Capital International Group celebrating 20 years in business
The Capital International Group has grown from a small business in Castletown to an international operation head-quartered at Capital House, Douglas employing some 75 people in the Isle of Man and South Africa. Throughout, the Group’s success has been driven by their core values of innovation, integrity and excellence.Those values were embedded from day one in August 1996 when the company’s founding father Peter Long decided ‘to bring a bit of the City of London to the Isle of Man’ and set up a stock broking business with his sons Anthony and David and colleagues Mark Wilkinson, Robert Floate and Brian Moreton. It would be a business that would conduct its dealings guided by the unshakeable principle by which he – and the London Stock Exchange – had always abided: ‘My word is my bond’.
While Peter has stepped down as Chairman to enjoy his retirement and leave Anthony and David at the helm, his signature style remains central to what distinguishes the Capital International Group. Peter’s time in the City of London, as a partner in one of the oldest stock broking firms, Laurence Prust & Co, as a member of the London Stock Exchange and later as a senior executive with James Capel & Co in South East Asia, combined with a distinguished military career, first in National Service and later the Territorial Army, has always shaped his approach not only to business and but also to life.
‘My military background instilled the discipline while my career in the City – where your word really was your bond and which in those days was very much a self-disciplining institution – is responsible for the level of importance I have always placed on integrity,’ said Peter, adding: ‘When I was working in the Square Mile, if you were disciplined by the governing council of the London Stock Exchange, then your career would be over.’
Anthony, taking up the mantle of Chairman for the Group, said: ‘Peter approaches everything with military precision. He’s a perfectionist and won’t let anything go until it’s absolutely right – he’ll review and revise until he’s completely satisfied.
“Steely determination” is often a phrase used to describe him. I recall when we were starting the business he was determined to make things happen. It was that steely determination which led to securing our FSC licence.’
Peter added: ‘It took nine months to obtain that licence – and the Isle of Man’s reputation was key to securing it.’
Chief Investment Officer David recalled: ‘Getting that licence was testament early on to Peter’s determination and persistence, while his seven days a week workload set the tone and culture for the business.’
Capital’s Group Company Secretary Robert Floate has known Peter for more than 30 years and recalled: ‘Those early days when we were setting up the business were exciting times and it took real tenacity and doggedness on Peter’s part to secure our licence.’
David continued: ‘Peter always viewed the Capital business model in terms of partnership rather than one distinguished by a “cut and thrust” approach. At Capital we believe business is very much about relationships and that means delivering on your promises and Peter never fails.
‘We form partnerships not only with our employees and clients but also with our suppliers and, importantly, with the Isle of Man through our close working relationship with the government, in particular with the Department of Economic Development. Today we’re writing around 50 percent of our new business in South Africa, but all that is processed and delivered here in the Island.’
Anthony had originally planned to go into engineering; it was only when, aged 19, he accompanied his father on a business trip to the Far East that he changed his mind. ‘Up to that point I thought stock broking was boring. But two weeks spent with my father, watching how he networked with his customary steely determination to meet the key decision-makers, ministers and high-net worth people; how he was always at least seven steps ahead of everyone else; how well informed he was about the region’s current affairs; and, of course, how the client always came first, changed my opinion completely.’
Peter’s research was – and still is – meticulous. ‘His filing system is a case in point,’ said Anthony. ‘He hasn’t entirely embraced the digital age and keeps meticulous files on financial matters, people in business… even on his latest passion, bee-keeping.’
Ros Lynch has benefited from that painstaking research and filing. Capital’s first graduate trainee in 1999, she left to pursue a career in compliance in Dublin, returning to the company earlier this year to take up the post of group chief compliance officer. She recalled: ‘Peter was great at giving you articles he’d researched as background for your role. He was also a fantastic letter writer; I still have the letter he sent me when I left to work in Dublin.
‘Peter engages with you on all levels. He was always hugely supportive of Capital employees – at work and in their outside activities. He was also the architect of Capital’s legendary boardroom lunches and cocktail parties, which remain hugely popular with clients.
‘And he keeps in touch with people; when he forms a bond with someone, it’s a lifetime bond.’ Kirsten Gorry was one of Capital’s first employees outside of the family, joining in 1997. Now Chief Operations Officer she said: ‘Peter cares about the staff. He’s a firm believer in “If you look after the staff they will look after the business.”
‘And there’s still that personal touch at Capital: no answer-phones but a “real person” at the other end of the phone. Peter’s an honourable man, and a devoted family man and here at Capital there’s a sense of being part of a family, too.’
Robert Floate agreed. ‘Peter saw the business as a family and from the outset employees were looked after through thick and thin. He’s a man who engenders loyalty and gives generously of his time.’ Peter continued: ‘I wanted Capital to have a welcoming atmosphere and to create a sense of happiness… and I’ve always felt Capital was a very happy firm.’
Technical strategist with ECU Group plc Robin Griffiths worked with Peter at James Capel. He said: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. His energy was tireless, he was very entrepreneurial and a great host.
‘It takes a lot of guts and vision to move to the Isle of Man and start a new business. He’s done a terrific job from day one and it’s great that the business is remaining in the family.’
Peter recalled: ‘When Anthony and I were setting up the business no one knew us, so personal contacts were vital and we began by building a client base in life companies as I’d witnessed and researched their growth throughout the late 80s and early 90s.
‘We were determined to build not only the business but also the skills of our people, for they are the building bricks of the company and it’s vital to surround yourself with professionals. In this way you create a self-perpetuating system.’
Another ‘self-perpetuating system’ is that of the bee colony. Since retiring Peter has approached his new hobby, bee-keeping, with his signature meticulous attention to detail and quest for perfection.
He said: ‘Bees are an as near-perfect social system as you can get; the queen is boss but is ruled by the workers. I find the colony’s organisation and structure fascinating. The hive’s the sum of its parts, with each contributing to the same outcome, the honeycomb, so strong and rigid, it’s a marvel. Similarly Capital’s strength has always been more than the sum of its parts, it’s about building something together.’
David said: ‘Bees appeal to Peter’s precise nature, and that’s reflected in how we work at Capital. He always wanted to do things better, and our products and services were born out of his belief in the importance of forensic research.
‘Those products and services are also ground-breaking, because right from the start we saw ourselves as a financial solutions provider responding to customer demand, of which the Capital Liquidity Account is a prime example.’
Anthony said: ‘The nature of our business is having to adapt to change, to transition from reliance on a domestic market to securing new international business. This is crucial and the Capital International Group is in the throes of completing that transition.’
David added: ‘Capital is a respected and increasingly recognisable brand overseas which is helping us to accelerate winning new international business. And the opportunities are out there, such as in South Africa and Dublin.’
Anthony said: ‘Business today is very different from when Peter set up Capital; it’s more difficult, punitive and legalistic.’
His father agreed: ‘Business has indeed changed; now it’s all process and rigour and seldom any flair.’
‘At Capital, though,’ said Anthony, ‘our guiding principles remain the same today as they were when we started out 20 years ago: innovation, integrity, excellence.