Home Estate Planning Canary Wharf and Me: John Mulqueen on life in London’s other financial district

Canary Wharf and Me: John Mulqueen on life in London’s other financial district

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Each week we dig into the memory bank of the City’s great and good. Today, John Mulqueen, chief investment officer at Canary Wharf Group, tells us about life in London’s other financial district

What was your first job?
Washing cars in the west end. My dad worked in a car park in Drury Lane and took me in to earn some money during the school holidays. I loved meeting all the theatre stars and comedians with whom my dad was on first-name terms and sitting in the high-performance and luxury cars owned by the bosses of businesses in Covent Garden. It is probably the reason I still love fast cars.

What was your first role in finance?
I worked for Tim Hayne at LV as a pension fund manager which was my segue from commercial investment agency to client-side portfolio management. Tim is a very experienced and thoughtful investor who taught me a lot about the trade of risk v reward.

When did you know that Canary Wharf was the place for you?
I was born in the East End of London and began my professional career at the same time the towers of Canary Wharf were being constructed. The iconic buildings, creating a world-class environment from the ground up, remain an inspiring testimony to the potential of placemaking. It demonstrates what can be achieved as a result of the ambitious spirit and professionalism of the people who work in real estate.

I was attracted by the opportunity to play a part in the company’s role as a custodian through a long-term investment perspective, scale, focus and operational expertise being the ideal ingredients to make a meaningful and positive impact on our environment and the lives of our customers, curating the best places to work, live and play.

What’s one thing you love about Canary Wharf?
The outlook. I don’t just mean from the 30th floor of One Canada Square, I mean the future potential of the place as it evolves from a global financial centre into a vibrant mixed-use community.

And one thing you would change?
Continuing to improve the environment for all the visitors to Canary Wharf particularly at street level. We are adding new amenities all the time and the drive to add biodiversity for instance with the partnership with the Eden Project in greening Middle Dock adding nature to make the Wharf even more attractive.

What’s your most memorable lunch or meeting?
I will always remember a meeting with David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street where I was part of a small group he invited to help him consider how to bridge the gap between investor demand for long-term secured income and fast-growing high-tech occupiers’ desire for flexibility for growth. He was very charming, engaging and genuinely curious.

And any business faux pas?
A friend recently introduced me to one of our investors by email, I thanked him and suggested we get together to meet in person. I was horrified when he reminded me that we sat next to each other for dinner two weeks before! It was a very enjoyable evening and I instantly realised he was right. I had obviously overloaded meeting so many new people in my first few weeks – that was very awkward!

What’s been your proudest moment?
Graduating from university was a big moment for me, I was the first person in my family to go to university and it was the first step in making my way into professional life.

And who do you look up to?
I have worked with some exceptional people including right now at Canary Wharf Group. Ultimately it would have to be my parents, they both came from a disadvantaged background and worked so hard and made so many personal sacrifices to provide for me and my two sisters.

Are you optimistic for the year ahead?
Absolutely. In the past few years the UK has been buffeted by the challenges of Brexit, Covid, financial uncertainty and ongoing geopolitical instability. I believe we are now on the brink of a period of growth. There is huge potential for real estate; occupiers want the very best space and the imperative exists to continue to innovate to address the sustainability challenge by improving our built environment and to support the growth of inspiring and aspirational businesses that London continues to attract.

We’re going for lunch and you’re picking – where are we going?
I am a big fan of Dishoom. I particularly enjoy South Asian cuisine although I often underestimate the spicy dishes and always order too much.

And if we’re grabbing a drink after work?
I would suggest a drink after work in March and we could go to the opening of SOMA on Frobisher Walk at Canary Wharf!

Where’s home for you?
I have lived in and around London and now live with my family in Hertfordshire. My wife and I often talk about moving back to London when our children fly the nest.

How do you spend your downtime?
I like to play individual sports like padel tennis at Padium in Canary Wharf and golf. I also love to swim in open water. I have neglected this since my children were born but as they are older now and are big enough to join me, I would like to do more of this. I also enjoy big and small screen entertainment particularly drama and documentaries. My weekends at home are busy with friends and as much as possible outdoors.

You’ve got a well-deserved two weeks off. Where are you going?
Portugal with my wife and three sons to our favourite resort to play tennis, golf, swim and enjoy fine Portuguese wine – best done in that order.

Quickfire round:

Favourite book? The Snowball by Alice Schroeder

Favourite film? Guardians of the Galaxy

Favourite artist? George Michael – a song for every emotion

Favourite place in London? Other than Canary Wharf obviously… I would have to say Hyde Park

Cocktail order? Espresso martini

Coffee order? Latte with one pump of Vanilla syrup

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