It was a tough decision for James Beale to strike out on his own in February this year after a successful 14-year career with Craigs Investment Partners in Tauranga, where he had been head of investment management.
“The firm looked after me so well and for so many years,” he said. “But I thought it was time to broaden my horizons.”
Mr Beale said that, at 42, he felt he had a good opportunity to re-establish himself and build a career down another path.
Although he hasn’t ruled out another corporate role at some stage, for now he is focused on his new firm, Beale Capital Consultants, which is already becoming well established. The firm has been meeting a need in the region to assist private companies in raising capital.
And it has also worked on some major transactions. A recent highlight was advising omega-3 oil producer Sea Dragon on a $10 million capital raise, in which Bay of Plenty health and honey products company Comvita become a cornerstone investor.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for Comvita in providing them with access to omega-3 oil and a great result for Sea Dragon to get such a top-drawer shareholder with a strong brand.”
Mr Beale didn’t follow the usual route into high finance. He was born in Wellington and grew up in Wainuiomata, going to college in Lower Hutt. He went straight from high school to a job at Prudential Assurance as a clerk doing unit trust administration.
“I started at the bottom,” he said.
But while at Prudential, he forged a strong relationship with his boss, Cameron Watson, an influential mentor, who encouraged him to go to university. Mr Beale completed a bachelor of commerce and administration in economics and finance then went on to work first as an index funds manager at Tower Managed Funds and then as a superannuation product manager for AMP.
Mr Watson had by now moved on to Craigs in Tauranga, and encouraged Mr Beale to join him, so in 2001 he relocated to the Bay of Plenty for a job as a research analyst.
Mr Beale steadily worked his way up through the ranks, serving successively as associate director, director and then head of equity capital markets. In that role he advised on a number of major transactions, including the initial public offerings for Delegats Group and Methven. As the global financial crisis began to bite and capital markets slowed down, he shifted across to become head of equities and advisory, taking charge of Craigs’ national broker network.
At the end of 2009 he became head of private wealth then, in 2011, head of investment management, responsible for Craigs’ private wealth research team and its output, with more than $8 billion in funds under management. “Transactions are always tough and there are always challenges,” said Mr Beale, who credits Craigs’ founder and executive chairman Neil Craig as a key mentor. “Neil’s incredibly good at thinking creatively about solving problems and finding structures that work for all parties. He taught me there’s always a better way of doing something to get a result and you have to be tenacious and chase hard and think creatively to come up with a solution.”
About four years ago, Mr Beale joined the Bay of Plenty early stage funding group Enterprise Angels. He sits on the board of Enterprise Angels and of its sidecar fund, EA Fund 1. “I think angel investing is incredibly dynamic and interesting,” he said. “You need to be a little bit more hands-on and get in and understand the business. It appeals to me as a really interesting space with people who are passionate and fired up about achieving things in their business.”
The involvement with early stage investing has helped focus the direction of Beale Capital Consultants. His former boss, Neil Craig, said the firm had encouraged Mr Beale’s move, adding that he was playing a key role in the region’s funding, especially for smaller businesses. He described Mr Beale as a “complete” adviser.
“James has been a research analyst, an investment banker and a fund manager, so he’s had those three careers in Craigs and all of them come to pass when you’re raising capital. It’s harder to raise capital for smaller businesses, which he’s specialising in, than big ones. I would say we are incredibly lucky to have someone of James’ skills willing to stay in the area and raise capital.”