So... I quit my day job...
If you have followed our content for any length of time or taken account of my biography in “How to Own the World” or on Amazon, you may be aware that I have had a “day job” for most of the last six and a half years alongside all things Plain English Finance.
In January of 2015 I was delighted to be offered a partnership at a boutique investment bank in London which specialises in the biotech and life sciences sector – a firm called WG Partners. In my time at WG I was fortunate to work with a few dozen wonderful companies and help complete transactions worth quite some way more than a billion pounds.
As I’ve written in these pages before, it really was an extraordinary privilege to be involved with such a fascinating and exciting sector. I firmly believe that many of the companies I was able to work for are world changers. As an example, I would point to Oxford Biomedica (OXB) – a company that was worth something like £30m not that long before I joined WG and is now in the FTSE 250 and valued at more than £1 billion at the time of writing. OXB have a manufacturing technology that enabled the Swiss drug giant Novartis to launch a treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL - one kind of leukaemia) and several other horrible cancers.
They are also one of the main manufacturers of Astra Zeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and were a key player in getting that vaccine to market. And to head off the cynics and conspiracy theorists before my inbox fills with angry emails – I might note that they are using up a significant chunk of their extremely advanced and expensive lab space to fulfil this contract at a much lower margin than they could be making doing other things with it. That is to say that they are actually very likely sacrificing profitability to make the vaccine available to the world as opposed to being a “nasty, evil” healthcare company preying on us all to make a profit by giving us a vaccine.
Oxford Biomedica is only one example. There are many more and I intend to write about them in the relatively near future (more on this below).
PLEASE NOTE: The above is CATEGORICALLY not a stock recommendation for OXFORD BIOMEDICA for reasons I hope our readers understand by now.
…anyway – I digress. The reason I’m writing about this today is to share the news that I resigned from my job at WG Partners some weeks ago so that I can now work full time on Plain English Finance. After a pretty intense transition period over the last few weeks, this is my first full month working 100% on all things Plain English Finance.
The point of this email, then, is to share some of the plans we have now that I’m full time, and also to say a bit about the whole point of what we’re trying to achieve as a business more generally, and how we hope to be able to help people get a tangible result.
Our stated mission as a company is...
“To improve the financial affairs of as many people as possible…”
To that end, over the last ten years I’ve published two books, done numerous podcast and journalist interviews and speaking events (including for the likes of the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, the London Financial Services Club and a number of secondary schools to name just a few), contributed a few dozen articles to the press, written seventy-six topical pieces for the Opinion section of our website and launched our own investment fund (The VT PEF Global Multi Asset Fund). It has been a fantastic journey and I’m super grateful to every single person who has been part of it and supported us along the way.
The team and I are even more excited about what is coming next, however – and we hope that you might be too. So, in no particular order – this is some of what we’re going to be up to in the weeks, months and years ahead to help deliver our mission when it comes to spreading financial literacy and improving people’s finances at the most fundamental level:
Two new books...
The first thing that I’m delighted to share is the fact that the publisher of the current edition of my first book “How to Own the World” (Hodder & Stoughton) has just offered us a book deal for two new books.
One: “How to Own the World” for Teenagers
Many of you are already aware that we’ve long planned a teen and young-adult focused version of “How to Own the World”. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to financial success, so improving financial literacy in this age group is crucial. Over the years, many of you have asked for precisely this kind of book. Teachers have wanted to give it to their students (including last year’s "Interactive Investor Secondary School Personal Finance Teacher of the year" – a splendid chap called Darren Collins for whom I did a "virtual school assembly" last year), and we have heard from numerous parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts from all over the world wanting to give just such a book to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews respectively.
Over the next few months, I will be working with two extremely bright teenagers to deliver a version of the book which is sufficiently accessible to their peer group. The three of us are very excited about the project, even if we are approaching it with some level of trepidation as you might expect. It’s going to be a big and complicated job and both of them may have a pretty miserable summer holiday in prospect this year ( 😳), but hopefully it will be worth it. Please watch this space!
Two: “The Future Is Biotech” (working title)…
The other book is going to be a big-picture, wide-angle, “Plain English” trot through the biotechnology industry and what I think it could mean for the world. I’ve just spent six plus years meeting dozens of wonderfully innovative biotech and medtech companies and there is a great deal I want to say about the sector.
The overall premise of the book is that “tech” has been the most important theme for human development for the last several decades but I believe biotech could likely be next. I believe that the Apples, Amazons and Googles of the next few decades will be biotech companies. This is because these companies will create real economic value by solving many of our most intractable problems: Cancer, dementia, diabetes, elderly care, mental health challenges, even power generation and agricultural production. Developments in biotech could mean that many of us will be able to live far better, safer, healthier, wealthier, happier, and longer lives - and sooner than many people think.
