…What I am saying is, the more you put into the relationship, the more you get out of it and it’s incredibly rewarding when they give you a hug and have a smile which says it all. Those moments are infectious
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Edward Collins. Edward is the Chief Executive Officer of Earth Capital. He has over 17 years of investment management and CEO experience. Prior to joining in 2018, Edward was the Managing Director of Hanson Asset Management, an investment management and advisory firm for UHNWIs and for 6 years the CIO of Hanson Family Holdings, which coordinated the investment activities of the Hanson family. Edward started his career as a fund manager at New Star Asset Management in 2002, where he ran a mixture of growth, hedge and special situation funds.
Edward studied Politics at Durham University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up on our family farm in Buckinghamshire driving tractors and riding horses. My parents moved to Australia when I was 8 and we lived on Palm Beach just north of Sydney. We moved back in time for me to go to secondary school in the UK. I studied Politics at Durham before starting work in the city.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I started off working for John Duffield at New Star Asset Management in 2002. I was an assistant fund manager to industry legend, Patrick Evershed running a special situation fund. In 2006, I started to run my own long-only mandates followed by a hedge fund and then co-managing Patrick’s fund after he left the business. In 2009, I left New Star to join Hanson Family Holdings as CIO. The Hanson family started Hanson Plc which was once the 8th biggest company in the UK and the world’s largest building materials business. Whilst there, the family founded Hanson Asset Management, which I ran. This was an asset management and private equity advisory business for UHNW families. I left after Hanson Asset Management was sold in August 2017 and joined Earth Capital in April 2018 as CEO to help take the business to the next stage.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I generally get to the office by 7.45am having sorted out most of my emails en route. I start off looking at anything that has come out of our Asian business overnight and then have a quick round-up of all of our businesses. Meetings tend to start around mid-morning. I am responsible for growing our international business and we are currently expanding our operations in Africa and South America so I’m on the phone or a plane quite a bit. I sit on our investment committee which tends to meet in the afternoon. Quite often I will have tea or a drink with prospective investors or other industry players, but if not, I try and leave the office by 7.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I think the effect of not spending enough quality time with your children is that it can result in them having confidence issues. Children need their parents for support, interaction and to learn from and they gain confidence from strong relationships. I am convinced this leads to a better performance at school and in life. I am divorced and in this situation you have to try twice as hard to provide stability for your children.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
To avoid the look of utter disappointment on their faces when you say you can’t make something! My daughter always says, “Daddy, why can’t I ride my rocking horse or play with my dog?” She has the most incredible look on her face and no answer is ever good enough, especially when it involves the car! What I am saying is, the more you put into the relationship, the more you get out of it and it’s incredibly rewarding when they give you a hug and have a smile which says it all. Those moments are infectious.
On a more serious note, everyone is human and busy people have their time pulled in many directions. You sometimes only realize you have not put enough into it when the school says there is a problem and it’s like a knife through your heart because you know it’s totally your fault and you are just letting them down.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I think this is totally true. Because I am divorced, I spend more time in the car with my daughter than I would like. I always try and use this time to talk with her about what’s going on in her life. Or when she was learning to speak, we would point out the things we saw and count the buses and taxis. This obviously led to a trip on a red London Bus which Isabella still talks about. I think quality time is also about how you interact with them. When we are apart I send her videos, especially when I am travelling. She loves The Lion King so I sent her a video from Africa recently when Daddy was in the jungle with the lions. Lucky I found a lion for the backdrop! Apparently she watched it for days and told her whole class that her Daddy was in the jungle with the Lion King.
I also try to do little things, such as taking her to school at least once a week. Occasionally I’ll go and pick her up and take her for lunch in our favorite restaurant and then return to the office. I think you need lots of little things rather than grand gestures to build your relationship.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
Flexible working. I encourage totally flexible working, so for example my team can take their children to school and make weekday events and still do their day jobs. I am a parent first and CEO second and our firm’s culture understands this. As long as the work gets done and the company runs well I am relaxed about people working remotely and putting in unusual hours. I try to lead by example.
As our business is international it can feel like the day never finishes when you start with Asia and finish with Brasil! I find that technology has allowed me to be much closer to my teams and as a result be less involved in the detail of their operations as I feel I better understand their strategy. As a result I spend less time reading reports and sending emails, which has unlocked much of my time, particularly in the evenings where I would get home have dinner and start working. The work-life balance is definitely better.
Also, an email rarely requires an instant response, however fast the world is moving. If you want one, pick up the phone and call, that generally solves the next two problems as well. At weekends, I look at my emails after breakfast and before dinner, the rest of the time my iPhone is put away.
I find that not watching too my TV or iPad time with children also makes you concentrate on interactive activities.
Going to the country at weekends helps as the fresh air is inspiring and there is lots to do. The office always seems a million miles away!
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
One where your children know you love them. Happiness is the most vital thing in life, we all need it to be fulfilled and little ones especially. It’s our job as parents to create the right environment for this. This is ultimately why my ex-wife and I got divorced as we couldn’t create the right environment together. It was toxic. Now that we are apart, we are determined to do the best we can for Isabella and rarely disagree over decisions concerning her future and happiness. As a result she has flourished.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
If she wants to conquer the world then great, but if not, then as long she’s happy that’s fine for us. That being said, we encourage her to participate in everything, never saying no, so she can work out what she wants to do. As a family we are very involved in horses. Isabella is naturally wary of such big animals, but she loves galloping on her rocking horse and doesn’t like being pushed along on it. Even if she never sits on a real one, it has helped her become more independent and focused on what she wants.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Easy — happiness for you and your children; you can see it in their eyes.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I would say, reading Winston Churchill’s letters to his children, which he wrote even at the height of WW2. With all the pressure on him at the time, the frequency he did it and the language he used was incredible for me; taking the time to give them advice and chat about normal life. It’s something I find enormously moving and inspiring.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Always listen to everyone, especially people from different walks of life and perspectives, as you can never stop learning. It never ceases to amaze me the lightbulbs in my mind that have lit up as a result of unrelated random conversations. Also, life is real and you need to keep it in perspective, especially business. For me the best way to do that is through constant interaction with people. It can also be fun!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I hate questions like this! When I worked for the Hanson family, we redirected their foundation to give very small amounts of money to often tiny charities that actually did things in the community. I found this very inspiring rather than chasing the big headline grabbing issues to solve. So I am a big believer in community service and a big society where people help each other and believe in civil society and the bigger picture. One day I would like to do something to progress this issue.
In addition Earth Capital has a foundation which provides capital for sustainable projects that have a longer gestation period than a commercial investment would.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!