Listen to people, listen to your team and listen to your clients.
Francis Menassa is the CEO and Founder of JAR Capital, an independent wealth and asset management firm based in St. James, London. Menassa’s London private banking career began over 20 years ago at Merrill Lynch in 1996, before joining Credit Suisse in 2001. In January of 2008, he set up the wealth management firm, Plurimi Capital, with his senior partner, before establishing JAR Capital in 2014.
Francis Menassa actively supports a number of UK-based charities including DEBRA, which supports individuals and families affected by Epidermolysis Bullosa. In the last year, Francis sponsored a 4-man team that competed in a cross-Atlantic rowing race to raise money for Over the Wall and the St. Luke’s Cancer Centre. As a racing enthusiast, Francis Menassa also sponsors the Lebanese F4 driver Rashed Ghanem.
Where did the idea for JAR Capital come from?
The idea behind JAR’s name – just like most of my best ideas – came from my wonderful wife. The team was setting up an aviation leasing fund and we were struggling to come up with a name for it. Sissy, my better half, suggested I name it after the kids since JAR Capital is all about family. JAR is made up from the initials of my three children – Joseph, Arianna and Rafael. At the end of the day, my family and our clients are the most important things in my life. As a firm, we think about and treat our clients like family and we concentrate on the preservation of their wealth and its eventual transfer with the same sense of responsibility we have when we make decisions about our own families.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m usually in the office around 7:30 am looking at the markets and our clients’ positions. After that, I tend to focus on the client meetings I have later in the day. We are, after all, a client-oriented institution. Then, I catch up with the JAR team. The team usually gives me a breakdown of what their clients are doing – what they’re investing in, etc. I’m very lucky that I work with very intelligent people here. At JAR, we try to cross-pollinate ideas. That ensures our clients benefit from exposure to the entire group’s knowledge. I tend to be one of the last out of the office. A lot of my work and thinking is done on my own at the beginning and end of the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is a group effort. We have an internal product approval committee that discusses ideas from the various teams. We look at the merits and we evaluate the risks of each potential project. That allows us to choose the best of the best.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Sustainability is a trend that is very high on our radar. So it is our responsibility to be a force for good in society. If you tend to look at what we do here at JAR, most projects are in line with those principles.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’d say it’s my energy. My colleagues tell me it’s never-ending. Being focused and determined is also really important. Not being afraid to fail is another habit that helps. But at the end of the day it’s the energy that I have. It’s not easy to work 24/7. As silly as it sounds — you need energy to keep going.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice would be to trust myself, to trust my instincts. I was too unsure of myself when I was younger. I was always questioning myself and would change my mind based on people’s feedback. At the end of the day, if I had just trusted myself, my instincts and my own thinking – I would have been just fine.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think it’s better to read a broad range of literature than specializing in any one thing. Focusing your reading on one area and developing your expertise in one field is great, but it’s more important to read as many books as you can in as many different areas. It opens your mind, helps inspire you and helps generate new ideas. We live in a world of AirPods and echo chambers. Open your eyes, ears and mind.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I have a very structured life. I love processes. Having a process ensures that I analyse things, whether they’re personal or financial. And by the way, I’m not scared to change and improve the decision-making processes I employ, but I always live by processes. It puts a structure on what I do. I don’t like surprises. Processes help eliminate them. That’s how I guide my whole existence. I think everyone could benefit from a little structure.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A lot of people don’t seem to grasp the importance of listening and people that work in financial services are no exception. I try to listen to people, to listen to my team and to listen to our clients. The secret to success is understanding what people want and delivering it to the best of your ability. It’s as simple as that.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of my very first investments did not go very well. That experience taught me I should only invest in areas I understand. I didn’t understand the project’s technical underpinnings well enough and I was too optimistic. Nowadays, I only look at things where I have at least a little understanding. How did I overcome that? I didn’t overcome the obstacles on that particular project. I failed. But I persevered and there have been enough successful projects since then to say I overcame it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have been looking at the waste management business for a very long time. It fits into our firm’s interest in sustainability. A lot of people are interested in cleaning up landfills. One of the businesses that I am looking at is compostable plastics. There’s a lot to like in the idea: not least, helping clean up our planet and making our consumption more sustainable. The business I’m looking at now is how to get rid of the flammable plastics and one solution, and one technology that I’m looking at is compostable plastics.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Donating is often the way to spend my money. I try to do a lot of it and so does JAR Capital. I donated some money to a friend of mine just the other day. He was raising money for the Round House Charity and was doing the Three Peaks Challenge — climbing the UK’s three tallest mountains in 24 hours. That’s the last hundred dollars I donated and I think it was money well spent – much, much better spent than the money I blew on dinner yesterday.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google Calendars. It allows me to stay on top of work, my kids’ schedules and everything else. Everyone gets a calendar and you layer them on to one another or peel them back depending on what you need to say. It’s brilliant.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Read ‘The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service,’ by Robert Erskine Childers. Childers wrote it in 1903. It’s about friends going on a sailing trip but it turns into kind of a spy trip. I love all espionage novels and the Riddle of the Sands was one of the first novels about spying ever written.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is all about going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” It’s often attributed to Churchill though that’s a matter of debate. Doesn’t matter. It’s pure wisdom whoever said it.
- Trust yourself, trust your instincts
- Our responsibility is a force for good in society
- Listen to people, listen to your team and listen to your clients.
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