SITTING in a leather armchair in the atrium just below his office in Chancery Lane, Grant Challis is musing on the last two years. In that time he has gone from working for a listed investment bank to starting up his own firm, Frostrow Capital: “The scary part is taking the plunge, the reality is never as bad once you get going,” he says.
Challis was a successful marketing director of the investment trust business at Close Brothers but, like others who have left established companies, he felt that he could do a better job.
Challis set up Frostrow with his boss at Close Brothers, Alastair Smith. “There was more danger in staying where we were compared to leaving and starting out on our own,” he says. Although Challis and his team don’t actually make investments for their clients, they provide accounting, administration and marketing services and they advise on fund managers. This allows Frostrow to be independent of the fund manager, says Challis, and he believes that this business model offers a better deal for clients.
During the early days of planning the business he was stuck coming up with a name. “I was looking at lighthouse names, mineral names and then Alastair remembered Frostrow Fell from his time at school. I printed it out in caps and stuck it to the wall using a sticker from a Pret sandwich. It sounded right.” The original is still on his office wall.
At 45, Challis wishes he had started his business earlier, but in reality this was impossible since he needed time to understand the investment business and build contacts in the investment community.
Unlike other entrepreneurs, Challis says that Frostrow was lucky to have clients from the word go. His advice for would-be entrepreneurs is to “never underestimate the length of time it takes to win new business.” In three years Challis and his team have grown the business by 40 per cent, from three clients to five, but they hope to promote themselves further in 2010.
Since starting at Frostrow, Challis is not working longer hours. He can still take his son to school twice a week and is home before bedtime, says the father of three who lives in West London.
Setting up his own company and unleashing his entrepreneurial instinct had to happen, says Challis. He can’t imagine what it would be like to be at the end of his life without having tried to do this. And his biggest achievement so far? “We hired our first employee last year. He really enjoys working with us and prefers it to the massive organisation he left.”
CV | GRANT CHALLIS
Born and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa.
Studied economics at Stellenbosch University, post-graduate diploma at Oxford University.
Guinness, Mahon & Co (now part of Investec)
Married with three children
Lives in west London
Drives “a very boring family estate car.”
A former cricket player now he plays tennis in the summer, golf and practices hatha yoga.
He likes to cycle to work when the weather is good enough: “When you get to work you feel like you’ve had a good day already.”