A day in the life of ... Michael Spencer

Money broker puts charity before politics for a record £5.2m fund-raiser

Judi Bevan
Saturday 10 December 2005 01:00 GMT

7.45 am

Michael Spencer, founder and chief executive of ICAP, kisses his wife, Lorraine, goodbye in their west London home and steps into his charcoal-grey Mercedes driven by the amiable Lee. The number plate reads ICAP, the company Mr Spencer founded 19 years ago and now the world's largest inter-dealer money broker, trading from 26 offices around the world.

Mr Spencer, worth about £370m, is one of the richest men in Britain, but never eats breakfast. "I have lunch and dinner out five days a week so I don't need more food." He picks up a coffee on the way to the City and settles back to peruse the newspapers - his normal routine when in London. Often, though, he is overseas. "I spend a week in New York and visit Hong Kong and other businesses at least twice a year," he says.


Mr Spencer arrives at Broadgate in the City, strolls past the ice rink and into ICAP'S headquarters where he is greeted by a bevvy of receptionists dressed in black-and-white Bunny Girl outfts. Hugh Heffner, eat your heart out. Today is Charity Day when all of ICAP's 1,700 traders worldwide donate their commission to a clutch of charities from Cancer Warriors in the Philippines to the Meningitis Trust. Last year the firm raised £4.2m, bringing the total since 1993 to £22m. Spencer is hoping for a new record today.

Up on the vast fourth and fifth floors the traders are dressed to kill. French onion sellers man the dollar desk, Morris dancers the Polish zloty and Dracula toreadors the Swiss franc. As far as the eye can see there are fancy dress costumes from Darth Vader to Dig for Victory girls.

Spencer makes it past Zoro and Spiderman into his office where a striking Jack Vettriano painting hangs above his desk. In it a young woman in red is seated, stocking tops just showing as a man at the window with his back to us, starts to undress. "I'm buying other contemporary art now," says Mr Spencer, a touch defensive. "I bought a Lucien Freud the other day, Lucien is great."

Mr Spencer is one of the few people at ICAP not dressed up. His famous flamboyance is under wraps, like his temper, and he is not even sporting his once trademark red braces. He wears a dark, sharply cut suit and an open-neck blue shirt with silver cuff-links.

Mr Spencer's first meeting is with Oliver Hemsley, the chief executive of Numis where he is the chairman and a shareholder. The stockbroker has just announced nearly trippled profits of £38m but they need to plan for more bumpy times ahead. Spencer paces the room as they talk, unable to contain his restless energy for long. He makes a few calls and races through his correspondence and diary with Tara, his Australian secretary. Normally in trousers, she has put on a flouncy skirt straight out of Sex and the City.


Mr Spencer emerges from his office to start pressing the flesh. Eddie Jordan and Richard Hill, the rugby star, are being shown round the two trading floors. In the "Green Room" the air is buzzing with nervous anticipation as Martyn "good news" Lewis, for the Moorfields Eye hospital, chats to Penny Smith from the Chailey Heritage School.

The guest of honour is running late. The photographer from Hello fumes when told that Downing Street has vetoed any photographs, but just then Rory Bremner arrives. He makes straight for the "convicts" dealing desk, picks up a phone and starts talking. Then he picks up another and places a third on his head. Spencer grins, sensing a gag on its way.

Bremner looks up: "I've just lost George Soros, is that a problem?"

Suddenly the security staff are muttering into their walkie-talkies and finally Cherie Blair emerges from the lift, dressed for the part in a baby-blue trouser suit. "I've just come straight from Chambers," she says, eyes wide as Mr Spencer squires her on to the trading floor followed by the Downing Street heavies. Family law and trading derivatives may be worlds apart but she throws herself into it joshing and laughing with the traders. The in-house photographer tries a couple of shots; nobody stops him. Knights in chain mail and golden armour pay court to Cherie, who could not be more relaxed.

Mr Spencer, a Cameron-supporting anti-Euro Tory, has pulled off a coup and he knows it. "I may not share her political views, but it is only right that I look after the Prime Minister's wife properly," he declares.

Cherie picks up a phone on the Morris Dancer's desk - flashbulbs going off everywhere. Mr Spencer turns to the crowd. "Most appropriately, she has just bought a billion euros," he exclaims to laughter.

The photographer from Hello finally smiles.

As Cherie, representing the children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent, vanishes to the far side of the trading floor, Honor Blackman, the original Bond girl, arrives looking stunning on behalf of Action for Blind People. She is not keen on the new Bond, Daniel Craig.

"You need good bone structure for Bond; he has a slightly squashy face," she says with a dazzling smile.


Cherie Blair departs, still smiling from her taste of raw capitalism but the party goes on.


On the television monitors the guests see that ICAP's New York office has started trading and the baseball star Yogi Berra is chatting to clients from the trading desks in between signing autographs. Last year's star attraction, Denzel Washington, rings to congratulate him after seeing a live interview with CNBC.

1.15 pm

Like everyone else at ICAP, Mr Spencer is eating on the hoof from an endless flow of canapés and mini sausage and mash. He keeps a "fabulous" fine wine cellar at Broadgate and regularly hosts in-house for a mixture of clients such as Michael Sherwood from Goldman Sachs and Bill Winters from JP Morgan. The wine always flows. "I didn't get where I am today by not drinking at lunchtime," he says laughing. If he goes to a restaurant it is The Don in St Swithins Lane where he sticks to protein - "scallops and venison, that sort of thing". Yet he is not without discipline. "I never, ever eat desert even though I have a sweet tooth.

Mr Spencer, friend of other flamboyant characters such as Stuart Rose and John Beckwith, looks in remarkably good shape for a 50-year-old who still burns the candle at both ends and loves nothing better than a really good bash. At his 50th birthday party in the south of France, Robbie Williams was reputedly paid £1m to sing "Let me Entertain You", among other songs, followed by a set from Sister Sledge.


The celebs are still coming: Mr Spencer greets Nancy Dell'Olio and Bill Nighy along with Janet Street-Porter and Gaby Roslin.


The tempo is slowing down as Mr Spencer goes back to work, meeting his business heads in the boardroom to review the all-important electronic broking strategy at ICAP. One reason for ICAP's success - pre-tax profits have risen from £75.6m to £179m since 2001 - is the acquisition of an American electronic broker called Brokertech in 2003, which took the company ahead of the game.

"My view is that our market is likely to become predominantly electronic. It is evolution, not revolution."


Mr Spencer heads back to his own office and shows visitors a picture of his two sons and daughter all caught mid leap from a trampoline against a backdrop of rural England. There is another of him on his new yacht. "It's really fast," he says happily. Colleagues arrive for the last meeting of the day to discuss ICAP's graduate-recruitment programme. Mr Spencer broke the mould of traditional moneybroking when he started Intercapital, as it then was, by hiring young people. We said "we don't care if you are 23 or 43, we will pay you if you do the business". He likes to keep the young blood flowing and does not believe that traders do not need an education. "I read physics at Oxford, but I always knew I wanted to work in the City," he says.


ICAP's 13th charity day in London is over and by the close of play in New York the firm will have raised a record £5.2m worldwide. Spencer thanks the organisers and goes home for a quick wash and brush up.


He and Lorraine head for the Belgravia House of Lord Harris of Peckham for a reception to celebrate David Cameron's victory as leader of the Conservative Party.


Mr Spencer leaves for a dinner with friends in the art world.

12.30 am

Home to bed. An early night.

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