Bolton School Former Pupils

Ian Riley

Ian Riley (School Governor, Old Boltonian Class of 1981, and lead benefactor for the Riley Centre)

Could you write a brief pen portrait about yourself and your career?

I am 52 years old, have been married to Ginni for 26 years and have two children (Emma, 21, who is hopefully about to graduate from Cambridge having studied Computer Sciences / Land Economy and Tim, 18, who, subject to getting the predicted A-level grades, is about to start studying Engineering at Oxford).

After leaving school I worked for a year in industry as part of what used to be known as a “thick sandwich” student apprenticeship, the main benefit of which was that I was paid a salary whilst at university – somewhat different to the situation most university students find themselves in nowadays!  I studied engineering at Cambridge, specialising during my final two years in doing an MEng in Manufacturing.  As with many UK engineers, I went straight from this into the City (!), working in what is now known as Investment Banking.  However, after 5 or so years I realised that I wanted to have a more industrial bias and so took a year off to do an MBA at Insead to consider my next move.  Whilst there, I decided that the most interesting / rewarding use of my industrial and financial experience would be to try and get into the relatively new field of Private Equity – in which I have stayed for the last 20+ years (including a 3-year trial run of retirement when 40).  The final part of this journey was being part of the founding team which set up a new firm, Vitruvian Partners, in 2006.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

Despite our family having been in Bolton for many years, my older brother and I were the first generation to go to Bolton School, both getting free places via the 11-plus – although the family link has continued with all three of my brother’s children subsequently attending the school.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

My fondest memories of school are all based around sport – whether it be beating the MCC for the first time in many years, winning the Greater Manchester Schools Badminton tournament, captaining the rugby team or just the camaraderie of team sports.

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?

Not that I would want to single out although I am particularly grateful to all those teachers who gave up their time for the multitude of extra-curriculum activities which the school offers – both sporting and academic (I was fortunate enough to be allowed to do an extra A-level with the help of my sixth form maths teacher).

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

To me, Bolton School was and remains an environment in which children are not limited by the opportunities available such that they can pursue whatever avenues interest them and develop in a rounded way – not just as students but as complete individuals.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Having children of school / university leaving age, the best advice I can offer is what I have said to them; it is extremely difficult at a young age to be certain about what it is you ultimately want to do with your lives – as a result, study something at university which you enjoy / are good at (not surprisingly these seem to go hand in hand most of the time) and which keeps as many options as possible open.  Although many will disagree with this in times of the difficulty of getting graduate jobs, to me this means avoiding vocational subjects – although this risks family ructions as two of my brother’s children studied law and accountancy!

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?

I am 100% behind the Campaign. Having grown up in the age of Grammar schools, I believe that the exceptional opportunities available at Bolton School should be “means blind” and offered on the basis of ability.  Anything which can be done to make the school stronger financially and, therefore, better able to pursue this goal has my full support.

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