Lives: Kensington,West London and Southampton
Born: April 25, 1954
Education and qualifications: Portsmouth High School, Degree in Economics Politics French and German from Loughborough University of Technology Career to date: Hambro Life, Arbuthnot Latham, Framlington 1985-1996 managing director of Unit Trusts, 1995-6 Deputy Chairman of Autif then communications director 1997 to present.
Career ambition:”To have it said of me that I was effective and made a difference.”
Life ambition: “That is personal.”
Likes: Opera, theatre, reading, languages, skiing and sailing Dislikes: Queues, bad manners and pomposity
Peers say: “The Madonna of the unit trust industry who keeps on reinventing herself very successfully.”
Car: “I live in central London – why should I have a car?” 40ft Elan yacht.
The first time that the doyenne of the fund management industry Anne McMeehan quit Autif, she decided to write a thriller. This time, it is to set up a new investment consultancy and put her formidable skills on the open market.
In a parting shot at the FSA and with an outspokenness that has become her hallmark, McMeehan laid into the regulator's fund league tables last week as “half-baked”. She said: “It would have been better if they would have delayed launching them until more information was available and more readily digestible,” recommending investors to go to websites with more information than just charges.
The name of her new business – Cauldron Consulting – has more than a touch of a dry ironic nod in the direction of industry sexism. Her partner at Cauldron will be the similarly experienced Jain Castiau. Time for the industry to expect some “double, double toil and trouble”.
“The most important thing is to be remembered. Second is to be remembered for the right reasons. If people want to think of pointy hats and broomsticks that is fine but I would prefer it if it was as a melting pot of great ideas,” says McMeehan, vehemently denying any links with Harry Potter.
She joined Framlington as a marketing manager in 1985 before becoming managing director of its unit trust business and rising to eminence as one of the few women in positions of influence in financial services. “The spotlight follows women more closely because there are so few of them. Very little has changed.”
The coverage of the freshly settled court battle between Unilever and Merrill Lynch is for McMeehan a case in point. She says: “I suspect if it had been a battle between men, coverage would have been restricted to the business pages. I do not imagine people would have been interested in the colour of briefcases or the quality and cuts of the suits.”
But the case has significant implications for fund management. Apart from the public washing of dirty linen, which she believes does no one any good, it also heralds a new critical culture which fund managers will have to deal with.
When former director general Philip Warland left Autif, he caused some consternation by commenting on IFAs' lack of investment competence. Will McMeehan be doing the same?
“Some IFAs have very poor investment knowledge. There has been a considerable improvement in the skill base but there is along way to go. It is disappointing to see how many IFAs view investments as a sales process rather than as offering an opportunity to offer a quality service. It is sad to see how many people are sold to and then neglected.”
It will come as little surprise to know that McMeehan is no defender of the polarisation faith. “To say that independent advice is good and tied is bad is too black and white. There should be far less emphasis on independence and far more on quality.” She believes polarisation has already been dealt a body blow. She also questions the fairness of a limited offering for the majority of people whose first port of call is the bank.
T imes of change are for McMeehan times of opportunities. Her consultancy is pitched halfway between public relation agencies (“good facilitators, great at organising parties”) and management consultants (“academic and theoretical”). With a mischievous glint in the eye, she says she hopes IFAs will be among her clients.
McMeehan's involvement with Autif was formalised when she was appointed deputy chairman in 1995. A year later, she quit both Autif and Framlington to have a year off to do. She took lessons in Italian and piano and went to the V&A to take a rushed course in art history. “Art and architecture from 500BC to 1996 in four weeks – if you missed the Tuesday afternoon, that was the Italian Renaissance gone.” As an evangelical capitalist, she went to the Ukraine for a short while to teach financial services.
The thriller she wrote is not yet published and McMeehan fears it is rapidly becoming a period piece. “It is not Proust but it is better than a lot of stuff sitting on the shelves.” Its racy subject matter – insider dealing – meant McMeehan found herself teased on the diary pages of a national newspaper.
But within a year, McMeehan was back at Autif and back on the news pages. Installed as Autif's communications director, her biggest regret has been that she was not able to create a standard calculation for bond and equity yields. One thing that she will not be missing is the continual frustration at having to wade through bureaucracy.
She feeds her sabbatical experience into the task in hand. Studying art history gave her a wider perspective after years at the coalface. It is this perspective, together with “experience which most consultants would give their eye teeth for” that McMeehan intends to offer.
A busy year lies in store for her. As well as setting up her new business, she is looking forward to getting married for the first time in June next year. Husband to be is Jim Roberts, investment manager at Skandia. They have a 40ft yacht, which she jokes might become their offshore office.
Isa season, what Isa season? As far as McMeehan is concerned, there have always been two times of the year that people have traditionally bought investments, the end of the tax year and the period between the school holiday and Christmas. While at Framlington, she remembers cheques coming in to the office clipped to coupons scissored out of newspapers, most memorably one for £100,000. And while things might be hard for the ad people, she does not think that habits will change.
For those worried that business could be slow, maybe there are some ideas bubbling in the cauldron.