The real me: Tim Atkinson

The principal at Meketa Investment Group speaks about his typical day and passions outside work

What is your main passion outside professional life?
Music has been my passion since I was young and has been a big part of my life since. One of the best music schools in the US happened to be based in the small city where I grew up.

Jazz in particular was a regular feature in my home life. I studied jazz and played jazz guitar in high school. It was a real music community and I was lucky to have access to talented musicians and great teachers. I don’t play as much now as I wish I did, but I love to discover new artists who push genres forward.

I moved to London four years ago and there is so much great music around me, with countless small and intimate venues with interesting line-ups. Going to shows has been a favourite pastime since moving here.

I listen to a lot of different artists and genres. When I was growing up my dad was a big blues fan and I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the biggest influence on me as a guitar player was John Scofield. These days, I listen to a lot of jazz, indie rock, hip hop, R&B and soul.

What are the challenges, and most enjoyable aspects, of the job?
I find the challenging aspects can also be the most rewarding. Every client is truly different, with their own unique objectives and preferences. At Meketa we try to embrace these differences and have unique relationships with each one. It takes a lot of time to get that right, but it allows us to make deeper and longer-lasting relationships.

If you could change one thing about private debt, what would it be?
This is an easy one for me. By design it’s an opaque market so you do not have the same availability of robust data that you have in other asset classes. There are reasons for that: namely, borrowers don’t want their information out there. The GFC changed capital markets in many ways and private debt, in its current form, has only existed for ten or so years. That’s not very long when compared to other asset classes.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
I’m grateful that one thing I was able to pick up quite early was the importance of communication – to me this means listening to and trying to understand the other side of the conversation. I need to present information and respond to people in a way that draws on my expertise in some complex areas, but I also need to be concise and easily understood. It’s also very important to really listen to questions being asked of you, to try to anticipate questions and to know how to ask thoughtful, non-leading questions to others.

Do you have any travel plans, real or aspirational?
One of the aspirations that links to travel is becoming a better skier, but I’ve had mixed success. I like ski-touring and going off piste and it’s something I find humbling and energising. My main ambition is not to be the last one to get up and down the slopes.

What does your typical working day look like?
It starts with a bike ride into the office, some of which is through Hyde Park. It’s an opportunity for me to collect my thoughts, relax and think about the day ahead. It’s also how I prefer to end my day as well, as it provides valuable time to unwind.

I get in early so I have time for uninterrupted reading about industry news and research. Then I go through the prior day’s notes from calls and meetings and extract the key takeaways that I need to share with colleagues. I am always interacting in both formal and impromptu ways to make sure colleagues have all they need to have productive conversations.

There are also frequent interactions with fund managers, placement agents and the like – fielding their calls and meeting their requests. I will then keep in touch with what’s going on in the US when they open for business, as that’s where most of our clients are. Because of this need to stay close to the US, my day can end late at times.