Polo maverick riding out the storm

As thousands of fans head to Hurlingham for Polo in the Park this weekend, City A.M. chats to its founder, City veteran Daniel Fox-Davies

AMONG the sun seekers flocking to Hurlingham Park this weekend for the sixth annual Polo in the Park will be one man with a good reason to smile – the event’s founder and architect Daniel Fox-Davies.

Fox-Davies, who in his day job is the chairman of natural resources brokerage Fox-Davies Capital, launched the three-day event at the height of the banking crisis in 2008, when the Square Mile was suffering.

Though an opportune time for showcasing sporting events, it was a difficult one for the brokerage world, with volumes falling across the City. Yet globe-trotting Fox-Davies did what he does best – hit the road to drum up business.

“The way to make money is to pack a bag and get on a plane because there is always money somewhere,” he says, speaking over the telephone from Dubai.

Today the company boasts natural resource clients from all over the world, with half of those based in Canada, a sign that the air miles have paid off.

“The recession was incredibly challenging. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience,” he says.

“Like everybody, we had to downsize and there’s a lot of very good hard-working people who we had to let go through absolutely no fault of their own.

“But you cannot sit there with a bunch of people with nothing to do. So the only thing you can do in a down market is aggressively cut your cost base. It’s a very difficult thing to let people go.”

Times now look much rosier, with stock markets threatening record levels, employment and economic growth improving and growing demand for institutional finance services.

Though more modest than some of its larger rivals in the City, Fox-Davies says he and his closely knit team of staff are “busier than we have ever been,” with a hectic June ahead.

The boutique outfit, based near Blackfriars station, works with oil and gas companies listed on the alternative investment market (Aim), a less onerous section of London’s main stock market but an increasingly powerful platform for companies to raise money.

Though questions have been raised about the validity of some oil and gas firms listing on the junior market, the after-effects of the recession have had a sobering effect on firms’ dash to raise cash.

“In the boom years too many firms brought companies onto Aim that should not have been approved on public market,” Fox-Davies says.

“A lot of them were third rate and a lot of the companies in the mining sector should not have been public. But now you are going to see less of the companies raising two, three and four million and more companies looking to raise £25, 50, 75 million. There is always going to be support for quality companies and quality management.”

With markets back on the rise and Polo in the Park now in its sixth year, Fox-Davies, himself a former amateur Polo player, says the popular event is going from strength to strength every year.

“We had a record crowd last year and we hope to improve on that this year,” he says.

“We’re hoping the weather stays nice more than anything, and we get three sunny days over the weekend. Every year we’ve had a good Saturday or a good Sunday but we’ve yet to have three days of good weather.”

It all bodes well for the polo-fans and non-polo fans alike stampeding down to Hurlingham this weekend to take part in the action.

“It really has become part of the social fabric of south west London,” he says.

NOW in its sixth year, Polo in the Park is fast becoming a signature sporting occasion, heralding the opening of London’s social summer calendar. This year’s tournament runs between Friday 6 June and Sunday 8 June – and it promises to be a high octane occasion. Friday, dubbed London’s Summer Office Party, will see three polo matches apiece with Ladies Day on Saturday boasting a similar line-up and the event climaxing on Sunday with the Polo in the Park final. Six city teams will compete from across the globe in the tournament, with London, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Lagos, Sydney and Bueno Aires all represented. Team London, sponsored by City A.M., will feature hotshots Stuart Wrigley, George Meyrick and Max Charlton in the saddle. Away from the field, a luxury shopping village will be on offer for polo-goers alongside a Gourmet Street Food Market and a bevy of bars, including the Mahiki Bar and Pimms Bus, to help the crowds stay refreshed. Tickets for Friday cost £30 each for adults, with Saturday tickets £50 and Sunday tickets £35. A host of hospitality packages are also on sale. The event takes place at Hurlingham Park, Fulham, London SW6 3RH, a five minute walk Putney Bridge tube or 10 minutes from

Parsons Green tube. For more information visit: www.polointheparklondon.com

Born: 1974

Family: Two daughters

Lives: Jersey, South Kensington and Dubai

School: Sherborne School

First Job: Junior trader

Current Job: Chairman of Fox-Davies Capital

Hobbies: Flying, polo, horse riding, skiing

Favourite restaurants: Nobu, Zuma

Favourite drink: Pisco Sour

Favourite film: Thomas Crown Affair

Favourite book: Time for Bed, by David Baddiel

■ Founded Fox-Davies Capital as a boutique oil and gas brokerage firm in London in February 2001 – at just 26 years of age

■ Previously was head of emerging markets for Bank Austria working in New York

■ Prior to this he was head of institutional sales at Credit Anstalt based in Vienna

■ Launched Polo in the Park at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham in 2008 in a bid to bring polo to a wider audience.