It’s a ‘SuperManco’ with dual permission for AIFMD and UCITS products. Our SuperManco is approximately $60Bn and we are one of the few offerings in the market that is both a third party and a captive ManCo. Our platform has multiple product lines from equities, fixed income and hedge. Our client base is global and institutional, with many delegates, service providers and industry partners.
We are regionally based, in Cork, with circa 40 colleagues and a further 55 colleagues in London. Increasing regulatory expectation on substance and oversight means a very active program of work with the Designated Persons. Everything percolates from the front line oversight tasks, through risk, valuation, oversight and product committees, to on-site meetings with our Organisational Effectiveness Director(OED), ultimately yielding summary input for board reporting.
Governed oversight is an endlessly iterative pursuit for AMX. I am in my first year as a member of Irish Funds Council. This is a privilege. I have served my time over the last two decades on committees and working groups. They are the life blood of an organisation, now thirty years old. Apart from Council meetings themselves, I represent Council on the New Product Innovation Steering Group which has an active agenda including EFTs, ESG, AIFMD Regulatory Change, Money Market Reform, and amendments to the Investment Limited Partnership(ILP).
When you consider the cross-organisational talent in any meeting, the ‘charge-out value’ to a prospect would cost approximately EUR25,000. So, I try to treat each meeting as a genuine, exclusively paid-for, educational hour from the best minds & experience our industry has to offer. The Council agenda is also quite focused, not least how we enable the regulator with the current sanctions with respect to the war in Ukraine, and succinctly percolating the concerns of our members in a prioritised manner.
As an active asset management platform, we have funds launching all the time, so invariably my week will include a board meeting or product committee action to advance the launch of a fund or the onboard of a third-party client. This is the last step in a process that will have started at least 12 weeks prior.
My involvement is usually in the pitch stage, and in the risk assessment that the business is within our appetite. This may involve new work processes, critical assessment of prospectuses and/or legal provisions, assessment of new markets, products and even structures. So there is at least one component of that lifecycle in my day, every day.
I’m not traveling today, but my year is peppered with trips to London, Luxembourg, the US, and Dublin. Working regionally has many upsides to work-life balances, reduced commute times and lower staff attrition. The bargain one makes, is that there can be slightly more travel time for meetings. So, when I am asked where am I based, I retort that my mortgage is in Cork and my career is where is where I wake up.
The advances in technology, work practices, sustainability objectives, and critically leadership acceptances, has enabled many participants of our industry to conclude business virtually, so travel is becoming more and more of an exception. I will be travelling next week, I will miss my ‘best six minutes of the day’ and my good lady wife will have to shoulder it all; so I am paying it forward this week. Project work is a big part of the modern work role for any professional in the funds business and apart from business growth and on-boarding projects, currently AMX is undergoing a sale to the Carne Group. Under the terms of anti-trust legislation, there is only so much engagement can be conducted.
The purchase is still subject to regulatory approval, and until the deal is closed AMX and Carne must continue to operate independently. To welcome any new team member is an interesting time, to be welcomed as a whole organisation is tremendously exciting. Our industry is experiencing considerable expansion of new entrants and consolidation in other corners.
There is no doubt that the successive tailwinds of Brexit, expectations of substance and relocations of asset management firms to Ireland have pivoted our landscape from a service provider location to one of prominence for Fund Management Companies. This has revised the jurisdiction up the value chain, again, with new career opportunities with roles of Designated Persons, CEOs of ManCos and INEDs.
As today is Tuesday, the close of the day is quite frenetic. Daughter No.2 has Irish Dancing class, Daughter No.1, I hope, will come with us and we can idle together, although today I am being interviewed by IOB as a guest for their DP Certification Class. This is the new educational program, run after hours, for colleagues in the funds industry that want to continue education and upskill for the burgeoning sector of the Designated Person.
COVID has proven that location is irrelevant, it’s the content and delivery that are important. So, the fact my backdrop is my car innards rather than an office or living room is moot. In our active house, my evening is not quite done, I must collect Son #1 at 8pm. ‘Car 4 to Base, Car 4’ is the flippant cry in my abode for someone who needs a lift or collection. A quick check of the inbox to see if any of my US colleagues has anything urgent, they need that day, and if not then it will be concluded into their inbox for their opening. We follow the sun and chase the moon for our global client base.
So, it’s a busy day, most days I get it right, when I don’t, the team, personal or professional, pay it forward; they trust I will pay it forward tomorrow. I usually close my day scouting LinkedIn, then we hit lights out and tomorrow, we will have a crack at it all again; snatching my best 6 minutes of the day from the melee.
Buzz, buzz, 3-2-1…..Up.