My First Million

September 28, 2012 6:34 pm

Raising a glass to the banking revolution

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Anthony Thompson©Charlie Bibby

Anthony Thomson, 58, is co-founder of Metro Bank, launched in July 2010. There are now 12 branches, with 200 planned by 2020. He will step down as chairman of the bank at the end of the year.

Thomson, who left Gosforth Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 16, has a background in sales and marketing. He started his first business, City Financial Marketing, in 1987 and sold it in 1998. After a year off, he cofounded the Financial Services Forum in July 2000.

In February 2011 he was appointed as visiting professor to London Metropolitan University Business School.

Thomson lives in Hampstead, north London, with his wife Louise, an artist, their three children and two dogs. They have a family home in Harrogate, and a holiday home in Tucson, Arizona.


Did you think you would get to where you are?

It is difficult to answer, because I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. It is more about where I am going than where I am, and I am not sure where I’m going, but that is absolutely fine. From the age of ten, when I washed cars for two shillings, I always thought I would be an entrepreneur, and that I would do quite well.

When did you realise that you had made your first million? Were you tempted to slow down?

I guess it would have been in 1992. At the time I was co-founder and chief executive of City Financial Marketing, and we had an approach to buy us out. The value of my share was in the millions. I did not want to slow down because I was 38, young and ambitious. I enjoyed what I did then and what I do now. I will slow down when I see something else that I would enjoy doing more.

What is the secret of your success?

Ninety per cent of it is getting up in the morning, going to work, and just being able to keep going, whether it is a sport or a job. I think too many people give up too easily in all aspects of their life. I would not claim to be particularly clever or unusually insightful.

Have you had time for personal financial planning?

I have a very good financial adviser, primarily for my investments and estate planning. I am reasonably knowledgeable but you still need an expert’s input.

What is your basic business strategy?

I believe that there is an opportunity to create value in high street banking. The existing banks have perpetuated four myths around retail banking: that the bank branch is dead; no one ever changes their bank account; the interest rate is everything; and you can only make money by cutting costs.

Metro Bank is all about challenging and exploring these myths. We are different because we think the most important things are customer service, convenience and value.

Have you made any pension provision?

I do have a pension plan, and I continue to make contributions on a monthly basis, even though it will not be my major source of retirement income. I suspect my main income will be from the capital that I have amassed, but a pension is a backstop.

Do you allow yourself the odd indulgence?

I collect guitars. I don’t buy them because of their provenance, but because I like them and the way they play. But I am a better collector than I am player. I guess my oldest is a 1960s Martin acoustic, which I bought in Nashville a few years ago for about $12,000. I collect those instruments that can be appreciated by guitarists. I have about 20.

Have you taken steps to pass on your wealth?

Yes, I have made a will, but I should have been more diligent in regularly updating it. I believe in leaving everything to one’s children, but I would not tell them that. The vast majority of my estate I will leave to my family and friends.

Your most prudent investment?

My wine cellar, now probably into six figures. Over the last decade it has outperformed my pension fund. I think its value has increased year on year by north of 15 per cent.

I have got about 1,300 bottles in there, ranging from £30 to about £1,000. I would not wait for a celebration to open the £1,000 vintage. If you save it for a special occasion, the occasion is never special enough.

I buy wines to drink, never as an investment. I intend to drink every bottle, but the reality is my cellar will outlive me.

What is the most you have ever paid for a bottle of fine wine or champagne?

In 1995, I paid about £900 to share a bottle of 1978 Château Petrus, a red Bordeaux, with a wine-loving friend. I received an offer from American Express to have lunch in Mosimann’s restaurant on any day in September when all wines were half price! I had never drunk a Petrus so my friend and I went to this restaurant. The set lunch was £27 each, and we had a half bottle of a good white burgundy for £50. The rest of the bill, which totalled £1,100, was for the bottle of Petrus. I actually framed the bill and gave it to my friend.

What is your money-saving tip in hard times?

At the risk of sounding like Marie Antoinette, I would say that life is too short to drink cheap wine. Some savings can be false economies. Drink fewer bottles of better wine!

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