Marcus Johnson FCSI(Hon) has recently been awarded Honorary Fellowship of the CISI in recognition of the significant positive contribution he has made to the Institute and the sector
by Jane Playdon
When Marcus joined the newly formed Securities Institute (SI, now the CISI) in 1992, he experienced “one of the scariest events” in his life. As managing director of a fund management firm, he had told all the investment managers that they had to sit the inaugural SI entrance exam, but that he did not need to because he had passed the Stock Exchange exam already (the former replaced the latter, following the Exchange’s decision to end individual membership, creating a gap filled by the creation of the SI). But Marcus’s colleagues had other ideas, telling him “unambiguously and unanimously” that if they had to do it, so did he.
“I thought I would sail through without much work, but when I sat down in front of the exam paper, realised I had perhaps been a bit overconfident. But it all worked out OK and I even got a distinction in the fixed income paper.”
Marcus, now director and deputy chair at Kirly Group Holdings (previously NW Brown Group), has since turned that scary experience around, becoming actively involved in creating CISI exams rather than sitting them. He now sits on the CISI Examinations Board and is a member of the CISI Wealth Exam Panel, contributing most recently to the development of our level 6 Certificate in Pension Transfers & Planning Advice.
He has also contributed to the social side of CISI membership, serving as president of the CISI East Anglia Committee from 2000 to 2012. The dinners in the Norwich Cathedral and in Queens’ College were “always memorable”, he says.
In the first edition of the Review in July 1992, then chair Graham Ross Russell FCSI(Hon) said in a comment that the success of the Institute "is likely to be in direct proportion to the interest and effort of its members". Since then the Institute has, with the help of members like Marcus contributing their time and expertise, grown from initial membership of 4,800 ‘grandfathered’ from the London Stock Exchange to 44,000 members globally, with qualifications recognised in 62 jurisdictions.
On 15 October the CISI Board announced four Honorary Fellowships, “our highest accolade”, said CISI chair Michael Cole-Fontayn MCSI, “in recognition of their outstanding contribution to both the CISI and the global financial services throughout their careers. Our distinguished Honorary Fellows are exemplary role models for the next generation as we continue to strive to attract and welcome a diverse range of talent into our profession. We look forward to working with them and for their continued support and guidance for years to come.”
Marcus said: “I really like what the Institute has achieved and admire the way in which it is gradually becoming a global force for good in a sector that I have worked in most of my life. It is a great honour to have my work for the Institute recognised in this way.”
Marcus Johnson's CV
2006–present: Deputy chair and director, Kirly Group Holdings (previously known as NW Brown Group)
2005–present: Deputy chair, Freedom Insurance Services
2000–present: Director (now deputy chair), Association of Lloyd’s Members
2002–2011: Director, Meridian Performance Services
2000–2012: President, CISI East Anglia Committee
1984–2003: Managing director, Credit Agricole Asset Management (previously known as Premium Management, now Amundi), London branch
1977–1983: Director and fixed income investment manager, Alexander Howden Financial Services
1972–1977: Joins Hoare Govett as graduate trainee
1972: BA PPE Keble College, Oxford
Marcus began his financial career (see CV boxout for more detail) as a graduate trainee at Hoare Govett (now Jefferies Hoare Govett), spending time as a ‘blue button’ (unauthorised clerks wearing blue buttons on the stock exchange floor, obtaining the latest share prices). While employed in the Gilt Edge department, he qualified for entry into the Society of Investment Analysts and for membership of the Stock Exchange. He subsequently wrote a paper that he considers to be his biggest achievement – putting forward the introduction of index linked gilts, which was taken up by the Bank of England and the Treasury and resulted in their introduction in 1981.
Marcus describes his career as “at the interface between the insurance sector and the financial markets”. He moved from Hoare Govett to a London insurance broker, now part of Aon, but after five years there organised a management buyout of its investment management division, which became Premium Management, providing investment management for general insurance funds in Lloyd’s and the London market for the next 20 years. After selling the company to Credit Agricole (who renamed it Amundi), he joined the Meridian investment consultancy, providing consultancy services to Lloyd’s and its syndicates and training investment managers on how to operate within the market. After the sale of Meridian to Punter Southall, Marcus continued lecturing about Lloyd’s on behalf of its subsidiary, Camradata.
Outside Lloyd’s, he is actively engaged in all elements of Kirly Group’s activities, including catering for Livery companies through Life’s Kitchen and two holiday insurance concerns – Freedom Insurance and OK To Travel – both of which have recently begun offering Covid-19 cover. “We have revised our web offerings, sped up response times to customers buying online, and cut the number of stages we go through with underwriters, so if and when the holiday business comes back we should be able to do business faster, more efficiently and even with a bit of luck make profits again.”
Sector concerns and advice for those who want to get into finance
Apart from the disruption caused by the pandemic, Marcus’s main concern for the financial services sector is the detrimental impact of excessive regulation on client service. “The diversion of effort into compliance is now so pervasive that a whole generation is growing up without experiencing what proper client service consists of. The frustrating thing is not so much the huge costs or the diversion of talent into non-productive activities but the fact that clients just do not get the level of personal service that they used to.”
Another problem for young people and those entering the financial services sector today is specialisation, he says. “They are expected to become expert in a very specific area and refer anything outside that to another specialist. When the sector was client-based, they had to learn about everything a client might want to talk about. A new entrant might not know enough about areas outside their expertise to be able to spot when a client might need or profit from that other area of expertise. I would encourage anyone who wants to get ahead to try and understand client needs and desires across the entire financial services sector. And of course, getting the CISI exams under their belts will help.”