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Introducing John Cummins

by Duncan Macfarlane | Feb 24, 2015

FIIG Securities is pleased to announce the appointment of John Cummins to the newly-created position of Head of Institutional Markets.

John is a recognised industry leader who comes to FIIG from RBC Capital Markets where he was Head of Fixed Income and Currencies. Before that he was Head of Markets at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

John has also served on several industry bodies, Australian Financial Markets Association committees, and on the board of Yieldbroker.

In his new role, John will be responsible for the growth of the institutional markets business with a particular focus on expanding the range of counterparties FIIG deals with domestically and internationally.

John was born and raised in Sydney but in recent years he has spent a number of years abroad, with senior positions in London and Hong Kong. He is married to wife Melissa, and has two children who are both at university.

In this article, John tells us why he joined FIIG, his top piece of investment advice, and why he thinks working overseas is especially valuable for Australians.

1. What was your first job?

The first one where I had any real responsibility was when I was 18 and I had a job collecting handicapped children and taking them to school in the morning. We’d pick them up from around Western Sydney and drive them to a school for handicapped children at Castle Hill. Then we’d take them home again in the afternoon.

2. What did you learn from it?

I learned how lucky I was more than anything. How unbelievably lucky you are when you see all these normal people like yourself who’ve got, in some cases, really severely physically and mentally-handicapped kids. The reason they can’t take the kids to school themselves is they’ve both got to work to be able to pay for the kids to go to these special schools that are often a long way from where they live. So it was a good life lesson really early on about how lucky I was just to grow up healthy.

3. How did you get into banking?

I was getting restless at university studying economics and at the time felt I needed to test myself a bit. So I decided to go part time and look for a role to get some experience in the finance industry. I answered a job in the financial press for Westpac’s merchant bank which was taking on undergraduates. Five of us started and they didn’t tell us until three weeks into it that only two of us were coming out the other side with a permanent role. It certainly got you focused. I was one of the lucky two.

4. What is your favourite place you have worked overseas?

The two places I’ve spent the most time in were London and Hong Kong. Two of the world’s great cities. I was lucky enough to be in both when they were respectively booming. I was in London in the late 1990s which were halcyon days for financial markets and London was the epicenter of that. I was there with HSBC which was a big bank in a big market.

I was launching an Australia/NZ fixed income business marketing products to foreign institutional investors in Europe and North America so it was very exciting to be part of the expansion. It was a big thing at the time because Australia had such high interest rates and a volatile currency.

Then I worked in Hong Kong for Royal Bank of Scotland during and after the GFC. I transferred there in early 2008 and ran all their corporate risk businesses in 14 countries including Australia and Japan so it was a very large and diverse business with over 5000 clients.  We had seven offices in India alone so it was very exciting. In one year alone I did 42 air trips. It was very challenging but extremely rewarding to have responsibility for such a broad geographic footprint.

5. What did you learn from working overseas?

We’re a long way from the big G7 markets here so working overseas is extremely beneficial in career terms. It really teaches Australians that there is so much more going on in the world outside our own country. The idea that travel broadens the mind is particularly relevant for financial markets.  The one big thing you get from working overseas is seeing firsthand how big the world is and how many opportunities there are out there that can be taken.

It also gave my kids a lot of experiences they couldn’t have received at home. I think it’s the best thing in the world for kids to grow up and get a sense of what’s out there in the big wide world. My son got his black belt in Kung Fu when he was living in Hong Kong inside three years. That was pretty amazing for a 13 year old! He only took it up because the team sports he was used to in Australia like soccer and rugby were far more limited.

6. What attracted to you to FIIG?

The opportunity to join a grass roots firm that is introducing conservative investments to real Australians to ensure they have some income in their later years. The people at FIIG really believe in the strategy and are very grounded largely as a result of dealing with clients and their needs every day.

7. What is the number one thing you hope to achieve at FIIG?

I’d like to see that the 1% or so of superannuation that is in traditional debt and fixed income instruments in Australia increased significantly – even if just for the sake of balance in a portfolio. That’s where it should rightfully be. Any contribution I can make to moving that dial has got to be a good thing, especially for the ageing Australian population.

8. What is your favourite part of the job?

Using the skills I’ve developed over the last 25 years to play a role in the genuine development of fixed income market at the grassroots level. That’s what we’re doing and it’s really motivating.

9. Best day on the job in your career?

Realising that we all had a job still after the crash in 1987. I remember coming in that day – I still worked at Westpac – and a lot of people were very concerned about whether we had jobs.

Us younger ones just had no idea what was going on. The boss came in in the afternoon and said: “Look, you don’t have to worry about not having jobs. Yes we’re going through a crisis but get on with your work.” That was the best day in terms of knowing I still had a career!

10. Worst day on the job in your career?

The day I watched the whole September 11 attack in New York on television. That was pretty bad because we knew people in financial firms in the World Trade Center that didn’t survive. Just watching the scale of it all unfold over hours and hours was incredibly confronting.

11. Favourite pastime?

I like my golf. I get to play a bit more now the kids have finished school but it doesn’t seem to make my handicap go any lower. I’ve played golf since the day I broke my arm playing rugby when I was about 30. My golf membership at Concord Golf Club came up about three months later and I figured that was Karma telling me to retire. I also like collecting a bit of wine.

12. Top piece of advice for investors?

Know your own personal risk appetite and work to that. That’s the one thing that everyone seems to forget when they’re talking to advisers and looking at the reams of products and services. Just know what works for you and don’t overstretch. The events of the last ten years show us that a mix of investments is better than focusing on one or two.

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