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David Sherman

Sam Shaw finds that the 71-year-old marketing manager at Close Brothers Investment has developed a language of his own during his years in financial services but is still striving hard to ensure the intricacies of property funds and VCTs are not lost in translation for high-net-worth clients

Fifty years in financial services, 71-year-old Close Brothers Investment marketing manager David Sherman is anything but orthodox, starting by saying that the fourth grandchild to the “old seadog” is possibly being born as we speak.

Anyone who has managed to maintain such youthful enthusiasm for a single industry or, rather, the financial services “parlance” as David Sherman refers to the sector, could well be slightly deranged. “I cannot stand the word ‘industry’ applied to what we do,” he says.

After passing A levels in English, French and geography at Hove Grammar School, Sherman began a spell in the Royal Air Force, where his language skills helped him to become a translator intercepting Russian radio transmissions. Two years later, he returned to London, intent on reading Slovenic and Eastern European studies at London University. “I decided I was not an academic man so I did not bother with university in the end,” he says. Asked if he still speaks French or Russian, Sherman breaks into song. Twice.

At 21, Sherman joined the Brighton branch of Alliance Building Society. Five years later, he moved to Liverpool, promoted to chief clerk during the time of Beatlemania. “I was a bolshie Londoner up in Liverpool in the 1960s. You might say that I stood out a little bit.”

He later became a rep for the City office of Alliance and, after upsetting several colleagues for “not understanding office politics”, was sent to Coventry. Or rather, he was sent to set up his own branch in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

Sherman says he is a strong believer in going straight to the top when it comes to getting things done. When his stepson was denied a place at Newcastle-under-Lyme Grammar School, despite living in the area, Sherman wrote to Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The decision was revoked and a place at the school was granted.

These days, he is more likely to be translating the risk profiles of closed-ended property trusts and venture capital trusts than the codes of Russian militia but is as excited about it as ever. He says: “Marketing is a people business. It is about listening to what your customers want and giving it to them.”

After working for Alliance for 10 years, Sherman progressed through another 12 companies – many of which folded, including Atlantic Assurance, a guaranteed bond company that made him redundant after just a week.

Then, as a Lloyd’s of London Name, he lost everything in the meltdown in 1991. “I lost the lot – all my money, my home, my marriage. I had nothing and had to start from scratch. I wasn’t the only one. There were hundreds of us and some never recovered.”

At 59, Sherman started to rebuild. After merchant bank Chancery closed in 1991, he and his team, in which he was marketing manager for the corporate finance division, held a beauty parade of potential investors for their proposition.

The relationship formed with Close Brothers led to them setting up Close Brothers Investment. The division focuses on closed- and open-ended property funds and venture capital trusts, using Sherman’s experience of investing in business expansion schemes and enterprise investment schemes, as well a a focus on inheritance tax planning for high-net-worth clients.

He has seen property investment grow from 40m in 1999 to over 1bn now but he says there is a knowledge gap that IFAs need to address to maximise clients’ interest in property investment. “We are trying our best to plug that gap. Close runs a series of roadshows throughout the country, educating IFAs with regard to property funds. This is a huge opportunity for advisers.”

Close is eagerly awaiting Government consultation on real estate investment trusts and Sherman believes if the conversion charges and terms are favourable, Close could enter this arena in due course. “They seem a sensible solution and the 40 per cent tax breaks that can be offered look positive. I cannot see that we would not consider Reits.”

The self-declared encyclopaedia of financial services says one of the main changes he has witnessed over the last half-century has been the amalgamation of firms into multi-dimensional businesses. “When I started out, you knew what you were. You either worked for a bank, a building society or a life company. You had a strong sense of identity. Nowadays, it seems as if everyone wants to be everything to everybody.”

An area in which he is particularly disheartened is regulation, which he says was brought in by Margaret Thatcher to minimise the risk to consumers resulting from the misbehaviour of a few bad apples. “I was never regulated and I never conned or cheated anybody. You just would not entertain it. Has regulation ever really stopped a single crook? I think it is a huge waste of time, money and resources that is costing the industry a fortune.”

Asked to recall a career highlight from the last 50 years, Sherman says there have been too many. He plans to still be in the game at 80. He celebrates his 150-month anniversary with his partner Jacqueline this month, saying: “We are too old to wait whole years to celebrate.” Offering the inscription he wants for his tombstone, he says: “It’s been fun,” with a wide grin.

Born: Stoke Newington, North London, 1934
Lives: Finchley, North London
Education: Hove Grammar School, Sussex
Career highlights: 1955-65 Alliance Building Society, 1965-70 Swiss-Israel Trade Bank, 1970-74 Travel Credit, 1974-84 branch manager UK Provident, 1985-88 Berkeley St James’s Financial Management, 1988-91 Chancery, 1991-present marketing manager, Close Brothers Investment
Life ambition: To see youngest daughter happily married
Career ambition: To keep going
Hero: The late, great Lord David Sheppasrd
Likes: Cricket fanatic (supports Sussex), philately, performing arts, charity work
Dislikes: The hard sell, pop music
Car: BMW 520i – “But I’m not a car man”
Favourite book: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer
Favourite film: Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle ThievesFavourite album: Anything Tchaikovsky

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