Thought Leadership

Two failed marriages and some investment advice

By Colin Walls

I think that I should explain straight away – if only for the benefit of my wife, who may be reading this – that I am using the word “failed” in a slightly unconventional way. Actually, the same is true for “advice”, as you will see.

When I was much younger, before I went to university, I used to speculate on whom I might marry. I occasionally suggested that the ideal girl would be the daughter of a successful brewery owner. I suppose she would have needed to have some other attributes as well, but that was never clearly defined. As it turned out, I have married two women, neither of whom [to the best of my knowledge] have any connection with the brewing industry …

Whilst my interest in beer and brewing has continued, it has not been a specific focus of my life. Neither has money. I like having money and I have enough to do what I want to do, but it has never interested me in its own right. So, I have never become much of an expert at investing. I understand how the stock market works and that sounds too much like gambling for me – I prefer predictability. I intrinsically own shares, as I have some pension funds, but that is not the same.

Over the years, I have made some investments, but these decisions have been in pursuit of a particular interest, rather than just schemes to make money without doing any work …

In 1982, I bought a share in the International Exhibition Wine Society. This is a wine supplier – in those days we placed orders by mail or telephone, but now they have slick Web ordering system. I was introduced by colleague, who, like me, wanted a reliable supplier of wine. The Society is a co-op, which means it can only be used by its share-holders. Profits from sales are put back into the business and the focus is on providing quality and good value. The organization was founded in 1874 and, although its operations have moved with the times, it is steeped in tradition. One of these traditions is that share-holders do not receive a dividend and cannot sell or cash in their share during their lifetime. However, the shares do accumulate in value, but that profit can only be realized on the share-holder’s death. The share, that I bought for £10, is now worth £65.39. That is about 5.7% per annum, which is not so bad.

All my life I have loved books. I have owned lots [and still have quite a few] and I have written a couple [and another is in progress]. Even though I now do almost all my recreational reading on my Kindle, I still regard books as special. Exploring bookshops is always a pleasure – particularly small, independent stores which are often quirky and fun. The town where I live used to have a very nice book store, but the owners decided to retire and were unable to find a buyer for the business. So, they closed down. A group of people felt that this was very sad and decided to take action and set up the Malvern Book Cooperative – essentially a small, focused book store owned by a large number of small investors. As soon as I heard about this plan, I wanted to be part of it and purchased shares as soon as they were offered. The shop opened in 2012 and has been quite successful. I only spent money that I could afford to lose, but, at the time of writing, it seems to be quite safe. I might even make a profit one day.

My most recent “investment” takes me in a full circle: I bought shares in a brewery. It started a while back when we discovered a bar called Brewdog in a nearby city. It was a loud, lively place with a kind of steam punk style. Their range of beer was very eclectic, with the strongest one being 16.5% ABV [that is like sherry!]. All the beers on tap are sold by the pint or half-pint, but they also offer one-third or two-thirds. As soon as I expressed any uncertainty when I was ordering, some small tasting glasses appeared. I soon realised that the place was run by enthusiasts, who loved what they were doing. We were probably the oldest people there, but felt welcome and comfortable. I later did some research and found that there are Brewdog bars in various cities – mostly in the UK, but increasingly elsewhere. The most interesting thing that I discovered is that the company is owned by thousands of small investors and the latest share sale is going on right now. There are various benefits [like discounts] in being a member, so I stumped up. They call the program “Equity for Punks”, which I think is entertaining. BTW, if you decide to invest [and why would you not?], please quote my referral number – R767642 – which will benefit both of us!

So, what next? Maybe I need to invest in a chocolate manufacturer … [But other suggestions are welcome by comment, email or via social networking.]


Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at