Hargreaves Lansdown head of research Mark Dampier is a self-confessed
“media tart” who loves seeing his name in the national and trade press.
But then again, anyone in his position would need to love the attention.
Why else would they put themselves forward as the mouthpiece for one of the
UK's leading and often controversial IFAs?
As the public face of Hargreaves Lansdown – a firm many rival IFAs love to
hate – one thing Dampier would readily admit is that life is never dull.
The firm has taken a lot of flak from smaller IFAs over its decision in
March to rebate trail commission. They accuse the firm of trying to squeeze
them out of the market.
But Dampier defends Hargreaves Lansdown, claiming the firm is often
misunderstood and actually has the whole IFA sector's interests at heart on
many occasions. He believes the criticism is often the result of jealousy
over the firm's success and innovative style which has made it as near to a
household name as anyone in financial services is likely to get.
Whether you love or hate Dampier, even his worst enemy would have to admit
he has been a success in getting his name in the papers. Independent
research by media analyst Presswatch shows him as one of the most quoted
IFAs and industry figures in the national media.
But it might all have been different if a prospective father-in-law had
not told the young Dampier to “get off his backside and get a proper job”.
Prior to the ill-fated engagement which led to this comment, Dampier had
been content in carving out a niche as a ski instructor on the pistes of
Europe, having decided against a career in law.
He had studied law at Kingston Polytechnic and taken his part twos at
Guildford Law School. But he admits “the idea of spending the next 40 years
doing conveyancing did not really appeal” so it was off to the ski slopes.
But after much nagging by his former fiancee – who told him: “You will
never get a job as no one will ever give you a job on your doorstep” – he
proceeded to be offered a job on his doorstep by his mum's next-door
neighbour Kean Seager, who had just set up Whitechurch Securities.
It was at Whitechurch that Dampier took his first tentative steps into
talking to the press after some prompting from Threadneedle communications
director Dick Eats. He has not looked back.
He left Whitechurch in 1995, citing the problem of not having any equity
in the firm as the reason for leaving. Dampier then set up Churchill
Investments with James Ware before moving to Hargeaves Lansdown in November
1998 after a clash of personalities.
He claims he has never been happier and believes he will be at Hargreaves
Lansdown for the foreseeable future. He is even considering staying there
until he retires, which is quite a commitment for someone who is only 44.
He says: “You could not find a better atmosphere anywhere and the
opportunities are immense.”
It is these opportunities which he believes will hold the firm in good
stead for the future and could even herald a revolution in the way
financial products are distributed.
He thinks Hargreaves' diversification into stakeholder and fund
supermarkets will put the control of distribution firmly back into the
Dampier says: “Take Isas, for example. I think we will see many fund
management groups drop them from their product range. It is just a product
wrapper and I think providers will give it over to supermarkets and
intermediaries to put together and sell. They will pay us for doing the
He is also positive about the IFA sector despite the threatened end of
polarisation. “Why would anyone buy from a multi-tie when you can get a
much better proposition through an IFA? The abolition of polarisation will
not necessarily be a disaster, it will just be a great shame as it will
confuse the consumer.”
As a top industry pundit, has he any tips for budding Dampiers of the
future? “Not likely,” he says. “I don't want to tell others how to do it.
But seriously, it is just a case of making yourself available to
journalists and getting back to them, as well as always thinking of
building long-term relationships and putting some effort into it, even
though that may mean spending an hour telling someone the basics.”
But perhaps another reason why Dampier has such a high profile is that no
one has a bad word to say about him.
“Nice bloke” is the comment bandied around by most. Even those he has
crossed swords with in the press, such as Best Invest's Jason Hollands,
says they are friends and any spat is on a professional level.
What about skeletons in the cupboard? Well, there is always one of his
great ancestors, a 17th Century pirate (sorry, buccaneer) called William
Dampier, who apparently beat Captain Cook to be the first Englishman to set
foot on Australia.
“He was a typical Dampier and found the barren part of Australia about
200 years too early. Later on, they found nickel and gold there.”
Rivals might argue that, given his ancestry, Dampier has found his true
home at Hargreaves Lansdown. But he says they are only jealous.