Jerry Lees – Chairman, entrepreneur and leader
Here to talk about his Chairman role, his leadership in the financial services sector and notable achievements is Jerry Lees, the founder of Linear Investments Ltd. Throughout his career, Jerry has been an active entrepreneur in the success of multiple technology and financial businesses. Prior to founding Linear, he was the Head of alternative execution at CA Cheuvreux and has extensive experience in providing cost effective solutions to incubate and nurture emerging and acceleration stage hedge funds. He is expert in reducing the regulatory and operational burdens which have continued to grow following the global financial crisis of 2009.
Finance Monthly hears from Jerry on the challenges and complexities involved in managing a successful business and on the future goals and prospects of his company.
What have been your biggest accomplishments? What are you most proud of?
In my late twenties, I set up a business called Northgate, which is still functioning as a company. My partner and I established the company in 1983. By the time we sold the business to McDonnell Douglas Information Systems MDIS and Hoskyns (CAP Gemini Sogetti), we had just under 1000 people working for us. We managed to achieve this in 5 years, while operating in multiple environments and creating opportunities for a large number of people. We trained people who were at that time inexperienced and knowing that these people are still operating within the sector, is the biggest reward for me. Setting up this company and managing it was definitely a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, it was also a fulfilling experience that I am proud of.
In recent years, I am also very proud of my current business – Linear. Many people keep on telling me that we are now “in the right place at the right time” while I keep on saying that it took us 2 or 3 years of planning and 5 years of work, so yes, after 8 years, I would say that we are in the right place.
How did your career path lead you to this area of specialism?
After completing a degree in Economics and South East Asian Studies at the University of Hull, I travelled and did various different things for a year. Following this, I went into finance and banking and then ended up trading bonds for what is now the London Clearing House (LCH). I started to look at patterns of clients behavior and tried to track what happened in the previous 5 years to see if I could find a pattern of trading. I started to analyse the data, which was all manual back in the day, until I realized that we had a significant computer resource in our office which made me wonder if there’s any way that this technology could help me to track 5-6 years of historical data. Corporate computers were still quite rare at the time. Eventually, we completed the analysis and we improved the performance of this particular strategy. Working on this project made me think that computing was all actually quite interesting, which led me to taking the time to learn how to program. After learning a number of programing languages, I decided to move to a technology company. I started working for Xerox – the company that invented the Ethernet and Windows, not many people realise their contribution. This experience helped me form this blend of financial expertise mixed with an understanding of technology, the combination of knowledge which helped me set up my first company and has helped ever since. At Linear we built a complex IT business in 1983, which happened to be where a lot of people nowadays
aim to be.
What goals did you arrive with as a Chairman of Linear Investments?
I found the company and initially, I started off as a CEO and I brought in various different partners. I moved to the Chairman role more recently – my CEO Paul Kelly is driving the business operationally day-to-day while I’m trying to build the strategic goals of the company. Our initial aim when founding the company was to build a complete and fully-functionalprime brokerage business with a very technology- driven infrastructure. We wanted to be capable of doing anything that any prime brokerage does in the marketplace, combined with a state of the art technology. Many prime brokers in this business have massive legacy systemsand vertical strategies, while we built all of this from scratch with the advantage of new technologies. And I believe that we built a great model which is now very attractive to our clients. Linear Investments is now expanding internationally – we are starting joint venture operations in Hong Kong, following our expansion into Hamburg, Germany, so I could confidently say that the business is currently going in the right direction.
What motivates you most about your role?
Challenge, innovation, dealing with exciting people.
I believe that being occupied with activities and projects that are interesting and challenging is what makes life worth living.
What does 2017 hold for Linear Investments?
We’ve been going through building our infrastructure and we have invested a huge amount of money in technology in the last two years. We went through the Brexit turmoil which I think has not been particularly helpful for our business.
Going forward, we are now in the process of finalising additional financing, while as previously mentioned, Linear Investments is going to significantly expand in 2017. We are looking to capitalise our investments made in in the last 2-3 years. We have also adjusted to operating in a world where Brexit has to be dealt with and we have to make sure that we make the most of the current situation.
Overall, we are looking at many new exciting opportunities at the moment and I believe that both 2017 and 2018 will be very successful years for Linear Investments’ growth and expansion.
Our business strategically is placed to deal with the impact that Basel III is having on bulge bracket banks and hedge funds and their prime brokerage operations.
The prime brokerage landscape has been undergoing significant changes recently. However, I believe that we fulfil a very useful role in our field and that what we’re doing in the prime brokerage sector –supporting new hedge funds and people with exciting ideas, is going to be critical in the next few years.