In my experience, very few people in the general population have any idea of the phenomenal progress being made with such things. There are already “miracle cures” for several diseases with far more to come - and soon. Exponential progress will also very likely drive the price of such things down far enough to make them widely available globally – i.e. even in the developing world. This also goes a long way beyond just “healthcare”. These technologies could also be key in dealing with climate change and the destruction of the natural world for example.
For what it is worth, I think there is a natural synergy here between what we already do at Plain English Finance and what I’d like to do with respect to the biotech industry: Anyone who has read my second book, “Live on less, invest the rest…” will be aware of the broad idea of dividing your investments into “aggressive” versus “defensive” categories.
We already have something which we feel is a pretty solid candidate for the “defensive” bit of what people might do with their investments – in the shape of our existing fund. What I’d like to do with biotech is get to a point where we have something that can help our audience understand the opportunities and the risks when looking at investing in the biotech space for at least some of the “aggressive” part of their investments. On that basis, we are working on how we might launch a monthly newsletter all about biotech.
(If you think you might be interested in a biotech monthly newsletter, then please do register your interest here to ensure that you will be one of the first to know when we launch it).
(Re)launching the Plain English Finance YouTube channel...
The next initiative that we’re intending to get live as soon as possible is to (re)launch our YouTube channel. I have several hundred thousand words of written content lurking in my computer by now. Most of what we’ve done over the years has been delivered as more or less long-form prose. It has been pointed out to me incredibly frequently in that time that this isn’t a particularly attractive format for most people (as hard as that is for me to take as an inherently verbose individual who likes writing things!). A far more powerful way to reach and help people is via the undeniably more accessible and popular medium of video.
I’ve known this for a long time, but just haven’t had the time to script, shoot and edit video content and, given that we are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), jump the hoops required to ensure the content is 100% compliant too.
If you’ve followed us for a while, you may remember that we used to have more than two hours of video “tutorial” content live on YouTube. Something like 15,000 people watched those videos and they took a long time to script and shoot some years back. When we launched our fund, however, the rules around what we could and couldn’t say about investment became a great deal tighter, given the way that UK finance is regulated (for those of us who are regulated at least. Anyone can say anything they like about crypto with impunity, mad as that is – a sad state of affairs and something I’ve bored on about a fair bit in the past and will write more about in the near future).
When we became an investment manager, it became clear that we needed to check all of our video content to ensure it was 100% fine from a compliance perspective. This would have cost many thousands of pounds - to have a compliance lawyer watch it all and give us a formal view. At the time, this was an expense we just couldn’t justify. To be clear, it was highly likely that it would all have been fine given the content was pretty inoffensive stuff about financial basics (financial education rather than advice), but we decided we couldn’t take that risk given how mission critical it is for us to maintain our regulatory status and so we decided to take those videos down.
Three years later, we’re much further up the learning curve about what can and can’t be said and I should also now have enough time to script and produce video content. We will, therefore, be (re)launching the Plain English Finance YouTube channel in the very near future. As soon as we are ready, our plan is to deliver two or more short educational videos each week. This content will be cannibalised from everything I’ve written in the last few years but delivered in bite sized chunks which we hope people will find helpful. The videos will look to summarise the nuts and bolts of finance and help people with the practicalities of getting up the curve and getting their financial affairs in order.
If you’re interested in being part of this, please do subscribe to our Channel now to make sure you don’t miss the first few videos when they go live.
Our Fund and “How to Own the World” Community…
The fund has now been trading for more than three years, which means we can start taking it to an audience of larger investors and aspire to grow the Assets Under Management (AUM).
…and the fact that I’m now full time means that I can deliver more value to our Community subscribers – with more webinars, guest speakers and our first live events coming soon as we move into a post lockdown world (we hope).
I think that’s about it for today. As ever “it” was probably rather too much. I would say that I’ll try and make my emails shorter in future but given that the next one I intend to write is going to be about crypto – I suspect it will have to be quite long too given what a nuanced and "third rail" subject that is! 😊
Anyway – I also appreciate this has been something of a “me, me, me” email today but I do hope that those of you who are in this email list know that we really do have a proper sense of mission about what we do and will indulge us this time.
I continue to believe that a significant improvement in financial literacy across the general population is a kind of “silver bullet” which can and will deliver massive upside for individuals and for society as a whole. If you share that belief, I hope you would have some interest in at least some of the things I’ve talked about in this email!