Worldwide Financial Planning managing director Peter McGahan describes himself as a “soft hard man”.
Raised in the politically troubled County Armagh in the early 1970s, McGahan says he has experienced some shocking scenes. “I’ve had family blown up, my uncle’s been shot and another uncle stabbed. I used to be a bit of a scrapper but, when you lose someone important, it puts things in perspective. Now the only things that really matter are good relationships and good energy.”
As one of six children growing up on a council estate about 35 miles outside of Belfast, McGahan was the only youngster in the area to attend a grammar school. He remembers walking in his blazer in the opposite direction to all the other children attending the local comprehensive 800 yards away. Arriving at school after a walk of several miles, the hassle started.
“I was quite small and skinny and did not fit in either camp, so I got loads of grief. I basically became a really fast runner and I took up martial arts, which filled me with confidence. Once I had that confidence, no one would bother me again. At the time, I wished I had gone to the comp but I know I would not be where I was now if I had. I am still a scrapper but at least I am a scrapper with an education.”
Today, as an investment and inheritance tax planning specialist, McGahan still applies the lessons he learned as a child, saying: “Either do something brilliantly or don’t bother doing it at all.”
He has an abundance of energy and passion for his work but does not comes across as stressed, even when he has been up since 4am to travel to London from Cornwall – where his firm is based – and has spent the day attending meetings all over the capital.
At 18, McGahan was interested in art and set off around Europe to take in the museums and culture. He went to art college in Manchester but he thought the lecturers talked a load of rubbish. “They kept going on about finding your inner and outer person but I just wanted to paint. It wasn’t really me.”
He got a part-time job in Manchester and at 19, bought his first flat. However, he was unimpressed by his mortgage broker. “I thought, hang on a minute, this guy’s earning a lot of money and he’s an idiot. That’s when I first considered financial services.”
He has no regrets about giving up art and claims to have had no interest in it since then. “I don’t ever think about it. When you give up something that was so important, you just have to cut off from it altogether.”
After working at London and Manchester and Albany Life, McGahan set up Worldwide Financial Planning in 1999. As a specialist in inheritance tax, he has recently been very active in advising clients on Gordon Brown’s Budget changes to trust taxation.
He is also a believer in wrap. “Advisers who do not take up technology properly are fools. Wrap is clearly the way the investment market is headed but many wraps that call themselves that – or fund supermarkets, platforms or whatever name they decide upon – are not wraps at all. Many are marketing themselves as wrap but are not actually set up as one.”
McGahan loves running and has completed a handful of marathons. He plays golf off a handicap of 13 and is a Manchester United supporter who also enjoyed playing football “until I decked a central defender and was banned from my team”.
On Friday nights, he likes to head for the pub with the lads for a few pints of Guinness and a bit of a singsong, winding up with a curry. “The hotter the better but I do not bother with vindaloo.”
Yet he has a quiet side and often heads out on a fishing boat to switch off. He has also just bought a canoe.
“I love the peace and quiet. When I hear mobiles when people go fishing, I feel like throwing them in the water and the owners after them. It is great to head out with a few beers into the ocean and chill out.”
Summing up his career, McGaham says: “I have been in financial services since I was 19. I set up Worldwide eight years ago and I have never had a complaint. I have sold no endowments, no pension transfers, no drawdown under 100,000, no hedge funds, only two with-profits policies and no structured products or precipice bonds. That is because I think correctly.”
And all that from a man who claims only to have read one book.”I just do not have the patience. I keep lifting my head up to see if there is anything I am missing or someone to talk to,” he grins.
Born: Newry, Northern Ireland, 1968
Lives: Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, with wife Mandy and three children, Riona, Orla, Aoife
Education: Christian Brothers Grammar School, Armagh, Northern Ireland, obtaining eight O levels and three A levels
Career: 1988-99, London & Manchester Assurance; 1989-98, manager at Albany Life; 1999-present, managing director at Worldwide Financial Planning
Likes: Spontaneity, honesty, equality, laughter, good friends and good relationships, passion, fishing, golf, running, surfing and snorkelling, “anyone or anything that makes me smile”
Dislikes: Anyone who is disingenuous, hierarchy, phone ringtones, uninformed comment, low integrity and cricket – “just what is that all about?”
Drives: Normally an E320 cdi Mercedes
Favourite book: “Only ever read one – short stories about a young boy growing up in Ireland. It is in Gaelic but translated means, When I Was Young”
Favourite film: A Summer Story
Favourite album: Sogno by Andrea Boccelli
Hero: “Didn’t know I had one until my mum died three years ago. Naturally, it’s her”
Life ambition: Probably a journey through the Grand Canyon
Career ambition: “To keep reinventing myself and being excellent at what I do until I can’t. Then golf it is.”
If I wasn’t doing this job I would be….: “Sat on a rock with a fishing rod and a beer and a beach pub I own nearby that I pop into for a singsong and some jokes with my mates”