W hen your name instantly conjures up images of pistol-wielding men in masks, a career spent trying to persuade people to part with their money – voluntarily, that is – seems somehow apposite.
But that it not to say that Artemis managing director Dick Turpin, one of the City's most affable slickers, indulges in a secret passion for highway robbery. For one thing, he is too honest and, perhaps more pertinently, he does not have the time. After a hectic 12 months overseeing the merger between Artemis and his previous employer ABN Amro, which had suffered the loss of star managers Nigel Thomas and George Luckraft, he is slightly weary but, as usual, very upbeat.
Well, aside from the frustrations caused by the odd snag when both companies moved to St James's Street in the West End from the City three weeks ago, that is. “The practical aspects have gone quite well – except for British Telecom,” he says. “The move is the final piece in the jigsaw. We wanted to come together under one roof. It saves a lot of journey time and phone calls.”
It houses most of Artemis' fund managers, three of whom have been recruited in the past year to a company that is fast shrugging off its boutique status. Adrian Paterson, Adrian Gosden and Peter Saacke have already joined or are due to join Artemis in the near future, boosting its fund manager numbers by 50 per cent. Despite some of the worst markets for decades, Artemis has also seen its assets under management rise from £2bn to £2.5bn and has remained net positive throughout this year. Understandably, Turpin, who helped supervise the merger of six funds from the two ranges, is, in his gracious way, delighted.
“It is very encouraging. The fund performance has been maintained and, in many cases, improved. But we were lucky in that we had time to get the portfolios aligned before the merger took place. We have also bought in good people who believe in the culture of active management.”
Culture is important to Turpin who, despite coming from a giant Dutch bank, detects only minor differences between his current and former employers. “The culture is very similar. ABN's UK retail business was pretty much independent in the management and the way it was run. It was like a small comp-any and when I first spoke to Mark Tyndall, Artemis' chief executive, I realised it was quite similar to ABN, especially in terms of the investment process.” Like Tyndall, perhaps the only man in the industry who claims to have a wardrobe free of suits, Turpin is not exactly the archetypal City gent. However, his career path does have a familiar ring to it. After leaving Hampton Grammar School at 19 with A levels in chemistry, physics and biology – “don't ask me the grades, they weren't good” – he joined the army, spending a year in officer training before signing up to the infantry. He wanted to be a pilot but his eyesight scuppered that plan.
He spent the next 13 years jetting round the globe, serving in Germany (two years), Hong Kong (three years) and Cyprus (two years). It was in Hong Kong, his favourite posting, that his passion for the financial world was ignited after making friends with a local stockbroker. “It was the mid 1980s and the stockmarket was booming. The whole environment just seemed very exciting and it was there that it all just seemed to fit together.” On leaving the army in 1987, Turpin joined Merrill Lynch as an inexperienced but eager new recruit.
After several months at the firm's training programme in Princeton, he returned as a freshly minted stockbroker under orders to “smile and dial” – construct a book of private clients. But the stockmarket had just crashed and it proved almost impossible to persuade people to invest. Nevertheless, he persevered for two years before joining US firm Aetna's start-up UK unit trust business as a regional salesman. In 1993, Turpin moved to Barings as sales director under Mark Skinner, now at New Star. Again, though, the timing was bad to say the least as Nick Leeson was about to bring the company to its knees.
“In hindsight, it was the most amazing learning experience. It taught me to be open and to tell the truth no matter what. If it is bad news, then bite the bullet and explain it. I stayed for another three years after that.”
The next move was ABN which, at that time, had no presence and less than £60m under management. When the merger went through, it had £1.4bn under management, an achievement Turpin typically downplays, attributing the turn-round to “the right formula and a fair bit of luck”.
As much as he may doff his cap to lady luck, however, Turpin leaves little to chance. He is watching the distribution struggle with great interest but is wary of the potential minefield that lies ahead. “There is now enormous rationalisation and it is about seeing how things are changing and recognising what distributors want. We realise they are holding the reins but the worry is they will want more and more and it will all fall over.”
Turpin is at least equally anxious for the City social circuit to remain unscathed from any fallout. Fond of the odd glass or five of red wine – “I don't have a cellar because it doesn't last long enough” – he obviously takes great joy in the infamous post-work booze and banter sessions.
“One of the great things in this industry is the sense of partnership,” he says. “We all get together for drinks and so on and that should be maintained. We even share ideas – I get a lot of benefit from talking to my opposite numbers.”
He also benefits – although one suspects, not physically – from his involvement with the Tunbridge Juddians, a rugby club where he has coached youngsters for years. A mean second row in his day, Turpin says it is “great fun and a good way for me to give something back to the sport”. He is also handy with a shotgun, often hosting corporate days blasting clay pigeons.
With three young children who complain that they never see enough of him, however, Turpin is keen to keep his extracurricular activities to a minimum but it is safe to assume that it would take more than a coach and horses to prevent him propping up the bar of some the many drinking establishments dotted around the City and, indeed, the West End.
Born: Isleworth, 1956
Lives: Hildenborough, Kent, with his wife and three children.
Education: Hampton Grammar School.
Career: 1975-87 the army; 1987-89 Merrill Lynch; 1989-93 Aetna; 1993-98 Barings;1998-2002 ABN Amro;2002-03 Artemis.
Career ambition: “To be successful at what I am doing.”
Life ambition: “To live long enough to enjoy a bottle of 2000 Bordeaux – that's another 15-17 years.”
Likes: “Enjoying good company with a bottle of wine and a good meal, especially if someone else is paying.”
Dislikes: “Getting anywhere in this country by rail, road or air.”
Drives: Five-year-old Volvo estate. “I don't think I would fit in a Porsche.”
Peers say: “He is the biggest-hearted man in the industry. He is genuinely admired and he is always the life and soul of the party. And I have seen him at a lot of parties.”