Profile: The Ex-City Man

Canary wharf lit up at nightOne hedge fund manager left the world of finance behind to start his own eco-friendly products business and move to rural Suffolk. Edwin Lloyd tells Mark Williams why and how it's changed his life for the better

It was a desire to give his children a cleaner, greener and better life that made Edwin Lloyd leave behind his career in the City to set up My Greener Home.

The online store, which encourages sustainable living by selling innovative green gadgets and staples for garden and home, provided the means by which Lloyd could relocate his family from Kennington in south London to Hintlesham, west of Ipswich.

"It's a lovely place and a better environment in which to bring up children," he says. "The schools are excellent here – in London, you'd probably have to pay for a similar standard."

Running his own business also enables Lloyd to spend more time with his wife Enna (a nurse) and their four children (Sebastian, Hebe, Ariana and Nathaniel). This was not his only motivation, though - he admits that for a long time he had wanted to see if he could start up and develop a successful small enterprise. So how did he end up working in the City?

Career change

"After leaving St Anne's College, Oxford, with a degree in Engineering, Economics and Management, I trained as a systems engineer with IBM," remembers the 43-year-old. "I'd wanted to work in the City for a while, but it's difficult to get your foot in the door when you're a software engineer.

"Eventually, I got my break and became an equity analyst at HSBC in 1995. I've always been interested in how companies function, I learned a lot about the economics of business and why some businesses do well and others don't."

Later, Lloyd worked for ABN Ambro before becoming a global hedge fund manager for Norges Bank Investment Management, part of the Norwegian government's central bank. He quite enjoyed City life. "You're mixing with extremely capable people in a fast-paced, competitive environment. It's stimulating - even though the work is hard and the hours long."

Lloyd concedes that he had to think long and hard about giving up his well-paid, secure position. The hedge fund manager hedged his bets. "I launched My Greener Home as a part-time venture in 2007. I wanted to test the water - I had a wife and children to consider. From a very early stage, the signs were good, which made me believe even more strongly in my business idea. It got to the point where I couldn't perform both roles."

Sowing the seeds

Lloyd grew up in the shadows of Great Dixter House in East Sussex, which has one of the UK's finest gardens. "My uncle was a renowned gardener and my appreciation of nature and desire to protect the environment goes back to my childhood, really. Growing up, I don't remember having any real career aspirations - other than wanting to be an astronaut or something," he smiles.

Lack of a viable idea prevented Lloyd from starting a business before 2007. The seeds were sown in 2005. "Since Kyoto [a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1997 by most leading nations] governments have been under pressure to legislate to fight global warming, so there's top-down pressure. There's bottom-up pressure, too. People, especially younger ones, want to combat global warming, which means there's firm demand for sustainable, environmentally friendly products.

"Starting my business wasn't just about market demand or spending more time with my family, and my children were coming up to school age. Without wishing to sound altruistic, I also wanted to make a contribution. All these things came together - the timing was right."

Economic turmoil

Lloyd left the City in 2008, ahead of the economic turmoil that was soon to follow. "As a telecoms fund manager I would have been sheltered somewhat," he says, "although the volatility in the market would certainly have made things 'interesting'."

So does he miss his old life? "I liked London and enjoyed my job. I miss the camaraderie - you feel more isolated running your own business. I haven't drawn a salary yet, either, because I'm reinvesting profits to develop the business faster. I might look for external funding at some point, but I'm not thinking about exiting.

"Any regrets? No, I'm enjoying life and My Greener Home is progressing well. I think everyone should have a go at running their own business," he concludes.  

This case study was first published in July 2010.