Sir Clive Cowdery - A Young Economists' Dinner Discussion

Held on September 14 2016

With support from Eversheds


  • Sir Clive Cowdery



Clive Cowdery – who got his knighthood from David Cameron at the beginning of this year – is one of Britain’s most influential (and intriguing) entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

He was one of five children, born to a single mother in the West Country. He was raised in very difficult circumstances, leaving school with just three ‘0’ levels – and apparently few prospects. Less than a decade later, he was running an insurance company in Dublin on behalf of the Rothschild family. From that, he went on to Scottish Amicable – and, from that, to running GE’s European insurance business. By 2004 (when he was just 41), he was ‘Big Clive’ and had set up his first Resolution Group, buying so-called ‘zombie funds’ that were closed to new insurance business.

By 2007, he had sold Resolution I to the Pearl Group (for £5 billion), and had become a major City figure. He had also set up the Resolution Foundation with his own money, dedicating it to the problems of low income families.

Inevitably, the entrepreneurial urge got the better of him (again), and he set up Resolution II in 2008 – using it as a vehicle for investment in Friends Life (sold to Aviva last year) and for ventures as far afield as the US. According to the press, he has tithed half of its profits to fund the Foundation – an act of generosity that is practically unparalleled in the City.

On top of that, he has recently become the Chairman (and, effectively, the proprietor) of Prospect – a leading UK arts and politics magazine – as well a governor of George Soros’s Institute of New Economic Thinking in Oxford.

In other words, there are so many angles to Clive’s life that I haven’t got a clue where to start. What I do know, however, is that he is both one of Britain’s most generous philanthropists and one of the City’s most innovative entrepreneurs. As the Michelin guide would put it, “well worth a detour”.