A Day In The Life Of: Building a business is not a 9-to-5 job; I'm dealing with people's hopes and dreams

Stefan Allesch-Taylor, chief executive of Fairfax, has a tricky day juggling the demands of fatherhood and a fast-growing investment bank
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The Independent Online


In business Stefan Allesch-Taylor has made quite a name for himself. A millionaire at 27, thanks to some astute property dealing (he sold his property company to Moorfield Estates), he first came to the attention of a wider audience after a public spat with the former Tory Chancellor Kenneth Clarke over Savoy Asset Management, which led to an unlikely fist fight.

He boasts members of the Kuwaiti royal family as friends, has a production company with DJ Neil Fox and runs one of Britain's fastest-growing investment banks. Despite his success, he still finds it almost impossible to persuade his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter to eat a sensible breakfast. Perhaps it is because of his displeasure at the bowl of muesli his fitness fanatic wife insists he eats. "It's cement," he moans. "So I sit there trying to eat this rubbish while my daughter giggles at the performance and uses it as an excuse not to eat what she doesn't want to."


Mr Allesch-Taylor, 38, drives himself from his home in Fulham to his Mayfair office. He employs a driver but the journey to work is one he does himself, chiefly because the two cannot stand each others' musical tastes. Mr Allesch-Taylor has the American blues influenced singer-songwriter John Mayer on near-permanent rotation, which his driver, a Prodigy devotee, cannot abide. "We've come to an agreement that I'll drive myself into work. I want it calm on the way in," he says. On entering the office he grabs Matthew Gill, the chief operatingofficer of his investment bank, Fairfax, for a second, fried, breakfast. "I'll get killed when my wife reads this, but I always grab someone for a second breakfast, to discuss business. This time we are talking about the creation of Fairfax Middle East.

"The FSA out in Dubai is as tough as the FSA out here, and Matt is planning to fly out to have a meeting with them the next day. We have people on the ground who can navigate their way through countries of the Gulf Co-operative Council very well, and we think we have a great opportunity to have a bank out there."


Happier about life after the fry-up that he considers a more appropriate start for his six foot 10 inch, 20 stone-plus frame, Mr Allesch-Taylor returns to his Mayfair office, leaving Fairfax matters aside to meet with Sir Peter Burt, the former ITV chairman.

He and Sir Peter plan to launch a Gibraltar-based insurance company, Tactica, aimed at the pensions industry. It will require the raising of £1bn. The two are joined by Wai Au, a former chief operating officer of UK banking at Barclays.

The market is a complex one and the three run through issues such as financing and various other things that need to be dealt with in the creation of a major venture. The meeting ends at midday, after which Mr Allesch-Taylor opens his doors. He is particularly keen to hear an update on how Fairfax's market-makers have performed during the recent stock market turbulence. "They've made money, which is pleasing, although not vast sums because we don't have a big book" says Mr Allesch-Taylor. "I have an open-door policy and this is a good time of the day for people to drop in and talk about the business and how it is going."


Mr Allesch-Taylor heads to lunch with Steve Roberts, former head of corporate finance at rival Evolution. "Steve and I discuss our relationship with other brokers, who we want to work with, who we want to jointly do things with, how we co-operate and how we get on," he says.

Lunchtimes are usually focussed on Fairfax and its plans. In 18 months, the company – initially set up with a group of former stockbrokers who left Collins Stewart in the wake of the split-capital investment trust scandal – has grown to employ more than 80 people and raised more than £1bn for clients.

The lunch takes an hour and a half before Mr Allesch-Taylor returns to the office to discuss hiring plans. "We are a business that is constantly hiring," he says. "I spend an hour and a half going through CVs. We have broking, market-making, corporate finance, the Middle East, so there is a lot to be getting on with."


Mr Allesch-Taylor spends the next hour working the telephones, troubleshooting. While he does not work directly with the firm's clients, he says he will involve himself if asked. "This middle of the day bit is where I get on with the bump and grind."

An hour later, he contacts his office in the Middle East. It might be four hours ahead, but, he says, this is a good time. "They are not really morning people, but in the evenings they are still busy. I have a private office in Abu Dhabi who are helping sort out our Middle Eastern business, regulatory matters, hirings."


Now is the time Mr Allesch-Taylor and other senior people begin interviews with some of the people they discussed after lunch. "I will be meeting people close to this time because they can't do it during the day. It's not really an interview with me, it's more of a chat. I have informal chats. What I am is a chief executive of chief executives, and it makes my job basically quite easy. There are probably five guys, if not more, in this building who are probably capable of doing my job. They are actually probably more experienced than me. My skills set is that I know how to build a business. When it is built, it'll be time for me to go."


Mr Allesch-Taylor arrives home. He always lands at this time because otherwise, he says, his daughter won't go to bed. He also refuses to do business dinners, except when he is in the Middle East. He will unwind for an hour or so before picking up the phone again. "When you're building a business, it is not a nine-to-five job because you are talking about people's hopes, their dreams. They often see it as their shot, at a bigger reputation, wealth, profile. So, unless I'm going out to dinner with friends, I'll make more personal calls at home."

The last hour of the day he will watch films or read through a movie script submitted to his company, Powder Blue Pictures, a joint venture between him and Fox. A serial entrepreneur, he would dearly love to be the man behind a blockbuster on the silver screen. Watch this space.