City Trader Greg Secker is the newest member of the City Philanthropy Ambassador’s group, championing giving. Here Secker shares his thoughts on the potential of philanthropy for both givers and recipients.
Multi-millionaire master trader, motivational coach, international speaker, serial entrepreneur, ‘Earth Angel’ (more later) and now philanthropist, Greg Secker is the kind of ‘got-it-all’ guy people love to hate. He says so himself.
But spend an hour with the 42-year-old father-of-three Capital Index founder, and experience the hurricane force of his genuine desire to ‘make a difference’, and you’ll likely want him as a best friend.
The serial entrepreneur’s tales of globe-trotting missions to build villages for disaster-struck communities; his ‘flying trader’ fundraising adventures above London piloting the helicopter he self-built, and collaborations with world leaders such as Richard Branson, puts one in mind of Marvel hero and philanthropist Tony Stark, aka Ironman. It is not the first time the similarity has been noted says Secker, but he describes himself as a “normal boy from Norfolk”.
While US billionaire philanthropist Bill Austin, founder of The Starkey Hearing Foundation, for whom Secker has travelled to Africa to hand deliver hearing aids, describes him as a fellow ‘Earth Angel’.
As a child Secker had a fascination with magic tricks inspired by his grandfather, a member of the Magic Circle. “But once I learned how to do the trick, I wanted to show everybody how the trick worked,” he says.
And it’s that desire to reveal the trick that has made Secker his vast fortune and is now inspiring his philanthropy.
At the turn of the 21st Century Secker was learning how to make money as a trader, retiring as a vice-president of Mellon Financial Corporation at the age of 27 to set up a trading floor from his home. “People started to ask how I traded and I showed them and realised there was a business in it,” says Secker. And that’s how he made an even bigger fortune; by revealing to others the trick of making money as an FX trader. His Learn to Trade business has reputedly trained over 200,000 people in how to play the markets.
Having made himself and other people rich, Secker is now keen to enrich lives with his philanthropy, which began in earnest in 2011 when The Greg Secker Foundation was formed. Part of the motivation to give back is a response to the support the Barnardo’s charity gave to his grandmother, who grew up in their care: “Without their help my father and I would not be here.”
Now his own foundation is committed to ‘positively improving the quality of life for people around the world,’ focusing on ‘education, life skills and leadership initiatives to equip people with the essential building blocks of life’ according to the website.
“The golden thread that runs through everything I do is empowerment through education. Helping people fulfil their potential. I am a disrupter and work outside the system,” says Secker, who as a trader turned the FX market on its head by introducing reverse auction technology to put power in the hands of the many – the buyers – instead of the few - the banks.
Among the programmes run by the Foundation is the annual Youth Leadership Summit that takes place in Kent. The five-day development seminar aims to help 13 to 17-year-olds reach their potential through workshops focusing on health, wealth, relationships, leadership, entrepreneurship, contribution, purpose and passion,
It brings global inspirational leaders such as motivational guru and author Tony Robbins to motivate kids from all walks of life to believe they can succeed.
Potential is a personal motivation for Secker: “Hell on earth would be to meet the man you could have been,” he says.
In 2013 Secker first travelled to the Philippines to rebuild homes for those affected by the Nock-Ten typhoon that flattened the region after hearing that his Filipino housekeeper’s family had been affected. The mercy mission has given rise to the ambitious ‘Build a House, Build a Home’ project that will see Secker and his team build an entire new village of 100 homes and facilities in Lemery, using leading edge hurricane-proofing techniques and technology.
“More importantly we will be putting in place the services, education and life skills training to build a sustainable community. Our ultimate aim is to empower the people - if we have to build the village first to do that, then we do it,” says Secker.
Money for the project comes from a mix of profits from his businesses, his fundraising activities such as his Tradeathons where commissions from the day’s trading are donated, and money from “what would be the kids’ trust fund”, he says.
Staff from his offices around the globe are also ‘bussed out’ in economy class so they can help build the village. “That is part of the culture of our companies. Everyone gets involved in giving back.” In talking about what business can and should do, and what they get back when they do, Secker’s enthusiasm revs to overdrive.
“As Branson says if every company focussed on one challenge we could solve many of the world’s problems. And companies would benefit too. Companies need values. And values are another way of saying ‘what do we care about’? If companies know what their values are, then they will know how to deal with anything.”
Once again wanting to reveal the trick and show people how it’s done, Secker is planning a book entitled ‘Earn, Learn, Return’. Based on interviews with hundreds of leading philanthropists it will help readers understand how and why people make money and give it away and what they gain in doing that.
“It is as much about the good things that come from doing good, both for business and individuals, as it is about doing good,” he says.
“Philanthropy is no longer about big wealth; it’s about big impact. You don’t have to be a billionaire or a world leader to make a difference. In this era, anyone can be a Philanthropist. You simply have to care about a cause and be willing to get involved. It is, in fact about giving your time, skills, voice and influence to improve the well being of the community.
“The conversations in the city about philanthropy are changing too. It used to be the talk around the dinner party table of how well you’re doing, ‘did you get a good bonus?’, and ‘can we afford a bigger house?’. Today, it is very much about ‘what you are doing: what charities are you helping and how?’ The concept of legacy is becoming as important as owning an asset during your lifetime.”
Find our more about the work of the Greg Secker Foundation here: http://www.gregseckerfoundation.com/team/greg-secker/