Dan Kirton was born in London, United Kingdom, but was raised in New Zealand from the age of five onward. Following in the footsteps of his father Earle and his brother Ben and Nick, he attended St. Patrick’s College, Silverstream in Wellington. Dan played rugby for the 1st XV before attending the University of Otago in Dunedin, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in commerce in 1998. After returning home to Wellington, Dan Kirton represented the Wellington Lions rugby team in 1999 before heading back to the United Kingdom, whereupon he played for the Saracens in the English Premiership. Unfortunately, his rugby career was cut short due to a back injury. However, this misfortune prompted Dan to return to the financial sector, a career path he began before his foray into professional rugby. In London, Dan Kirton worked for Refco on the government bonds and interest rate futures and options desk before moving with his team to Man Group, PLC. Later on, he worked for CLSA in the equities division before being transferred to the company’s head office in Hong Kong to set up an Australian-focused equity department in 2009. In 2012, Dan was approached to assemble an office for Australian broker Bell Potter, also in Hong Kong, where he remains to this day. Dan Kirton has more than 20 years of experience working in financial markets.
Where did the idea for your company or organization come from?
Bell Potter was looking at setting up an office in Asia, and I was in Hong Kong doing a similar thing in Australian equities for another firm called CSLA. I was then asked if I would be willing to set up a business for them in Asia doing the same thing with Australian equities. The clients that I speak with are all Asian based hedge funds and Long onlys.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I go to work, write morning notes on what has happened in the overnight markets, and provide additional commentary, catering it to an Australian market perspective. I will then speak to clients with important stock-specific information that pertains to their portfolio and interests. This can be by highlighting what’s going on in the news, Bell Potter upgrades or downgrades, or specific overnight moves in a particular sector. A large proportion of my time is spent on Australian corporate transactions, where Bell Potter is considered the best in the business for mid-cap/small-cap deals (IPO’s and capital raisings) in Australia, having raised over A$2.5bn in 2020 for its corporate clients.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The ideas are often brought to us by companies and by CEOs that want help to bring their company to market through an initial public offering (IPO). It’s really their ideas and their business that has been their life’s work, and once they tell us the story of their business, we then try to bring that to life for our clients by getting them interested and potentially investing in that company. Simply put, we help facilitate a message from a company to sophisticated investors to help them bring their idea (company) to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The transitional shift of people being able to spend more time working from home. It’s fantastic that for many people that haven’t been able to commit to a full-time working week previously, whether it is because they are caring for their children, looking after a family member, or maybe because they don’t want to work full time, can now have the freedom to work a varying degree, depending on the employer and job, from home. I think COVID has afforded us the ability to work more productively from home, and I think that’s a really exciting trend. A lot of these hard working, talented colleagues, could have been lost to our industries forever, but because of the increased flexibility companies are now adopting we are retaining this talent and experience. That’s obviously been forced onto us by COVID and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but I think that’s one exciting and positive outcome of the pandemic.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One of my habits is to exercise first thing in the morning. I think doing exercise in the morning focuses you for the day ahead. By the time I finish my exercise, I’m ready to get going for the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be brave, be kind, and be humble.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
New Zealand will win the T20 Cricket World Cup this year.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always ask questions. There’s never a silly question.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has benefited our firm in growing quickly is by investing in our people and our technology stack.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure in our game is when we do a lot of work on an IPO and it doesn’t end up getting to market. That can be for a multitude of reasons, but it’s always very disappointing when your team put a lot of work into an IPO roadshow process and it doesn’t go through. It could be because people just don’t like the company or it could be because of macro-factors like the stock markets weak, which can result in investors being risk averse to new investments. So how do we overcome that?! We go back and re-evaluate the company and our strategy on the IPO and see where we have gone wrong. Was it the pitch and presentation capabilities of the company? Was it based on valuation and the pricing of the deal that made it unattractive to investors? Or did we not target the right type of investors? In the end some of the time it can be none of the above but more so the company and sector may not be an attractive proposition in the current market environment.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I like the idea of an app where you can make head-to-head bets with friends and family on anything. How many times do you say to one of your friends or family members, “I bet you $20 bucks this thing happens, or this team wins, or I beat you to the restaurant?” And then because we are friends, we never get around to paying each other. But imagine if you can make bets with family and friends or even a group of friends on an app on your phone that could be accepted or declined by them instantaneously, and if they accept and they lose the bet, the money is transferred automatically. I definitely want in if anyone does this!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Donating to Starship Hospital Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in Auckland.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
The main thing we use is Bloomberg, which is a financial news gathering service that helps us stay on top of global markets. That’s the main piece of software we use, which we complement with a multitude of resources like Reuters or Twitter or other global news sources, though Bloomberg is probably the best for the financial markets.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Red Notice by Bill Browder was one book I read that was awesome. It delved into the corruption in Russia and how the Putin government was at the center of a lot of it. It had connections back to US hedge funds that were being targeted by the Russian government on money they had made taking big bets in Russia. It was all very interesting and still pretty relevant.
What is your favorite quote?
“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Many people think this is a quote by Abraham Lincoln, but the source of the quote is actually unknown.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.