Could you please introduce yourself by briefly outlining your educational background and what your current job is? 

I am the group CEO of Pepper, which is a business I founded back in 2000. In terms of my educational background I grew up in the UK and went to the London School of Economics for University. I graduated from LSE in 1991 with a BSc in Economics.   


Why did you decide to study a Bachelor of Economics? 

I studied economics as one of my A levels (UK equivalent of HSC) in high school and found it fascinating. Personally, I preferred micro rather than macro because it was practically applicable, you can see how it influences real life behaviour. Economics also explained the world of business to me in a way that I hadn’t really thought about before, so it was an eye opener in that regard.      


Economics also explained the world of business to me in a way that I hadn’t really thought about before, so it was an eye opener in that regard.      


What does your role as CEO of Pepper entail? 

My job is very multifaceted, particularly at a time like this. On a daily basis I oversee the people that are running our businesses, country by country and make sure they are operating efficiently. In a situation like COVID that is very critical because things are changing so fast, sometimes on a daily and even an hourly basis. At the same time, I’m thinking forward 3-5 years, in terms of what are the implications of current events for the future of Pepper and how can I start positioning the business for that future. This involves many strategic considerations such as potential acquisitions and looking for new markets. I really enjoy this strategy side of being a CEO. 


What did an average workday look like for you before COVID 19, and what does it look now? 

Physically it’s different but in terms of structure it’s not that different. Since it’s a global business I’m on calls a lot, I would say about 6-8 hours a day. These are a variety of conversations with partners, banks, KKR (major shareholder in Pepper) and local CEOs. I also get a lot of information daily which shows me how the underlying businesses are performing. This is something I pay close attention to and even more so in the current COVID environment.


With the extent of the implications of COVID 19 still being extremely uncertain, especially for a lending business such as Pepper. Do you think a strong understanding of economic theory will help you navigate through these uncertain times?   

Yes, definitely yes. In the direct running of the businesses on a day to day basis economic theory is helpful, indirectly it is very helpful because if you studied a degree in economics you would really understand what’s going on. For example, central banks operations in quantitative easing and reducing rates will allow you to comprehend why they are being delivered as part of a solution. On a micro level, it can help me understand how to best help our customers as many of them are suffering a cash crunch. 

In the direct running of the businesses on a day to day basis economic theory is helpful, indirectly it is very helpful because if you studied a degree in economics you would really understand what’s going on.

You founded both Oakwood Global Finance and Pepper. Does your understanding of economic concepts and macroeconomic trends influence your decisions to establish businesses and deploy capital in different markets?  

Yes, very significantly. This is one of the parts of my job which I enjoy the most. I don’t typically use the private equity model of finding an already established business, growing it and then selling it in the short to medium term. Instead I try to spot a trend from a distance and start a business completely from scratch. Then we’ll own, operate and grow the business for 10+ years completely through the economic cycle. That to me is the definition of success. For example, the regional businesses that Pepper has developed have all taken many years to grow to where they are today. These long-term strategic decisions are very much driven by economic factors, such as supply and demand and observing what products are currently being provided to customers in a potential market.   


Over the course of your personal and professional life when and how has a knowledge of economics helped you the most? 

I’ve found it becomes most useful in significant moments of corporate change such as bringing in new equity partners or in crisis scenarios like COVID and the GFC. It also helps me daily as economic forces are constantly in play in a variety of situations. 


Do you believe a fundamental education in economics and finance is relevant to all individuals regardless of their career choices? 

Yes, without question. I also think, especially for the younger generation a working knowledge of coding is very important as well as a working knowledge of economics and finance. Being able to understand those three is completely critical, I don’t think you can be without one of those three if you really want to understand the world. In turn those three disciplines will make you eminently hireable as you are looking for your first job.   



A working knowledge of coding is very important as well as a working knowledge of economics and finance.