Screen Time with Guy Hands

Hand Picked Magazine talks to Guy Hands about the dedication it takes to get to the top, how technology helps to keep him connected and why he finds TikTok hilarious.

Money doesn’t create happiness but giving does. It feels good to give.” Those aren’t the words many would expect from a man who rocketed to success in the world of finance: from rising through the ranks at Goldman Sachs, before joining Japanese investment bank Nomura, to founding Terra Firma, which became one of the most prominent private equity firms in Europe. Then again, Guy Hands has never been one to do as others might expect.

True, his status as a high-achiever is evident. Since 1994, he has successfully overseen Terra Firma’s investment of €18 billion of equity in 39 businesses with an aggregate of over €51 billion. However, there is so much more to the man behind the money. Living in Guernsey with his wife Julia, he is fiercely protective of his beloved family and incredibly modest about the numerous charities he supports worldwide, both privately and through the Terra Firma Charitable Trust. “I wouldn’t call it giving back – I would call it giving. We should all try to give, even a little, no matter what our bank balance,” he says.

Beyond philanthropy, Guy is equally passionate about the world, politics and the environment, citing prejudice, discrimination and unkindness as the traits that upset him the most – perhaps an unsurprising admission for a man who struggled with severe dyslexia until a diagnosis in his school years. So, what is behind his phenomenal success, and how has he stayed at the top of his game for four decades?

Let’s be clear, for a man who is always on a mission to keep achieving, just catching Guy Hands with his feet up is an achievement, let alone stealing some time from his gruelling schedule. So, it was little surprise to find out that, like many driven professionals, powering down is a struggle. “When I am awake, I am usually in front of a screen and I am awake 18 hours a day,” Guy says with a wry smile. “Julia does wonder if I’m addicted to my iPhone. She has the patience of a saint but when it gets too much, she will always step in and sort me out.”

This extreme work ethic is something he shares with two of his idols: Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Einstein famously worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, while the latter allegedly told his biographer that he worked from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm every day. “Einstein was able to think outside of the box and had an ability to organise; he had an attention to detail that prevented anything from falling through the cracks,” explains Guy. “Steve Jobs is someone I admire greatly as he was so dedicated to customer service.”

 “I could not run my businesses effectively without the resources I have that connect me to the outside world.”

When we are all so aware of the perils of technology, Guy has embraced it as a help rather than a hindrance, particularly in his professional life. “Love it or hate it, technology is here to stay,” he says. “I could not run my businesses effectively without the resources I have that connect me to the outside world. I know my time in front of the screen is extreme and it is my choice, but so is my life, to be honest.”

Perhaps for a man so switched on, it’s little surprise that switching off is a challenge. When asked how he does this, he simply says, with a smile “with difficulty.” “Though work takes over most of my life, I do have a beautiful family and I try to find time to relax as I know it is important. I have regular massages, which help, and I do yoga, Pilates and breathing exercises, although I must admit some of these are done online.”

Like all of us, Guy has seen the professional landscape change irreversibly through the pandemic, with technology coming to the fore. “Most of my meetings are now done remotely, and I cannot imagine how we would cope without it now that we have this luxury. Though I do go into my office as much as possible.”

Despite its shortcomings and critics, Guy sees technology as a force for good, both within and beyond the workplace. “Remote meetings have saved many companies during the pandemic and have also given new opportunities to working parents and others who may not be able to make it to the office,” he explains. “FaceTime has kept us connected to our loved ones at a time we could not travel or were in isolation. All things considered, I think technology wins hands down compared to face-to-face meetings.”

Just how many computers does Guy Hands own, you might wonder? The answer is none. “I, personally, do not own a computer,” Guy boldly declares. “My personal communication is with my iPhone. I use an iPad when I travel but that is for work, and my laptops are all company-owned.”

So, is there a break from technology at all? “Yes, of course, although it is hard at times. I sit and have meals with my family and friends; I travel a lot and have a beautiful home. When I do get some time out, I take a break when I can, although I find it really hard to stay off TikTok – the jokes and comedy sketches are hilarious!”