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Lunch with Andrew Main of Stratton Street Capital

Lunch with Andrew Main of Stratton Street Capital

The possibility of gout, or perhaps a heart attack, has become a very real concern since starting this column, and I’m doing nothing to avoid either by eating at restaurants like Comptoir Gascon in Farringdon, writes Anna Dumas.

Stratton Street Capital’s managing partner Andrew Main is to blame for this week’s overindulgence, but it was well worth the health threat.

Over a menu that celebrated all things meaty (from ‘piggy treats’ to ‘lamb variations’) we talked about MBAs, charitable ventures, and why boutique asset management firms are like rock bands.

First however, we ordered a bottle of Bergerac and wound back the clock to Main’s first foray into finance, aged 14.

He explained how, prompted by a passion for economics, he wrote a letter in response to an ad in The Telegraph ad for a job at a local stockbroking firm called Fuller and Co.

‘I wrote to them saying “I know I’m too young to work for you, but could you please tell me more about the firm and what you do?”,’ said Main.

‘Then, the next spring, the firm’s senior partner was doing the rounds in the area and took my mum and me out for lunch. At the end of it, he said “when you’re 18, I’ll give you a job”, and he did.’

Main then spent five years at the firm, before rising through the City ranks to a role at Guinness Mahon.

When the bank announced its sale, he decided to take a break from the capital and turbo charged his career with a 12-week intensive MBA course at Insead.

‘I decided that it was time to broaden my horizons,’ he told me, ‘The groups you work in have people from all over the world from all sorts of professions. We had everything from a Chinese person who was tasked with speeding up passport control between Hong Kong and China, to a Namibian woman who ran a diamond mining company. It was incredible exposure.’

Tucking into a crispy duck confit with sautéed aubergines (a nod to the five a day rule), we fast forwarded to his current venture at Stratton Street Capital, and the challenges of running a boutique firm in a period of regulatory upheaval.

‘We effectively had to reapply for our licences,’ Main said, adding ‘It’s a very different world to be operating in post 2008. In the early 2000s the attitude towards small finance companies was much more positive.’

Success is therefore hard earned in this particular sector, he explained, but the key to achieving it is the company you keep.

‘Boutiques, when they are formed, tend to be like rock bands. Your success can be very much down to who you know and who you work with,’ in his opinion.

Lucky for Main then that he has a knack for spotting potential – both in his capacities at the Alternative Investment Management Association (he heads a division that seeks out up and coming managers) and in his work with charities.

Main said how recent government cuts to school funding prompted him to get involved with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, an organisation set up to nurture the next generation of sporting greats.

‘It’s a fantastic charity that means a lot to me. I find it enormously sad that the UK government took the decision to effectively dumb down our education system by cutting funding to music and sports.

‘I hate the idea of such wasted, unexploited talent.’

Also not one to tolerate waste, I drained the last of my Bergerac and heartily resolved to back this worthy cause.

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