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Wealth Manager: high returns - how CAM's Coghill went from drug research to discretionary
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by Annabelle Williams on Nov 01, 2012 at 00:01
While there are many routes into investment management, the industry is not an obvious place for someone with a background in medicinal cannabis research to end up. City Asset Management’s chief investment officer (CIO) Hilary Coghill actually started her career in one of the furthest places imaginable from the world of private client management.
Following a first degree in physiology and postgraduate study in pharmacology, she began researching the benefits of the medicinal use of cannabis derivatives for what was then SmithKline Beecham. Then came the demands of parenthood and a move to Kuwait, where she taught maths and had two more children before returning to the UK.
‘I did a degree in physiology, there was no way I would have contemplated going into banking,’ she says of her career choices at the time. ‘I used to have a few clients who said to me “well, what qualifies you to do investment management?” I come from a background where the discipline is very analytical, it’s looking at results, it is a transfer of skills. It’s very much the sort of discipline which is used in investment management.’
City Asset Management (CAM), while now very much a family business, actually stems from a partnership between Hilary’s late husband Vivian Coghill and two stockbroker and independent financial adviser associates.
A trained accountant who earned ‘peanuts’ in his original trade, Vivian decided to use his expertise in IT and finance to go into business after returning to the UK in 1988.
‘He didn’t know a lot about one thing but he knew a lot about a number of things and he got involved in the early days of IT when you had computers taking up a whole room,’ Hilary remembers.
One of the members departed as the regulatory burden on the industry became more demanding and as Hilary became more interested in investment, her role grew from admin assistance to a research role, to eventual CIO. She now oversees the investment strategy for 1,500 clients, with a minimum portfolio size of around £100,000, at a business that runs £350 million in assets under management (AUM).
CAM has ambitions to eventually double its AUM under the leadership of eldest son Nick Coghill, who came on board as chief executive officer in June this year, following the death of his father.
Although working with a parent may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Nick had always had ambitions to join the family firm. He says working with his mother is ‘never dull’, and is comfortable enough to refer to Hilary as ‘mum’ during the interview.
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