This week Wealth Manager head of channel Natalie Fast and I had the privilege of attending a rather special lunch engagement, writes Anna Dumas.
Where usually I dine in city restaurants, I found myself in the cavernous splendour of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall and, where usually I have the company of one investment professional this time I dined with 500 of them.
I did so because this week marked the unofficial start to the City’s summer calendar, with the annual Gulls’ Eggs City Luncheon in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The events committee kindly invited Citywire along to see what it was all about.
Gulls, I learnt, only lay their eggs for three to four weeks of the year, making this particular foodstuff a rare, and not to mention costly, delicacy.
Luckily there’s no need for the organisation to shell out for the precious morsels (which go for up to £5 a pop) as every year an anonymous donor, known only to the event’s committee members, donates them to this worthy cause.
The lunch, now in its 26th year, boasts a loyal following of the leading lights in the investment industry, and is widely considered to be one of the key fixtures in the City’s charity event calendar.
Charlie Macfarlane, managing director of Hassium Asset Management and an event committee member of 20 years, told me a little more about it.
‘Really it’s a chance for the great and the good in the private client investment world to catch up in a great setting, for an extremely worthy cause,’ he said.
‘There’s no agenda and no speeches – everyone talks to everyone and the net result is a resoundingly positive contribution to charity which we all support wholeheartedly.’
In fact since its inception, the event has raised more than £1.5 million for cancer sufferers and the infrastructure to support them.
Rupert Phelps, director of Family Office Services at BNY Mellon and the event’s chairman, gave me a clear sense of the spirit of the occasion, when – seeing I hadn’t yet eaten – accompanied me to a table bearing the event’s namesake and insisted that I try one.
My first thought was that trying to eat one delicately would be a challenge, particularly considering my propensity for dropping food on myself (not to mention awareness of being in the presence of quite a few industry veterans who had witnessed this first hand).
However, deciding un oeuf was un oeuf, I dipped an egg in celery salt and swallowed it whole before tucking into the other delights on offer.
One of these was homemade plum cake, a traditional part of the day’s offerings originally made by the sister-in-law of Smith & Williamson director and event founder Mark Cannon Brookes.
The culinary baton has since been passed to another, but remains testament to the informal, close-knit atmosphere the event maintains, despite its size and prestige.
The convivial spirit of the guests who were enjoying the sunshine in the courtyard was put to the test, when suddenly the heavens opened and several groups were stranded under parasols, unable to leave without getting soaked. However, logic and teamwork soon prevailed with the ingenious solution to form a dry walkway by linking the parasols, earning a much deserved round of applause.
All in all, it was a fantastic lunch for a cracking cause, which we were honoured to be a part of.