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April 15, 2011

At the Sharp End: Alan Miller

By Spear's

The financier faces the Spear’s inquisition

Q. What would your other career be?
A.  My passions from a very early age have always been art and finance — so it would be art or photography.

Q. Who is your greatest influence?
A.  Probably my father, as he successfully started and built his own patent agent firm while being a great dad and supporting local charitable causes.
Q. In a year, the UK economy
will be…
A.  Modestly stronger as the economic recovery gently improves, no doubt with a few interruptions.
Q. My greatest success in business was…
A.  Probably starting the first UK long/short hedge fund and returning over 3.5x people’s money over the period I managed it.

Q. My greatest failure in business was…
A.  These relate to individual investments and more the ones I sold too early, for example ASOS, which I sold at a profit when it was about 10p. It is now nearly £18.

Q. Is business a pleasure?
A. It can be — I am now extraordinarily lucky in doing what I enjoy the most and without unwanted external interference.

Q  What is missing in the world?
A.  The determination to do things in the right way for the right reason.

Q. How many assistants do you have?
A. Hard one to answer, as there are seven of us working together assisting each other.

Q. Who makes your shirts?
A.  It varies, but the last shirt I bought followed one of my customary food spillage incidents — so I dashed across the road from our office to Pink on Sloane Street, with ten minutes to spare before my next meeting.
Q. Philanthropy should be…
A. Based on giving one’s time, not just money, to causes which make a real difference rather than on lavish offices, administration, salaries or placed in a badly run investment portfolio.

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Q. My business mantra is…
A. Look inside out — from the perspective of the client/customer and what suits them rather than you. Complacency can rot a business to the core.

Q. Who do you have on speed-dial?
A.  The two most important women in my life — my wife and my mum — and my work colleagues.
Q. Which watch do you wear?
A.  A Rolex.
Q. Favourite hotel suite?
A.  The quirky rooms at Home House in London.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure?
A. Food — I absolutely love good food and good chocolate.
Q. When I drive, I drive…
A.  Normally the family Mercedes and sometimes, when it works, my Ferrari Scaglietti.
Q. Money lets me…
A.  Support my family, our charitable foundation and our business without outside financial support.

Q. Where are you right now?
A.  On a train from York, as I am a non-exec of a medical device company based at York University.
Q. Which restaurant is indispensable?
A.  No such thing, as when they became too fashionable they become shockingly arrogant and totally dispensable.
Q. Where in the world are you happiest?
A.  On the beach in Goldeneye, Jamaica, with my family.
Q. How did you earn your first pay cheque?
A.  Delivering newspapers near home when I was at school.

Q. Spear’s is sharp and to the point. I am…
A. Principled and honest.

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