Lives: Iceland, Lapland and Kensington.
Born: Every December.
Age: Won't say.
Education and qualifications: BA in meteorology, University of Lapland, Sweden.
Career: No Business like Snow Business Refrigeration – account manager; Bob Sleigh Mortgage Advisers – consultant; Polar Capital Advisers – chief executive.
Career ambition: To kick Santa and Jesus into touch and become the prime image of Yuletide marketing.
Life ambition: To crack the melting problem.
Catchphrase: Where there's muck, there's brass monkeys.
Likes: Ice cream, vodka and fresh, powdery snow.
Dislikes: Sun, hairdryers, radiators, slush.
Peers say: “Thinks he's a cool customer but can't take the heat, which is why he never goes in the kitchen.”
Car: Can't drive because he has no feet.
I first met the Snowman in a garden in the West Midlands in the 1970s, not knowing he would go on to run one of the most successful financial services companies in the Northern hemisphere.
Seeing him years later in his Kensington office, he still has the same cool handshake and his penetrating coal-black eyes retain the glint of the man who made his first million as a cold-caller selling fridges to Eskimos.
The frosted glass of the office front door announces Polar Capital Advisers. Inside, the decor is cool and the air conditioning is on high. But Frederick “Frosty” Snowman's welcome is as warm as ever and, with a charcoal grin, he wastes no time in getting down to defending his business proposition.
“If polarisation is abolished, people say it will cause meltdown for my business,” says Snowman. “But I have seen it all before. People have been predicting my demise for as long as they have been predicting the end for IFAs. But anyone who thinks I am going to end up a soggy scarf and carrot in a puddle has got another think coming.”
His first job in financial services was in Lapland, where he worked for a team of mortgage brokers headed up by Bob Sleigh, who instilled in him an affection for the region's folklore, in particular its Lap dancers.
From there, he took an Arctic role as a sole trader dealing in sub-prime and apparently something called complex prime mortgages. He was nicknamed “Charcol eyes” although he always tried to distance himself from Sun Bank.
“Active only part of the year as I am, I was able to sell non-conforming products with conviction because I could understand clients' needs,” says Snowman. “The same applies for the impaired life annuities we sell. I haven't an ice cube in hell's chance of making it past 75 and I know how customers feel. There are as many different snowflakes as there are clients.”
Snowman has spread his net beyond mortgages and annuities to targeting his clients with investment products. But he is passionate that they invest in companies with an ethical agenda, not least because of his own worries that global warning is going to hit him where it hurts – all over.
“Socially-responsible investment is going to be massive in 2002,” claims Snowman. “People don't want to buy investment products that mean their grandchildren are going to fry. It's a no brainer.”
While reluctant to offer any hot tips for top-performing investment sectors in 2002, when pushed, he thaws enough to mention the emerging markets, particularly Chile.
Despite the freeze on the commission cap, Snowman believes he is less likely to feel the chill wind of recession than most other IFAs. “Polar bear markets are no different to what the West is experiencing now. Standing on the North Pole, the only move you can make is down. I've been here before and we have nothing to worry about.”
While Snowman is bullish about the recession, he does admit to having concerns over regulation. “My biggest fear is that the cost of compliance is going to send us all out of business. Obviously, the golden era for me as a businessman was the Ice Age but then the market was regulated by Neanderthals. Now it is much worse. In our office, we have got more words for 'regulator' than we have for 'snow' and that is saying something.”
Snowman has been wintering in the UK for many years now, as part of an elaborate tax dodge that sees him moving between jurisdictions in Iceland, the UK and Scandinavia. After getting burned for being involved in an investment scam floating icebergs down to Saudi Arabia, he saw his slush fund investigated and UK assets frozen by the regulator and has subsequently kept his ice lolly secured in Iceland, where he spends the summer.
“Iceland is really beautiful,” he muses. “They have volcanoes, geysers and really cheap Black Forest gateaux.”
He has no family or pets and hates dogs with a vengeance. He still carries a large yellow scar down his left side after an incident with a desperate poodle in a Reykjavik park but is reluctant to relive what was clearly a terrifying experience.
So what does the future hold for this white knight of financial services? He says he wants to remain in Europe, as in other parts of the world people tend to confuse him with the Yeti. “The way people treat that snowman is abominable – and he doesn't even look like me. At least I have a clear and identifiable brand in the UK and Northern Europe. I have worked hard on my image and created a real niche loyalty among cool-headed investors.”
As a testiment to his advisory skills, while many financial salesmen have felt the big freeze following the cooling of investment markets this year, he has been snowed under with Isa and stakecolder applications from clients, who have joined together to hail him with a chorus of: “Freeze a jolly good fellow.”
“The more atheistic people get, they will hopefully start to ditch the kid in the manger as a winter icon,” suggests Snowman. “And people are getting sick of the fat, bearded bloke in red. The snowman is a classic brand and likely to outlive the competition because it is not founded on some antiquated mystical belief system.”
Time will tell if it is to be no business like snow business or a soggy end for our icy friend.