Benjamin Davis (MBA 2003) has recently been appointed CEO of Octopus Investments, and Ed Clough (MBA 2016) becomes Managing Director of Octopus Real Estate after initially joining the firm through the MBA Global Consulting Project.
Benjamin Davis can clearly remember the moment that led him to study for an MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School – he was reading a magazine on a long-haul flight from London back to his native New Zealand.
The article was about the day in the life of a private equity investor. Then a business and technology consultant for firms including British retailer Marks & Spencer, Benjamin nudged his girlfriend who was watching a film, and said “This is what I want to do.” That was in 2002 – the couple are now married and have a family, Benjamin was just appointed CEO of Octopus Investments, and he still has a copy of the in-flight magazine in his bookcase at home.
Cambridge MBA credited with broadening skills and perspectives
“Without wanting to overstate it, the MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School was probably one of the most formative years of my life,” says Benjamin.
“I couldn’t have gone from being a business technology consultant to an investor without it. It was fantastic to work with people from so many different countries, and benefit from the breadth of their cultures and perspectives. Before the MBA I was focused on finance, economics, and technology, but took the opportunity in my MBA to focus on strategy and entrepreneurship, and learned the importance of positioning your product in the market.”
Benjamin has a degree from University of Auckland in business and technology, and after his MBA worked as a technology venture capital investor for various firms, before starting in 2010 as Investment Manager at Octopus, a multinational financial services and energy firm founded in 2000. After leading Octopus Healthcare and then Octopus Real Estate, Benjamin was appointed CEO of Octopus Investments this February.
How the Global Consulting Project led to a job offer at Octopus
Impressed by his time at Cambridge Judge, Benjamin started bringing in teams from the Cambridge MBA Global Consulting Project (GCP) to Octopus. The highlight of the Cambridge MBA for many, the GCP provides an opportunity for students to consult with blue-chip corporations or organisations on a particular aspect of their business. Other recent GCPs by Cambridge MBA students include projects for the World Bank, Emirates Airlines, investment management firm Invesco and outdoors apparel company Patagonia.
In 2017, Ed Clough (MBA 2016) was part of a team of five from Cambridge Judge (Ed is from the UK, and the other students were from Brazil, Ukraine, New Zealand and dual nationality UK / Turkey) brought in to look at ways Octopus could grow a healthcare fund. Among their key recommendations was that Octopus could try joint ventures with GP practices in relation to new medical centres.
Ed had studied Economics at the University of Durham before converting to Law and had worked at legal firm Allen & Overy for 7 years. The first term of his MBA had been a busy one with the birth of his son. He instantly impressed at Octopus and was offered a job while still on the GCP.
“You hear stories of people getting jobs like this, and you always hope it will happen, but it was a real surprise”, says Ed. “It did feel a bit more of a punt joining Octopus at that point because it wasn’t as much of a household name as it is today because of the growth in the energy sector. But I was delighted.”
“He just culturally fitted in”, explains Benjamin. “He was smart, hard-working, curious. His legal background definitely helped as we could get him involved in transactions straight away. And we had the benefit of ‘try before you buy’ for a month.” The pair have now worked together for five years.
The importance of company values
As the new CEO of Octopus Investments, Benjamin is responsible for £12.5 billion in funds under management across real estate, ventures, sustainable infrastructure and smaller companies, and 700 staff.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity”, says Benjamin. “We’re aiming to scale from £12.5 billion to £50 billion funds under management over the next decade. Octopus is a certified B Corp, so we want to invest in the people, ideas and industries that will change the world.”
Ed has taken over from Benjamin as MD of Octopus Real Estate, which has recently announced an affordable housing strategy, playing to the firm’s social and environmental values. “I think everyone realises you have to look through that lens now,” says Ed. “It’s crazy not to. It’s a bad investment decision to not do so, but more importantly, it’s not right for the rest of the world.”
Five top tips for making the most of the Cambridge MBA experience
Benjamin and Ed offer their advice to those applying for the Cambridge MBA:
- Take all the subjects you don’t know. If you’ve done a degree in finance, don’t do all the finance papers. We both learned the most around sales and marketing.
- Don’t get too focused on one area from day one: at some point you’ll have to commit, but leave your options open for as long as possible.
- Network – especially for international students making the UK their home. It’s a powerful network to be part of.
- Do the things you enjoy. Throw yourself into wider University life, as you won’t get the chance again.
- Remember the first job you get after your MBA doesn’t have to be the one you always want to be in – it can be a stepping stone for other things.