We ask the City’s movers and shakers to take a trip down memory lane – and share a lunch recommendation or two. This week it’s Tom O’Hara, the fund manager behind Henderson European Focus Trust
What was your first job?
As a waiter at Pizza Hut in Sheffield.
What was your first job in financial services?
As a graduate trainee in the Treasury function of Northern Rock PLC in Newcastle. It was the perfect antidote to the delusional optimism of graduation. I developed a robust routine to break up the soul-sapping monotony, consisting of regular toilet trips, online trivia-surfing, covert micro-snoozing and grab bags of Quavers. The run on the bank – a year into my programme – was a blessing in disguise, perhaps even an act of divine intervention for my sole benefit. Moving to London on a whim, with no money and no job, at the height of the financial crisis, suddenly seemed like a no brainer.
You have to own it, for better or worse
When did you know The City was the place for you?
When John Bennett hired me as an analyst at Janus Henderson, about 6 years ago. I’d done 8-9 years in equity research on the sell side before that, and I often questioned it; rife presenteeism and internal politics, plus I was comically rubbish at the schmoozy stuff. Moving into fund management under John completely transformed my motivation levels; you have to own it, for better or worse.
What’s one thing you love about the city?
There’s a unique buzz. The mix of old and new, the nooks and crannies, the people full of energy. The pubs.
And one thing you’d change?
Relax the dress code.
What’s the most memorable day you’ve worked?
The day I returned from holiday to a bank run at Northern Rock, triggered after Robert Peston had reported the company’s request for a bridging loan from the Bank of England. It was all hands on deck. I’ve never since matched that intake of Quavers, nor refreshed the BBC news feed so frequently. I was shattered.
And what’s been your memorable moment?
When I found out early in my first interview at Janus Henderson that John liked The Smiths and, like me, also didn’t play golf or go sailing. I was dumbfounded. He would ask stuff like “so tell me how you analyse a stock” and I would respond with something like “well I don’t know about you, but my favourite line from ‘The Queen is Dead’ is…”
We’re going for lunch and you’re picking – where are we going?
Simpson’s Tavern, which I guess is a common answer in this column. But it is a real City institution, with a wonderful team who’ve been there for decades in some cases. I hope they manage to get it open again soon. It was also one of the few places in the whole of London you could get Bass beer on cask. Some things are worth preserving.
And if we’re going for after work drinks?
The Pride of Spitalfields, just off Brick Lane. One of the last ‘proper boozers’ around these parts. A major benefit of most people working from home on a Friday these days is that I often wander over with impunity at lunch time for a pint and a salt beef bloomer. Bliss.
Are you optimistic for the rest of 2023?
Yes. One of my favourite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, had an Uncle Alex who would say “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is”. A simple, even trite, but poignant reminder to appreciate the good things as they happen.
Give us one opinion that sails against the prevailing wisdom
Investing in European equities offers attractive opportunities. Have I mentioned Henderson European Focus Trust?
Where’s home during the week?
And where will we find you on the weekend
The Shakespeare in Stoke Newington, my local.
You’ve got a well deserved two weeks off – where are you going, and with who?
A staycation with my family – Suffolk, Cornwall, then other parts of the Southwest. It took me a long time to reconcile to the fact I adore the South of England. But I do miss Northumberland and North Yorkshire and try to get up there a bit. The fact my children pronounce words like “glarse” and “barth” is devastating to me, but that’s a different story, one more for the therapist.