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Ian McKnight, 34
Investment Strategy Manager, Royal Mail Pension Fund
There are very few people in the United Kingdom's pensions industry who do not know Ian McKnight —either through reputation or in person. The northern, confident—some would say "zany"—character has shaken off any notion that you have to be dull to work in pensions. But behind the larger-than-life persona, McKnight is very serious about his work. He joined the Royal Mail Pension Fund when government and unions were at loggerheads about the potential sale of the state-owned company. One of the sticking points was the £25 billion pension fund. It has since been decided that the UK Treasury should take most of its assets, liabilities, and deficit, leaving McKnight with £2.5 billion in legacy assets to manage to conclusion. "The fund is still open to future accrual," he points out, referencing that that smaller figure is only the starting point of his job.
McKnight took a well-trodden route to the Royal Mail: Graduate training at Watson Wyatt, two years at Lane Clark and Peacock, then made redundant from Morgan Stanley's pensions practice in 2009. A brief stint at KPMG and he moved to the asset owner side. And other skills? "I play the piano very well [he's done some weddings], I've got three lovely kids, (six, four, and two), and I ski a bit," he says when prodded. "I once met Mick Hucknall [lead singer of Simply Red]. I sang at him and then ran away. I think I enjoyed the experience more than he did." With characters like this, how can pensions be boring?
The Polymaths: Some people focus on one specific task. This group focuses on many. They're like that kid you knew in high school who could do calculus in French, or did six Advanced Placement classes. You maybe made fun of them—but you also wanted to be them. Or date them. Don't hate them because they're smart. Hate them because they might take your job one day. Or, if you're smart, you'll learn a thing or two from them. And, if all else fails, just hire them.