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Interview

as Mort Mirghavameddin approaches his first anniversary as CEO of Trust Corporation, reflecting on the past 12 months it is clear he’s ready to put his foot down and deliver on a new strategy he believes will enhance the Guernsey-based company

Words: Eila Madden Photos: Paul Mariess

What was it like to work in the City at the time of the Big Bang? It was a fantastic time because it really was a Big Bang. The floor of the London Stock Exchange, the options traded on the side, the floor of LIFFE – there was much more human interaction on the floors. Working in the Stock Exchange building itself was exciting, aside from the IRA bombs that were going off every now and then. The visitors’ gallery bomb happened during my time at the Stock Exchange, as did the Commercial Union bomb. So, aside from outside influences, it was a massively exciting time of change. The Americans, Japanese, Germans, French were all coming in. It really created a very diverse environment. By 1995, people were beginning to hire ‘professional’ compliance officers and I was headhunted to join Guinness Mahon.

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I was Group Head of Compliance at a very young age – 29 years old – and two years after that we were taken over by Investec Group, which asked me to head up their group compliance department. I continued in this role for a further two years and was then invited by the Chief Executive of Investec Group to consider taking up a role as Chief Executive of Investec Bank in the Channel Islands. My initial thoughts were: “I’m in compliance; I haven’t got the knowhow of the commercial aspects of banking”. However, inspired by his belief in me, I took up the position and in 2000, the year of the millennium, I came to the Channel Islands at 34 years old. How did you feel about being a CEO at that age? Was it daunting? I think I was probably the youngest Chief Executive of a bank on the island at the time. I recall the table at the Association of Guernsey Banks – I was definitely the youngest person there. With the firm at a low ebb, the only way was up. For me, it was an opportunity to

The way to win is to create the rules of the game yourself. and if you play by your own rules, you win. That was the outlook we instilled at Investec

create something that was an improvement on what was before, so I never really looked at the downside of things. Plus, I felt I had a bit more energy and was more hungry to succeed than, with respect, some of the other incumbents who were comfortable in their surroundings. Were they surprised to be dealing with such a young CEO? To be honest, I’m not sure what their impressions were. I just thought about who we were and how we could win. The way to win is to create the rules of the game yourself and if you play by your own rules, you win. That was the outlook we instilled in the team. I believe Investec Bank Channel Islands was originally established to be the banker for the in-house asset management company so, since inception to the time that I arrived, it was a service provider to another part of the group that was doing well. When I arrived, we decided that it ought to stand on its own two feet and create profitability for the shareholders in a manner that was acceptable. Our vision was that we would like to double the size of the bank every four years. We were making roughly £1m a year when I arrived; we were making roughly £24m a year when I left in 2009. How did you make that happen? The secret of the success was to have a clear, strategic direction and to have a group of people who absolutely believed in that. The culture and values at Investec created an environment that allowed ordinary people to perform extraordinarily. I wouldn’t say we were any better in terms of qualifications or entrepreneurial skills than any other bank around in the market, but as a cohesive team, I would have put us up against anybody and be confident we could win. I think that sense of confidence is what really created our differentiator. As an example, relatively early on in my time there, we went away on an offsite trip and people from the various departments

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What’s your background and how did you get to where you are now? I was originally awarded a scholarship to go and study quantity surveying in Portsmouth, but I quickly realised that a career in financial services was going to be more rewarding. Bear in mind that I am one of Thatcher’s children. It was a matter of getting on your bike and getting on with it. And in those days, as a 20-year-old, it was drummed into you that you had to get on the property ladder and that was the primary motivation. My career in financial services started at the London Stock Exchange in 1986, which was the time of the Big Bang. I was in a department called Membership, which essentially was allowing the ownership of British stockbroking firms, for the first time, to be outside of the UK. Subsequently, the regulatory environment came to be and a regulator was established. Most of us, who had worked at the London Stock Exchange, were assumed into a company called The Securities Association, which was really the very first regulator of stockbrokers and bond dealers under the umbrella of the Securities Investment Board.

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