A Giant of a Man
Ian Taylor was a giant of a man, not just in his formidable stature, but in his intellect, his foresight, his sense of humour and his love of people. Last Wednesday (7th December 2022) I attended a memorial gathering in the ornate surroundings of Drapers Hall, deep in the heart of the City of London, to pay tribute to Ian who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 58. Ian was one of the founders and the main driving force behind 'Transact', the primary investment platform that we have used to manage our clients' financial lives for the last two decades.
At the event we heard from Jonathan Gunby, current CEO of Transact, about working with Ian in the late 1980's, and from Mike Howard who introduced Transact to the UK from Australia. Mike described how he had joined a colleague on a trip to London with the aim of discovering new innovations in financial services delivery that they could take back to Oz and use to enhance their offering to customers. When he arrived he was surprised to discover that, far from being the cradle of innovation, the UK was well behind Australia in many areas, and especially in its adoption of 'wrap' platforms. He saw an opportunity, and was introduced to Ian Taylor. The rest, as they say, is history.
For our part at Chesterton House, at that time we were facing the frustrations of this lack of innovation in the service we knew that we wanted to deliver to our clients. We were convinced by the merits of modern portfolio theory, and of helping our clients to view all of their investments as one strategy, incorporating general investments, ISAs, and pensions. We wanted to be able to rebalance funds regularly to keep a portfolio on track, but the products that were then available made this process exceedingly slow, bureaucratic and costly. Although there were efficient dealing and management systems around, these were the domain of large players and stockbrokers, and the retail market was stuck in a rut controlled mainly by over-charging and inflexible life insurance companies. Transact changed all of that, and Ian was instrumental in making it happen. His influence on the way in which investments are managed and delivered to 'Mrs Miggins' (a term for the ordinary lady, or person, with no specialist knowledge that he lifted from the popular 'Blackadder' series and made his own) has been huge, and many investors are significantly better off as a result.
It was the qualities that Ian demonstrated and the culture that he created at Transact that we found so appealing, and many of these qualities were described by his former colleagues. Ian was 'anti-establishment' in his views, and he loved to challenge the status quo. As his influence grew he was often invited to speak directly to regulators at their offices in Canary Wharf, and colleagues recalled how he would listen carefully to long and detailed proposals for action by them, only to begin his response with ,"That's just complete bo***cks!" before explaining exactly why their plans were flawed. His outspoken confidence arose from a deep and intimate understanding of the complexities of his business, combined with the real-world experience of helping to deliver it.
Transact had a unique focus on the end user - Mrs Miggins - and Ian's DNA can be seen throughout the business. His love of plain words, combined with a masterful grip on the English language, is evident today in the clarity of Transact's literature, its forms and its regulatory documents, all of which Ian would review to ensure that they were clear and intelligible. Their pricing was completely transparent, unlike the opacity of much of the financial services marketplace at that time (and which still hasn't moved on in many firms).
Ian understood that Transact would ultimately succeed or fail by the quality of its service. This required great software and systems, but also a great team, focused on the customer, to deliver results on a daily basis. Most importantly it requires great processes that enable routine tasks to be completed efficiently and for staff to be able to operate within a reliable and supportive framework. We strongly identified with that ethos and have continued to benefit from it over the years, and to practice it in our own businesses.
Most of all, Ian was fun. He was someone that you felt you knew well straight away, because he took time to listen to you, to ask you questions, and to share himself with you without any airs and graces. He loved his beer and we heard many tales of his legendary drinking exploits and love of life and people. His idea of exercise was a pint of beer and the Times cryptic crossword, and he relished word games and puns. He was also clearly devoted to his family, as his son Patrick proudly and movingly testified.
Ian has clearly left a big hole at Transact, even though he officially retired a couple of years ago. He was a big man in every way, and I feel as though I have lost a good friend within my industry. I shall miss him.
But I will also remember Ian not only as someone with a great intellect, a great sense of humour and a genuinely lovely man, but as someone who changed the world for the better in so many ways. What a fitting legacy.
R.I.P. Ian Taylor.
You can read Transact's obituary to Ian Taylor here.
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