Kings of the pension world

Kathleen Brooks
WHEN two people go into business together there’s always the potential that rivalry or a squabble could tear the whole project apart – just think of the Ambani brothers’ public spat in India. But in contrast to this are Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, the co-founders of Redington, an independent pensions advisory firm. Not only are they business partners, but Konotey-Ahulu was best man at Gardner’s wedding two years ago.

So how does their relationship work? “The strength of it is really trust, it’s our business – our baby – so there’s no incentive to do each other over,” says Gardner. Former colleagues at Merrill Lynch in the investment bank’s fixed income business, Gardner and Konotey-Ahulu decided to leave the company and go it alone in 2006. Their aim is to help pension funds become fully funded. This is no mean feat since the largest UK defined benefit pension schemes registered a deficit of £2.2bn in March, according to the Pension Protection Fund.

Gardner describes Redington as a “personal trainer to its clients”. It aims to show them that fully-funded pension schemes are not beyond the realm of possibility. The business has three core areas: advising clients – pension fund managers and trustees – on how best to fund their pensions, liaising with fund managers to get the best products for this task and its third arm is a digital online platform called Mallowstreet, a social networking site for the pensions industry. This has been driven by Konotey-Ahulu and now has over 400 regular users.

“Some describe us as the kings of liability-driven investment (LDI),” says Gardner, referring to the popular pensions immunisation process. They are currently looking at ways their clients can use the property market as a fixed income investment, a bit like a bond. “You buy a property, get high quality tenants that provide the inflation-linked coupons, and then the property – or the principal – should also appreciate over the long-term,” Gardner explains.

Redington, named after Frank Redington, the famous British actuary, started life with just Konotey-Ahulu and Gardner. They set it up with their own money and still retain 100 per cent of the equity. “We were working out of our homes at the start and we did absolutely everything on our own. We would write and bind presentations then present them the very next day,” says Konotey-Ahulu.

The sleepless nights worked, and Redington now has 45 employees, offices near uber-trendy Old Street, as well as advising clients that have a combined £150bn in assets under management. “If you’d asked me four years ago where we would be today, I would never have thought that we would be this successful, it’s really been a phenomenal time,” says Konotey-Ahulu.

Born and brought up: DK-A: London and Ghana
RG: Holland, all over the world

Studied: DK-A: Law, London Metropolitan University, called to the Bar in 1987
RG: Geography, Oxford University

Drive: DK-A: “Old Mercedes”.
RG: Audi A3

Past aspirations: Gardner, 31, wanted to be a fighter pilot, whereas Konotey-Ahulu, 49, wanted to be a doctor like both of his parents.