Anti-vaxxer finance guru Alan Steel dies from Covid aged 74

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Personal finance guru Alan Steel, a prominent anti-vaxxer, has died after a month-long battle with Covid-19.

The 74-year-old’s death last Wednesday came after he was hospitalised with the virus. Hours before he was placed on a ventilator he had told friends to ‘keep their fingers crossed’.

Mr Steel had frequently retweeted anti-vaccine views on Twitter since the start of the pandemic.

Days before he fell ill he had reposted misinformation about Covid and the vaccine to 3,753 followers.

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The Covid sceptic criticised Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie for urging pregnant women to get the jab. Sharing an article about Ms Johnson’s advice, he wrote: ‘FFS.’

He linked other posts to a report into vaccine deaths by a conspiracy theorist website, as well as telling friends to listen to videos on how ‘it’s not a pandemic of the unvaccinated’. Mr Steel was also against masks and lockdowns.

In the financial services sector, he was best known for being first to expose the problems at Equitable Life, where the insurer’s policyholders lost billions of pounds in savings.

Hailed as a crusader within the industry, he launched Alan Steel Asset Management in his hometown of Linlithgow in West Lothian in 1975. At a rented desk in a rented room, he told interviewers that a landline was his only companion.

The Scot – nicknamed ‘Golden Balls of Steel’ – quickly won a reputation in the industry, with his firm managing more than £1 billion worth of client assets.

As a self-confessed ‘natural contrarian’, Steel was a regular commentator in the press and became known among his peers for his appreciation of Spanish red wine.

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When asked what his life was like outside financial services, he said: ‘Family, music, my moothie [harmonica], Ibiza, red wine and Oliphant’s pies.’

In a poignant message last month he posted on Twitter: ‘You may wonder why I’ve been so quiet. For the best part of two weeks I fought a losing battle with Covid.

‘Been on oxygen in hospital since. Moving to intensive care today. This is one nasty illness. Fingers crossed I make it through.’

It is understood that Mr Steel initially responded well to treatment before his condition deteriorated.

Steve Forbes, managing director of Alan Steel Asset Management, yesterday said: ‘He was a one-off and a genius, of that there is certainly no doubt, but he was also a great visionary.

‘He is now with his beloved and wise Grannie McKay and will have a new audience for his multitude of jokes and stories. I also know the hole that exists in our lives just now as a result of his passing will be filled with joyous memories in time.’

Close friend John Allison added: ‘Alan always remained totally true to his working-class upbringing, but unknown to most, he was also a significant financial benefactor and behind the scenes, he gave great financial support to many local institutions and events.

‘The financial services industry is traditionally very light on characters and legends – Alan Steel may sadly prove to be the last of them.’

Mr Steel is survived by his wife Fran, son Malcolm, and daughter Catherine.

Tragic stubbornness of a colossus

A personal tribute by JEFF PRESTRIDGE 

Alan Steel was a rarity in the financial services industry: an adviser who passionately championed the cause of the investor, even if it meant clashing with some of the sector’s biggest – and most litigious – battalions. 

He was a colossus: charming, charismatic and arrogant.

I first got to know him when I was personal finance editor at The Sunday Telegraph in the 1990s. He proceeded to feed me a string of stories that lifted the money pages from the mundane to the sublime.

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For example, he was sceptical about the financial robustness of Equitable Life long before the insurer hit the buffers in late 2000. Indeed, he was so scathing that Equitable threatened to destroy his thriving financial adviser business unless he shut up.

He did, but – as so often happened – Alan was proved right in the end as Equitable fell apart at the seams.

Alan continued to give me stories once I had jumped ship to The Mail on Sunday. His views were always forthright and readers loved him. Some became clients of his Linlithgow-based business, Alan Steel Asset Management.

What I will forever be grateful for was the pensions advice he gave to my parents ahead of my dad’s retirement. 

Alan shopped around for the most appropriate pension annuity on their behalf. The result was the purchase of an annuity that would continue in the event of Dad’s death, giving lasting financial security to Mum. For more than four years – Dad died in May 2017 – Mum has benefited from Alan’s financial expertise (cheers, Alan).

Sadly, we fell out over busted fund manager Neil Woodford. He thought I was too critical of Woodford in the wake of his multi-billion-pound investment fund being suspended in 2019 and angry that I wouldn’t give him a platform to defend the former investment guru. It ended with Alan saying he would never speak to me again. He was true to his word.

His stubbornness was a strength, but also his Achilles’ heel. He never thought he was wrong even when he was, as with Woodford.

Far more tragically, he was a fervent anti-vaccine supporter and it was Covid that took his life in the end. I’ll miss him and the endless bottles of Rioja we joyously shared.

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