Timing is everything. When I approached Centaur Media in the mid-Eighties with the idea of a weekly newspaper aimed at the “packaged investment industry”, the scene was set for revolution.
Professor Gower had just produced his controversial review of financial services regulation, the first Financial Services Act was being drawn up, life companies and building societies were venturing into new areas and financial intermediaries did not know whether they were coming or going.
So when the financial services express pulled into the platform in the form of Money Marketing, there was a big crowd waiting to jump on board. As the editorial driver, I had a lot of past experience at the controls of a clapped-out steam train (a weekly insurance trade journal that tried to cover everything, with packaged investments thrown in for good measure).
Things were different at Centaur, where we created a tightly targeted pink tabloid for the burgeoning personal finance industry: especially brokers selling unit-linked life insurance products, mortgages and unit trusts. And, remember, the term IFA had not yet even been coined. It was an instant hit.
It was particularly satisfying to launch on the back of gut feeling. If we had done any market research, I am certain intermediaries would have complained they had too much to read already. As Apple’s Steve Jobs famously said: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
We promised a lot and we were able to deliver because we had a great team with a brilliant publisher at the helm: Centaur’s charismatic director Anthony Nares, who tragically died in a skiing accident in 1996. I had also gone out of my way to appoint young journalists who were not bound by conventions.
There were ground-breaking stories to tell. And there was a host of product launches, partly prompted by the Big Bang in October 1986. To celebrate Big Bang, stockbroker Phillips & Drew sent us a massive box of fireworks. We tried setting off a few from a balcony outside our offices but almost set the building on fire so traipsed off to Clapham Common where we caused a traffic accident instead.
Then in October 1987 there was Black Monday. We went to press on the Tuesday, having to decide whether to completely remake the whole issue or take the easy way out and assume things would be back to normal by Friday, when we would land on people’s desks. We correctly presumed the impact of the crash would be long-term and won a journalism award as a result.
It wasn’t all serious though – not least Out of Context, which has been with Money Marketing since day one.
Senior people in the industry may have been far more open with our young team than they are now. One of my favourites was Allied Dunbar’s Ken Clarke on the abolition of Serps, who told our reporter: “We’ll pretend we’re against it but think about all that business we’re going to write because of it.”
And then, pointedly, there was Brian Marsh of brokers Nelson Hurst and Marsh: “I’ve got you in one ear and a drill in the other. Of the two, I prefer the drill.” Well done that reporter…
Roger Anderson, years as editor: 1985-1988