Exclusive Interview: John Spiers, CEO of EQ Investors (EQ)
John is the CEO of EQ Investors (EQ). After gaining an MA in Engineering at Clare College, Cambridge he went into the City as a research analyst for 10 years. In 1986 he set up Bestinvest and over the next 20 years it grew to become a leading private client advisory and wealth management business with over 50,000 clients. In 2007 Bestinvest was acquired by 3i.
Since then John has built up a portfolio of other interests, including the establishment of a Foundation to support various charities. He has taken a particular interest in projects aimed to increase the use of Early Intervention to reduce child abuse. He has also retained a close interest in investment, being a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and a member of the Investment Committee for Clare College.
John enjoys competitive sport and participates in historic motorsport and international croquet.
In 140 characters or less – what is EQ Investors?
EQ Investors (EQ) is an award-winning boutique wealth manager acting for private clients, small companies and charities all around the UK.
What was the driver for creating EQ Investors – what gap did it fill?
I’ve been in the wealth management business for over 40 years and a professional investor all my working life. I enjoy the different ways you can interact with your clients and provide good services to them.
I am also increasingly concerned that within the industry a large number of shareholders are focused on maximising short-term growth at the expense of client’s best interests. EQ is wholly owned by our staff, which means we can take long term decisions unhindered by any requirement to meet financial targets.
EQ with its ethical bias has a unique proposition which combined with our commitment to client service can offer something genuinely different.
Who does it primarily serve?
Following significant investment over the last eighteen months, we now offer a service for 90% of the savers and investors out there.
Our main role is to make our clients investments work as hard as possible and support that with advice that helps them achieve their objectives.
What difference does EQ Investors want to make?
At EQ we have a strong sense of being a member of a wider community. We are proud to be one of the first UK companies to be awarded B Corporation status, for companies that believe in business as a force for good. We operate a Matched Giving programme to help our clients and staff raise extra funds for their favourite causes and we have set up the EQ Foundation as a registered charity.
Our Positive Impact Portfolios are a unique proposition for clients who care about how and where their money is invested.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
In terms of the industry as whole, undoubtedly regulation. At a time when the FCA has made financial advice only available to the very well-off, people are in need of guidance more than ever. A year after the pension freedoms came into effect, more work is needed on providing cost-effective advice. A 30-minute consultation is definitely not enough. These are complex decisions that shape an individual’s retirement.
In terms of impact investing, historically it was thought this had an adverse impact on performance. However, recent research from Cambridge Associates suggests the complete opposite.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
As you would expect, technology has a key role to play in delivering low cost investment management and advice. I’ve never only wanted to offer a service that is of interest to rich people. That’s why we wanted to launch our Simply EQ telephone-based service. In doing so, we’ve also been able to offer our positive impact portfolio to a wider market.
Strategic question? Tell us about the EQ Foundation
The EQ Foundation is the grant-making charitable arm of EQ Investors. We make a small number of multi-year grants to organisations which focus on achieving positive social, economic and environmental outcomes and that aim to deliver long lasting benefits.
Going forward, we are also interested in impact investment opportunities in social enterprises.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about EQ Investors?
Visit our website: http://eqinvestors.co.uk/, follow us on Twitter: @eqinvestors or give us a call – 020 7488 7171.
What are you feelings on SITR and the opportunities it presents?
Social impact investing has the potential to make real change in our society, yet we are still awaiting approval from the EU (eighteen months and counting) to increase the limit that can be raised per organisation from about £250,000 to £5 million. This is essential to get the market moving and I hope the go ahead is received soon.
We intend to be active in this market, both in terms of helping clients to identify attractive proposals and making investments ourselves on behalf of the EQ Foundation.
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