Andrew Pitts pays tribute to respected and award-winning personal finance and investment journalist Helen Pridham, author of The Pridham Report and the writer behind the annual popular £10,000 investment trust income article.
Helen Pridham was a talented and respected journalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of personal finance and investment.
She wrote for national newspapers including The Observer, The Times and the Sunday Times, and contributed to Money Observer magazine and interactive investor.
Helen’s journalism in Money Observer spanned over four decades – nearly monthly without fail, winning numerous awards for her work in the process.
In the 1980s and 1990s Helen also authored and co-authored several books for savers and investors seeking expert guidance on retirement planning and general finance. She was one of the first journalists to identify – and seek to close – the knowledge gap between women and personal finance, writing numerous educational articles on the topic and the book Tax and Finance for Women.
She knew the investment management industry inside out. Not only did Helen bring her knowledge to bear in articles for savers and private investors throughout her career, she also launched and edited a quarterly publication for investment management groups. Originally entitled the Fund Sales Report when it launched in 1997, it did not take long for it to become known as The Pridham Report and in the process becoming a must-read for groups to track how they were doing against their peers while also providing insights into popular and successful funds and investment strategies.
Born in Gillingham, Kent in 1952, Helen was the youngest of three daughters and was brought up in various Medway towns. Keen to leave the area, she moved to London in her early 20s and, as a mature student, gained a degree in economics from the London School of Economics. That was the platform for launching a career in journalism and she never looked back, initially becoming editor of Planned Savings magazine before turning freelance.
What Helen didn’t know about personal finance and investing wasn’t worth knowing. From funds and investment trusts to with-profits bonds or freestanding AVCs, via Peps, Tessas, ISAs and SIPPs, her extensive knowledge of the plumbing behind investment products and tax-advantaged wrappers provided readers with expert and invaluable guidance to navigate the retirement planning and investing money maze.
As an integral cog in the Money Observer machine for so many years, Helen embraced the magazine’s aim to be the private investor’s champion, something which became more acute after the Financial Services and Markets Act (2012).
One of the act’s provisions was eventually to ban the paying of commission by fund groups to financial advisers for selling open-ended funds. It was clear that most savers and investors would be priced out of the financial advice market as a result and meant many people would need to become DIY investors. Helen was instrumental in helping Money Observer to respond to this new era by devising 12 ready-made ‘model portfolios’ of both funds and investment trusts to suit investors with different aims and perceived levels of risk.
Helen was at the forefront of identifying the magazine’s list of Rated Funds which underpinned the model portfolios, while helping to enhance the scope and methodology of the list over several years.
She also embraced Money Observer’s ethos of following up portfolio-focused features with regular updates, explaining what had gone wrong as well as right. Other aims-led features such as generating a £10,000 annual income from funds or investment trusts were also thoroughly researched and updated with her typical panache and enthusiasm.
Helen’s dedication to the magazine was evident from the fact that she was the only contributor (if not reader) to have kept every issue of Money Observer from the early 1980s until 2012, when she decided she finally needed to make space in her study, and kindly offered this trove of information to the publishers for posterity.
Among the many awards for her work, Helen was a serial winner of the Investment Journalist of the Year award from Headlinemoney. She also won the Freelance Journalist of the Year award from the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) four times. The latter accolade was always accompanied by a jeroboam of champagne, eventually to be produced and quaffed at family summer parties.
None of this would have seemed likely after Helen failed her 11-plus. She attended a secondary modern and had been told that she would never make it to university. Helen was also fluent in German, having moved to Germany and marrying Werner Kastor, the father of their three daughters.
Helen was a devoted mother and role model to her children, combining a successful and fulfilling career, while also being fully involved in their upbringing – much to their admiration and amazement.
Towards the end of her career, Helen stepped back a little from her relentless work schedule and found more time to devote to family and social pursuits with her strong network of friends. She was a member of local “drinking” and investment clubs and was a keen walker – in the last few years she walked the Thames from source to sea in one- and two-day sections with a friend.
Pre-pandemic trips to Australia to spend time with family also became more frequent: but at least one grateful editor was relieved that Helen would usually agree to find the time to file copy that only she was qualified to do while she was away. A love of Scottish dancing also saw her take part in festivals not just in the UK but all over the world.
Helen leaves behind an extraordinary body of work, much valued by her readers and colleagues alike. Never reticent to voice an opinion, but always polite and friendly, she was respected by all who knew her and will be much missed.
Helen is survived by her daughters Anna, Paula and Tessa, and her six grandchildren.
Andrew Pitts edited Money Observer from 1998 to 2015.
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