He has been with the firm since 2003, originally as an investment adviser before moving to senior investment adviser and then taking up some of his marketing and media responsibilities. In addition to looking after his own clients, he also edits the company’s client magazine and compiles the Bestinvest Spot the Dog report.
He entered the finance industry as a graduate in 1997 and started as an order-taker at Natwest Stockbrokers. Several roles at the bank followed before he ended up advising Natwest Stockbroking clients on investments.
As well as learning to analyse individual stocks and the nuts and bolts of share trading, Lowcock also got a good understanding of the need to look at the bigger investment picture.
“You would have an understanding of a business and what its strengths and weaknesses were but you would also have an understanding of the macro economic situation, what the oil price was going to do, what inflation was going to do, what was happening in Japan and America and Europe.”
Lowcock’s time with Natwest came to an end following its acquisition by RBS. A review of the business resulted in the stockbroking operation being sold to TD Waterhouse. Redundancy in January 2003 gave Lowcock the opportunity to take some time out and travel but he was not out of the industry for long, joining Bestinvest in October of that year. His first six months were spent bridging the gaps in his knowledge.
“I had the experience of understanding the investment markets and understanding equities and bonds and the like and being able to communicate well with clients but I had to learn about Isas and Peps and about unit trusts and how they operate.”
Perhaps most important was the change from simply looking at an individual stock and learning to take a step back and look at the balance of investments.
“The big thing was learning about asset allocation, doing portfolio performance and looking at the risk and volatility and understanding why all that matters and how asset allocation is possibly the most important thing when it comes to investment strategy.”
Coming from a stockbroking background, he says this was a dramatic change of approach but one that paid dividends in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble. He says Bestinvest was well placed to deal with investors who had lost money investing in stocks in the tech bubble and were looking for advice on how to recover.
“This really fed into the Bestinvest way of doing things as there are not that many organisations that give investment advice. There are a lot that do financial planning advice and a lot that do investment management but not too many in that market in-between actually giving the investment advice but there are a lot of people who want it. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, clients were seeking advice because they were trying to recoup their losses.
“It is easy enough to say buy this share, don’t buy that share but getting long-term performance in a market is quite hard and that is where patience and the long-term asset allocation models come in.”
As a senior investment adviser, Lowcock was in charge of a team of six investment advisers looking after assets under advice of £450m but as he has taken on more marketing and media duties, he has had to give up some of this responsibility. He has also had to cut back on the number of clients that he personally advises although he says retaining some client contact is essential to the job.
“You really build up that relationship with a client which helps you understand their understanding of risk, which is absolutely critical.”
This approach paid off when the markets went into meltdown last year, as communication with clients was made much easier when you understand exactly where they are coming from.
“There was a lot of fear and panic in October but that was not just clients, that was professionals as well. Things have settled down now, markets have settled down now and clients, unless it is a necessity forcing them to sell, are not selling out of the markets. They have accepted the world the way it is now and are coming back to us for advice on how to get back to where they were.”
Although he reports a last-minute rush for Isas, he says overall clients are still slightly cautious about ploughing money back into the investment markets as many are still slightly singed after the last year.
Lowcock reports that most of the new Isa money has gone into the more cautious end of the investment spectrum, with cash, corporate bonds and some equity income the most popular options. US and Asian equities are also starting to appeal as the expectations grow that these markets will be first to recover.
He says investors are right to be slightly wary of the UK markets for the time being as there is still plenty of bad news out there.
Despite having only been in the industry for a little over 10 years, Lowcock had already seen two severe market corrections, the short sharp one in 1997 and the more prolonged aftermath of the tech bubble but he is confident that recovery will be there eventually and says his job is to ensure that clients are best placed to take advantage of the upturn when it comes.
Born: Burnley, 1975
Education: Biological sciences degree, University of Essex
Career: Bestinvest 2003-present: senior investment adviser. Currently editor of the Bestinvest client magazine and Spot the Dog; 1997-2003: Natwest Stockbrokers, started as an order-taker, then the branch network and working for private investors. The last two years were spent in an advisory capacity
Likes: Travelling, swimming, skiing, scuba diving, cooking and, more important, eating the result
Dislikes: Saying no just because it is easier
Drives: MGB GT, when it works that is. All offers considered
Book: Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Film: There Will Be Blood
Album: Odelay by Beck
Career ambition: To support and promote Bestinvest in its mission to add value to clients and provide outstanding service
Life ambition: To do what I can in making my family and friends happy
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… An explorer, although not a very good one