I grew up in Manchester in a doctor’s family, the eldest of two children. My very first passion as a child was space exploration. As I got a little older, I dreamed of becoming an inventor like Edison or Franklin. I would drag my parents to the local library, where I would spend hours reading any science books that I could get my hands on. Disappointingly, there were no science lessons at my primary school, but I remember not being able to contain my excitement when in my second year at The Manchester Grammar School, I had my very first science lesson.
This interest eventually led me to Cambridge University to study chemistry. But I found that I didn’t enjoy chemistry as much as I had at school. I listened with interest in the canteen when my engineering friends talked about how they were working together on interesting projects such as building robots, which seemed a lot more fun than spending hours alone cooking up a dull grey powder. I decided Chemistry wasn’t for me, and graduated with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.
Whilst I did have a Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer as a teenager, I wasn’t very interested in computers. All that changed one summer. Intending to become an oilfield engineer, I got a summer internship at Schlumberger Research in Cambridge. There, I was given the task of modifying a Fortran 77 computer program, and much to my surprise, I found that I really enjoyed writing code.
This led to a summer internship the following year at JP Morgan in their IT department. It was there that I developed a keen interest in quantitative finance. When I graduated, I ended up working at Merrill Lynch, my decision being strongly influenced by the fact that graduate training involved 6 months in New York. When I returned to London, I started working as a C++ programmer on a bond pricing system. This role grew, and I eventually ended up being responsible for bond electronic trading technology in Europe.
In the 15 years or so following Merrill Lynch, I worked for a number of companies which included a consulting company, RBS, UBS and BNP Paribas. With these roles I built up expertise in managing software development teams and projects, in interest rate products, and in electronic trading and risk.
At BNP Paribas, I branched out into roles that were more centred around data architecture and financial regulation. Following the financial crisis, there were more problems and opportunities in these areas rather than the more traditional front office IT areas that I had worked in before. This led to me taking on increasingly senior roles, such as Head of Cross Asset Technology, and Head of Regulatory Technology.
After delivering MiFID2, I decided to leave BNP Paribas. Brexit meant that many banks were re-thinking their location strategies, I wanted to take some time off to plan our wedding and renovate our home, and I also wanted to get involved in cloud computing and machine learning.
After my time off, I set up a consulting company, Regtechable, with an ex-colleague, specialising in IT strategy, architecture and project management for capital markets regulation.
I pride myself on being able to operate at many levels. The type of work that I enjoy the most is technology strategy and architecture, and I have been recognised for my vision and big picture thinking many times. On the one hand, I’m comfortable operating at board level, discussing strategy, budgets, and resources. On the other hand, I enjoy solving technical problems, and being involved in the nitty-gritty of software development. Because of this, I also find that I am able to bridge the gap between business and technology, translating between them, and being trusted by both.
Perhaps because of my engineering background, I am passionate about good software engineering. I’ve become something of a specialist in fixing software development teams. I’ve been asked a number of times to work with teams to address problems such as slow deliveries, poor quality software, and lack of trust from customers.
In the corporate world, I wasn’t spending much time at work coding. I would occassionally code to understand or test something. Much of my time was spent managing stakeholders and budgets or doing high level design. In the startup world, with no customers or money, things are very different! I spent a lot of my time coding, but I’m also working on business planning and marketing.
Whist I’ve coded in C++, Java and C#, my current preferred language is Python because it is versatile, and has a REPL. My favourite IDE is VS Code. Other tools that I rate highly are Github and Docker.
Early on in my career, I had considered switching to become a quant, because of my interest in mathematical models for the valuation of financial products, particularly interest rate products. In the end, I got involved in electronic trading during the dot com boom, and ended up going down the IT management route. However, my interest in mathematical modelling has led to a fascination with data science and machine learning.
I’m also very interested in cloud computing. I’ve been working with AWS recently, and it solves so many of the problems that I have encountered as a banking technologist. The challenge for the banks is not only the migration effort, but also the subsequent effort to re-engineer their applications to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing. I’ve written more about this in some of the blogs on this website.
One of my passions is travelling. Some of the more interesting places that I’ve travelled to are Borneo, Iceland, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, there are two places that standout as my favourites. The first is Annapurna in Nepal. There is very little in this world that compares to the experience of trekking through lush green valleys against a backdrop of majestic snow-capped peaks. The second place is Kyoto in Japan. Kyoto is a city of contrasts; sometimes, it feels like a big, busy, crowded modern city, but at other times, it feels like a small traditional town set amongst the rolling hills.
My grandfather was a keen painter, sculptor and photographer, and I have inherited his interest in photography. I like to photograph landscapes, architecture, wildlife and anything related to travel. My primary shooter is a Canon 7D, which is particularly suited to wildlife photography. I sometimes also shoot with an Olympus OM-D E-M10, which is much easier to have with you all the time being smaller and lighter.
My biography would not be complete without mentioning my wonderful wife, Anna Maria. We got married just over two years ago, and we now live together in North West London. She comes from Münster, a rather handsome university city in Germany near the Dutch border. Things that we love to do together include skiing, hiking and visting museums and art galleries. But we don’t agree on everything! Being German, she’s very much a beer girl, whereas I’m quite serious about my wine.