The real me: Thomas Shanklin

Nationwide Insurance's managing director and head of private debt discusses his love of Pink Floyd and treating yourself as a growth stock.

When you were five what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was growing up, I thought I would be a firefighter. I loved the lights, the sounds and the action. I just loved the energy around it. Lots of people trying to take a chaotic situation and bring it to order by putting out the fire and solving whatever problem they are looking to solve.

Actually, in a lot of ways, I think that I have become a firefighter. That seems to be what most of my days are like: putting out fires.

What is your biggest passion or hobby outside of work?

I’ve got three children, so family would be at the top of the list. I love the travel part of the job, and I love the travel part of life just with the family: vacations and trips, seeing new people and gaining new perspectives.

If you could travel anywhere in the world regardless of money or time, where would it be?

“In a lot of ways, I think that I have become a firefighter. That seems to be what most of my days are like: putting out fires”

I was just telling my wife about this. It would be Budapest, Hungary. I was a history minor, I love history. That is the place where you can go and take a serious walk through time, and still see bits and pieces of what it was like to be in a major part of the world that’s gone through almost constant change over hundreds and hundreds of years. A lot of it is still standing, and a lot of it is still embedded in the culture and who the people are today.

If you had to pick, what is your favourite album or band of all time?

It would definitely be Pink Floyd. There are so many albums. If I were to pick one, I’m going to go with Wish You Were Here.

What would be your advice to someone starting out in the field?

Go to a large city where you, as an asset, have liquidity, which means you can trade yourself around a bit more so you get the precise experience that you are looking for. Work with the smartest people at every opportunity: the firm with the best market professionals, capital markets professionals, investors or whatever you’re looking to do. And do not worry about title or compensation or balance.

Go in there as a mercenary about investing in yourself. Look at yourself as a growth stock, not a dividend stock. A dividend stock wants to get paid every year, year in and year out, whereas a growth stock wants to accrue value that you can’t necessarily realise paycheck to paycheck.

What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?

Early in my career I cared a lot about what I learned, and I didn’t really care about who taught it to me or how I learned about it. I worked with a lot of assholes and I didn’t really care. Now, I care much more about the people that I’m engaging with every day, whether they’re my team internally, my peers at Nationwide or fund managers.

If there is not a relationship component, an emphasis on people doing things the right way, I just don’t have time for it. The thing I’ve learned the most is surround yourself with great people – even if that means you’re not doing exactly what you want, which would require you to be with not such good people.