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BUSINESS FIRST June\July 2012 www.businessfirstmagazine.co.uk


UNLIKELY REVOLUTIONARY


THE


Douglas Chadwick thought the City was managing his retirement fund poorly, so he invented a system that did it better. And turned it into a disruptive business. Peter Osborne reports.


Douglas Chadwick is 68 years old and happily defies any attempt at being pigeon-holed. He left school at 14 to become an officer cadet in the Merchant Navy, and there he might have stayed but for his mother, who persuaded him to hang up his sea boots and go to university.


‘I only had 5 O Levels, and no As,’ he says, ‘but Sussex University had started a new Mature Student programme and they said I could enrol, so long as I got A Levels in Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics – and O Level English!’


It’s typical of Chadwick that he managed the A Levels quite easily. He was doing a stint as a banana boat navigator for the newly-independent Jamaican government, which gave him an opportunity to study the A Level subjects and experience their application in real life. But he could not for the life of him pass his English O Level. ‘I got the As in about 8 months


and they let me start the Theoretical Science degree course, so long as I kept studying for the English O Level. I sat it every year, but never did get it!’


He did however get his degree which opened up doors as a project manager in various manufacturing companies before he decided to set up a flat pack furniture business that he sold a decade later for £12m. He started another company, the Furniture Factory, expanding to five sites in the UK, Holland and China before the demise of his biggest customer MFI in 2008 forced his company into administration.


At this point, most people would have called it a day and, indeed, Douglas did start to pay attention to how some of his investments were doing. To his


what the heck had gone on with my money, I’d pull it out. What I found was they had left the money in the same property and managed income funds it had originally been put into. The markets had moved on, but my money hadn’t.’


With the same sort of tenacity that had earned him his degree, he started to research the performance of a handful of funds in the IMA sectors and over a period of time began to understand the dynamics of the various sectors and the relative efficiency of the funds within them. Skandia were intrigued by this and


‘THE MARKETS HAD MOVED ON, BUT MY MONEY HADN’T.’


consternation, he noticed that a couple of Skandia investment bonds that he had bought in the early 1990s for £150,000 had not appreciated in value at all. Granted, he had taken 5% income a year from them, but definitely expected at least some capital growth.


‘I told Skandia that if they didn’t explain


let him pull the money out of his bonds at no charge so he could put his theories into practice. He moved the money into the funds that his own research told him offered the best prospects, based on plotting their recent performance. In three years they had increased in value by 92%. By the time the bonds had matured two years later


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