Profile: Man with a dream of City empire: Paul Manduca: The head of BAT's new investment arm has pounds 30bn - and big ideas about how to use it. William Kay meets a rising star

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TWENTY years ago, Paul Manduca was having the living daylights scared out of him. He was in his first year out of Oxford and making the tea at a now-defunct stockbroker during one of the grimmest spells the City has seen this century - industrial unrest, a three-day working week and two miserable general elections.

It was a baptism of fire that was to stand him in good stead. On 1 June Manduca (pronounced 'Mandooka') heads off cheerily to his fifth City employer - a modest tally by modern standards. At the age of 42 and as a rising star in the financial firmament, he is unlikely to be seeing it as his last posting.

He is going to be chief executive of Threadneedle Asset Management, the newly created investment arm of BAT Industries' financial services operation, embracing Allied Dunbar Assurance and Eagle Star Insurance.

Manduca, an energetic personality with a schoolboyish enthusiasm for whatever is preoccupying him, sees this as a platform to construct a world-class investment empire.

'It's a super opportunity,' he said as we talked across the boardroom table of his present base, the stuffily Establishment Henderson Administration. 'Within the financial services industry, BAT looks very well placed. Threadneedle will have pounds 30bn under management, making it the 10th largest fund manager, and it will have two powerful distribution arms in Allied and Eagle. Once the performance starts to improve, we can think about getting third-party business.'

Originally fund managers were hired by insurance companies such as Allied and Eagle to fulfil promises to take care of policy-holders' money. Now, taking his cue from a similar set-up at Prudential Corporation, Manduca regards the in- house insurers as no more than his customers. And if them, why not others outside the BAT fold?

'Prudential Portfolio Managers is a kind of model,' Manduca admitted, 'but Threadneedle's advantage is that it has its own brand- name.' Or will have, as the name hardly exists in the public mind yet. That is about to change. Manduca envisages Threadneedle becoming a leading force on the stock market, taking in pension fund and investment trust management here and abroad, with all the clout that that brings in terms of deciding takeover bids and other headline-grabbing issues.

If it works out, Manduca will become as well-known as other City figures, such as the Pru's Mick Newmarch and Hugh Jenkins, or Foreign & Colonial's Michael Hart. If not, watch out for another career shift.

'I'm not a job mover,' Manduca protested mildly. 'I wasn't looking to move, and the people at Henderson have been very nice to me, but my challenge there had sort of come to an end.'

His friends say that he might have resisted BAT if the blue- blooded Henderson aristocracy had definitely promised him the managing director's desk when the present incumbent, Jeremy Edwards, retires in three years. This was apparently to be done in the next annual report, but that was not enough.

As a child he was precocious. He admits to studying stock prices at prep school, and was one of those Harrovians who were to be found poring over the Financial Times in their spare time.

'I have been interested in shares from an early age,' he said. 'I took a very big interest in the market when I was at Oxford.'

Manduca is an old Maltese name, of French origin. Paul Manduca's father built up a security business, which he sold to Securicor and retired. Paul is the eldest of six children; their mother died when they were young.

'I have had to make my own way in the City,' Manduca explained. 'My father took the view that it was expensive enough to bring up and educate six children, so after that we were on our own.'

His three brothers all followed Paul into the City, and they can occasionally be seen playing a friendly four-ball of golf at Wentworth - not usually on the demanding Burma Road, venue for the World Matchplay championship, but more often on the shorter East Course.

After reading modern languages at Oxford, he found himself stumbling around the darkened offices of the Colgrave & Co broking firm, overhearing his elders muttering in awed tones about ICI shares yielding 14 per cent and the disgrace of National Westminster Bank having to deny it was going bust.

After two years Manduca became a portfolio manager with Rowe & Pitman, now part of S G Warburg. But he really began to make his name at Hill Samuel, running small company funds during the heyday of the Unlisted Securities Market in the early 1980s.

In 1983 he joined Touche Remnant, the investment trust manager that had been spun out of the accountants Touche Ross.

Within three years TR received a takeover bid from Metropolitan Life of the US. That split the board, giving Manduca the opportunity to graduate from fund manager to business manager.

'I got into management because I enjoyed working with people,' he said disarmingly. 'The older management at TR was coming up to retirement and there was a sort of gap.'

At that stage, 1986, the City was being shaken up by the influx of American, Japanese and Continental financial houses trying to take advantage of Big Bang, the liberalisation of the London Stock Exchange.

'It seemed to me that strategic thinking in investment management was becoming more important,' Manduca said. 'For the first time fund management companies needed capital because, in America, if you are going to distribute you need very good technology, and you have to invest in concrete to build distribution centres where customers can come in and deal. You cannot say it's not going on around us. It is.'

In the absence of a huge capital-raising exercise, Manduca realised, TR needed a strong partner. In 1989 he engineered a pounds 50m takeover by Societe Generale of France. As with BAT, he hoped that the French would provide a springboard for international expansion. But it never got off the ground.

So in 1992 the French sold TR to Henderson, a City fund management group of impeccable pedigree but poor performance lately. The deal was widely seen as a way of recruiting Manduca to inject some zip. Within a week Robin Berrill, the head of Henderson's private-client division, was gone.

'The merger with TR has been a great success,' Manduca enthused, 'and we have developed HTR as a brand. I'm proud to have played my part, but the TR deal is yesterday's story.'

Tomorrow's story will be about how far he can persuade BAT's top management to give him his head.

Roddy Crawford, the investment trusts analyst at BZW, observed: 'He is enormously capable - and, I would have thought, quite a hard man to work for. He knows what he wants to achieve and sets out to do it. He has imposed his own style at Henderson, and that is no mean feat. But he is very ambitious, and has got to make a success of his new job.'

(Photograph omitted)