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Head Girl: Kirsten Spence née McAndrew OW 1991

1st February 2024

When did you come to King Edward's Witley?

I joined King Edward’s Witley in September 1984 into Copeland and stayed until Upper 6th leaving in July 1991. I was in Elizabeth House – with Miss Wheeler and then Miss Haughton as HMs from memory….

What was the highlight of your time at King Edward's Witley?

I was very happy from the start. I had lots of friends – boy and girls – and got involved with everything. Like almost everyone at the time, my parents lived abroad with the RAF (they moved in my first term and back in my last!). They lived in Germany, which was nothing really, as most people lived much farther afield. In the first two years, most of my memories are almost Mallory Tower-esque boarding school style: tuck, pranks, volleyball/badminton in the hall, letter writing on Sundays, cocoa at night (hit or miss), dreading cross country, movies in the Lecture Theatre with QMH, and walks to the San after High tea via Piccadilly, usually to meet the boys.
Elizabeth/Wakefield was fun – we were definitely the goody-two-shoes crowd in our year and our House – five of the seven of us became school prefects, I think! We had fun and obviously had House dances and town leaves which were a highlight.
I was definitely a bit of a swot (but hopefully a fun one) so I liked all subjects except physics (which we all had to do) and history (sadly, not sure it was KESW’s forte then!). Home economics I hated though (odd, as we were the year that got the, then fancy, new building). I loved languages, the other sciences and humanities – but for A level I did English, French and German (and General Studies, which we all did).  I also loved art and did GCSE art ‘out of box’ and also all sports (despite having a niggling hip problem my whole time there) so I was in the A teams (as I think we called them) for netball, hockey, rounders and loved them all (not sure the bar was that high, though!).
I was Head Girl alongside Paul Williams (Dopper) – who happened to be my best friend and is Godfather to my eldest daughter, as I am to his son. We are still very much in touch, even though he lives in Australia.
I loved being Head Girl. I think I naturally liked leadership roles (still do) and I enjoyed the responsibility, but also trying to change a few things (sounds ridiculous now, but we were the 1st or 2nd set of prefects to wear suits and we wanted the school to fund our nylon tights as we had to wear them with the suits – and also getting the Head Girl to wear a gong as the Head Boy had one – they knocked it up in the metalwork department!!). We had a great group of prefects, lots of us are still friends and the tiny PCR was a high point of Upper 6th. For Dopper and me, we went to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet (as I think now always happens, but we might have been the first or second year?) and it ended up being the one where Margaret Thatcher gave what ended up being her last ever public speech (dressed in the infamous Dracula outfit). So that was definitely memorable. I also remember Speech Day and doing the poem by heart – with lots of German in it as the German exchange group were all visiting…

What did life after school hold?

I went from King Edward’s straight to St Andrews and studied International Relations and German. I absolutely loved university and made friends for life. From St Andrews, I wanted to go into the Foreign Office but didn’t get an interview so I looked for another ‘international’ job which lead me to graduate programs with financial firms. Despite my language emphasis, I had a few offers in the City (despite being totally clueless about finance) but I took a job with The Capital Group based in Los Angeles into their graduate program – and I have been there ever since! The appeal was that it was much broader as a program than the London City firms, they were intentionally looking for more ‘liberal arts’ type thinkers, and the people seemed really nice – plus it was only a two year commitment initially so I figured I would learn a lot and come back and do something else if it didn’t work out. As it is, I am in my 29th year there! I lived in LA for the first four years, moved back to London in 1999, met my husband very soon after that, and we married in 2003 and now have three kids who are now 19, 17 and 14.
At Capital today, I am an Emerging Markets Debt Portfolio Manager, so I invest in fixed income assets with that EM focus. I am also now on the Management Committee for the whole firm (that’s the ten-person group who lead the firm).
I have done lots of different things as an investor and a business leader during my career at Capital, but always with Emerging Markets at the heart of it. I love the firm and feel it has developed me as a person as much I might have contributed to it. I work full time (very full time!) and travel a lot; luckily my husband stopped working several years ago to help anchor home with the kids and also run where we live, which is a small farm/estate in Sussex. I feel very fortunate and grateful for the opportunities I have been given and I am sure King Edward’s, and the experiences I had there, have helped along the way.
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