Richard Counsell - Financial Risk Management in a Volatile World
My family have been Somerset farmers for many generations and my parents run the cattle farm, near Wells.
I chose to branch out from farming initially and spent some time in the City of London in my early 20’s, before my goal to start and grow my own business became a reality. Founding and building various technology-focused businesses has absorbed the last 15 years of my career and I now work in a converted cowshed on the family farm, where I live with my wife Pippa and 3 young children.
Building a technology company in Somerset has been an amazing experience and we now have offices in Chicago, Melbourne and Hanoi. I travel to Chicago quite often and it was here that I started to meet futures traders and discovered how many more options US farmers have to manage volatility and deliver predictable returns to their business. One of those was price insurance, (LRP) where farmers can insure a ‘floor price’ for a number of months and receive an indemnity if the price falls below that ‘floor’ when they sell.
I was intrigued by this simple and practical approach to managing volatility and its potential application for UK family farms. My scholarship will allow me to spend some dedicated time with existing price insurance operations around the world and study the day-to-day operations and challenges in more detail.
In my personal life, I enjoy shooting and fishing and a bit of stone masonry whenever I can, but in reality I spend most of my time watching Peppa Pig and Tractor Ted with my children, or swearing at terriers.
I am incredibly grateful to both the The John Oldacre Foundation and the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust for this fantastic opportunity.
I have been studying Price Insurance in all its varying forms for a couple of years now, but there is a limit to what you can do with Google and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to spend time on the ground, to learn first hand from existing international operations.
US and Canadian organisations are the furthest advanced, but simpler schemes exist in Africa and Asia. I’m very interested in how they’ve established a simple, unsubsidised and low cost solution and most importantly, what tangible benefits has it delivered for farmers.
UK Price Insurance is a complex challenge, as we don’t have the well established and highly liquid Futures and Options markets of the US for example, to provide a backstop for an insurance organisation to manage risk and price the premiums.
So my project will study existing international operations, but also all the elements that would be required to bring a pilot to life in the UK. This includes sector analysis, market data, quantitative analysis, regulation, corporate structure, education, marketing and funding.
It’s an opportunity of a lifetime; made possible by Nuffield and The John Oldacre Foundation and one I hope will prepare the groundwork for a UK pilot in the not too distant future.