views

The able and shrewd operator

Kathleen Brooks
FOR most entrepreneurs, the passion they feel for their first venture never gets extinguished. Take Robin Bowie: he established Dexion Capital, an investment management firm, back in 2000 and remains as committed today as he did back then.

“I still spend the same amount of time at the office as I did in the beginning, but I try to take weekends off now,” Bowie says from his base close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As – almost – a veteran entrepreneur, his advice is simple: “The most important thing is to complete what you start.

“You need to work out what you want to do, how you want to do it and how you will make it work. Businesses run on lots of little things concurrently and you need to juggle them all, not just do things sequentially, so that you complete the entire process.”

This is exactly what Bowie did. Starting as a consultancy that advised institutions about investments in the fund of funds arena, the business changed track in late 2002 when it launched a closed-ended investment company domiciled in Guernsey. “We decided to shift our model since we ended up knowing as much about the industry as the providers,” adds Bowie.

The first product launched was Dexion Absolute, which differed in its approach from traditional closed-ended funds of hedge funds. Dexion chose to present a short list of investment advisers, with the relevant due diligence, to the core investors and asked them to select the manager. This was a first in the market.

Prior to his Dexion adventure, Bowie had already amassed a gold-plated CV. He was born in Calcutta in India where he spent his childhood, educated at Clifton College, and went to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee where he studied American history. His father worked in the metals industry so he was exposed to business and finance from a young age.

After graduating, it was a natural fit to move to the City. Bowie worked as a bond trader during “the great bull market of the 1980s”. After working at Citi and then Goldman Sachs, Bowie started Dexion Capital in 2000 with £12,500, the day after he left his corporate job. The company has never taken on any debt and now has a balance sheet worth £18m.

So what is it like still owning a business after 10 years? “It’s definitely a journey and it gets more complex the further you go. At the start it was just three of us but now we employ 38 people. Hiring the right staff is the life-blood of Dexion, and then letting go of the reigns so that others can develop and implement their own strategies becomes the key. Dexion has grown from being ‘my company’ to ‘our company’, as different people contribute to building out different slices of the pie.”

In the future, Dexion is planning to launch an infrastructure fund. And Bowie definitely doesn’t have any plans to leave: “I don’t know how the end will happen.”