Wray Of Light: Serial Investor On Why Small Firms Are The Spice Of Life

Published date: .

Westminister can be a little sleepy over the weekend – the politicians, civil servants, lobbyists and other politicos drifting off to the shires. But the weekend of 30 March will be different.

For starters the Saturday is the day after the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. It seems unlikely the country will ‘go quietly’, likely making the capital’s political quarter more lively than usual.

But well-known London-based financier Nigel Wray has a different reason to head to Westminster that day: The Global Group UK Investor Show 2019.

Many in the City are fretful about the potential impact of Britain’s planned exit from the European Union. But Nigel does not seem to making plans for Brexit. In conversation with City AM he laughs: “How can I influence world events? As an investor you have to ride waves, which should hopefully be waves that over time are going upwards.”

Wray is a serial investor – he’s had the investment bug all his life. Now in his 70s his passion for helping companies grow still shines bright. “Small companies are the spice of life – without them, the economy has ‘had it’,” he says.

Today he is well known as chairman of London-based Saracens, who play in Premiership Rugby (England’s top level of domestic rugby union), as well as “having holdings” in about 30 companies. He namechecks Prestbury Investments LLP and real-estate investment firm Secure Income REIT.

Other big names to have Wray involvement in the past included Domino's Pizza (“I was involved for 17 years – a brilliant business”) and Carlton Communications.

Wray is talking to City AM about The Global Group UK Investor Show 2019, which is being held at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

At the show he will speak about what influences his investment decisions - his leitmotif is that the bosses of the business into which he is investing must have ‘skin in the game’ (which he certainly has with this show - the Wray Family, via Premier Team Promotions, acquired it in 2017).

He says that the event will see more than 100 companies – “a lot” already listed on AIM, the London Stock Exchange's international market for smaller growing companies - given the platform “to illustrate why they’d like people to invest in them”.

In respect of his personal strategy, he says: “The common denominator must be that I like the people. Big companies become more and more bureaucratic. That’s why it’s so exciting to work with smaller ones.

“Every investor has got to look at a company and say ‘Do I believe in these people?’ and the people you’re investing in have to have ‘skin in the game’. This show is an opportunity for the ordinary private investor to speak to CEOs that they wouldn’t usually get.”

“Whenever I am asked how I make my investment decisions I always say that I believe very much in making long-term decisions. My personal view is that for private investors to tack in and out all the time is ludicrous – you’ll get wiped out by charges and who is so clever as to be able to do that anyway?”.

Wray reveals that he has just finished reading ‘Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Start-Up World’, by Silicon Valley visionary John Chambers, the former Cisco CEO. Wray refers to the book describing how companies that embrace the possibilities of the internet can “kill” incumbents, saying: “If a company ignores tech start-ups it’s committing suicide. I think they [tech start-ups] are absolutely crucial to the economy. But I think the statistic is that seven out of 10 start-ups won’t make it.”

Technology is on Wray’s mind as we speak, as he reveals that he is considering “introducing a tech investors show for pure tech companies”, most likely to be located in the UK. “It’s ‘in the thinking’,” he says, when asked how developed the plan is. He references CES, the ginormous global consumer tech show that takes place annually in Las Vegas: “Every single financial house will be there.”

Tech often reduces the need for human contact. But this reality enables Wray to expound on his belief that “whatever the pace of technological growth, and how important it is to the business, ‘eyeball to eyeball’ contact remains very important when you’re deciding whether to invest.

He concludes: “It’s much more pleasurable to be investing and involved in companies for the long-term. But I would say again that the people running the company have to have ‘skin in the game’.”

There’s that theme again.

To claim you free Investor Class ticket for The Global Group UK Investor Show on Saturday 30th March 2019, visit www.ukinvestorshow.com/tickets and enter CITYWRAY as the discount code