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Daniel Godfrey

Daniel Godfrey has taken some hard knocks over the last seven years in what is arguably one of the hottest seats in UK financial services as director general of the Association of Investment Trust Companies.

He has been in the financial business for 23 years but feels that the challenge of travelling to India as a young man helped him with the communication skills he needed to cope in the split-cap crisis.

Born in North London, Godfrey went to Westminster School in the 1970s. He feels it offered a more inclusive edu- cation than many might assume and finishing his A levels a year early gave him time to travel around India.

He visited Dharamsala – home of the exiled Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees – along with Kashmir and Goa before returning to England in a bus through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.

“In India, I got to see how the over half live – not just the other half in England but the other half of the world. I really learnt to communicate with people and, while it did not seem like a big deal to me at the time, I would be frightened if one of my children were to make a similar trip today.”

Godfrey’s liking for people, combined with an interest in finance, led to a degree in social studies and economics at Manchester University. He is a lifelong Arsenal fan but found himself living round the corner from Maine Road and went to see Manchester City play from time to time.

After his degree, Godfrey began his financial services career selling to IFAs at a with-profits life company.

“I think there has been a huge change in the IFA industry over the last 23 years. It is more professional now. When I first started, some IFAs would say they had clients needing endowment policies and send me round to their houses in the evenings to sign them up. It was a bit Wild West by comparison with what we have now and there was a danger that people were being missold.”

At this point, Godfrey is interrupted by the distinctive sound of Darth Vader’s breathing. It is coming from his mobile phone – a ringtone that he has just downloaded with his seven-year-old son Ben. He says watching his family grow and develop is one of his major interests, with two stepsons aged 23 and 20 and a stepdaughter aged 18 also taking up his time.

“Watching my kids grow up is absolutely fascinating. There is a huge emotional investment and, despite the aggravation, it is very rewarding. There are a lot of parallels between being a parent and running an organisation.”

I t is the morning after the AITC’s annual conference, where Godfrey apologised to members for criticising them during the split-cap crisis. He says he has been receiving positive feedback about the apology but concedes that he is never likely to win over everyone. He wants to be able to work productively with everyone in the future and thinks apologising to members was good for him, for them and for the industry.

“There is a reluctance in business and political life to apologise. People do not like admitting they have made mistakes, which I think is just silly. Trying to go through life as if you have not made mistakes is never going to help.

“We were incredibly busy during the split-cap crisis and I am aware that some of the things I said gave offence to members and that offence was lingering. But the key thing was, when the crisis began, we decided we would not try to defend the indefensible.”

Godfrey thinks the crisis is now over but says he felt sorry for people who lost money, in some cases their entire life savings. As the man charged with representing the industry to politicians and the public through the crisis, he found it a challenging time but it was important to him to be sensitive to everybody’s concerns.

“There are two types of people who could do my job – either those who are sensitive but are able to show a thick skin in public or those whose arrogance gives them protection against the critics. I would rather be the first kind of person.”

Godfrey says his main objective for this year is to get the industry through the Treasury regulation consultation with- out massive changes adversely affecting investment trusts. He thinks the probability is for small changes, such as an extension to the ombudsman service to include investment trusts, but he has no hunch on whether the consultation will bring this.

On possible changes to the ombudsman service, Godfrey says he can understand why people would be scared of the idea of a huge number of new claimants. However, he thinks that most people who buy as a result of promotions buy direct from the promoter.

Godfrey is married to Frederiki, a hypnotherapist. He says she has never hypnotised him although she jokes that it is how she got him to marry her. They have recently moved to a house in Westminster but Godfrey says he has no plans to enter politics. His attitude to politicians speaks strongly about his personal values.

“I do not hold politicians in contempt exactly but I do not think I could live with defending policies I did not believe in, in order to progress a career. I am sure that if you got Tony Blair on his own, being absolutely honest, he would say he has had to do the opposite of what he believed through the course of his job and I think that is hard.”

Born: June 30, 1961, London
Education: Westminster School, Manchester University
Likes: Arsenal, eating, holidays, cinema, Clint Eastwood, Nicolas Cage, theatre, people
Dislikes: Bad service, capers (he feels like he needs to scrape his tongue when he eats one), people lying or trying to manipulate him, bullies
Life ambition: To see as much of the world as possible
Car: Not a car owner but wife has a Mini
Greatest hero: Martin Luther King


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