Gleeds’ PFI expert Jonathan Stewart tells Nancy Cavill how a psychometric test led him to the career that took him all the way to government.
What is your job?

I’m head of the private finance initiative/public-private partnership team at Gleeds. I work with funders, PFI consortia, consultants and public sector officials who are involved in PFI projects, to help put together bids.

Describe a typical day

I get to the office at about 8.30am. I start by reading e-mails, checking voicemails and post.

I spend a lot of time out of the office at meetings and if I don’t go to lunch with a client, I have a sandwich at my desk. I usually leave the office between 6pm and 10pm and work on my laptop on the train home.

How is your job different from traditional quantity surveying?

I spend most of my time dealing with funders, accountants and lawyers. It’s a specialist niche but it’s linked to what I was doing before, which focused on whole-life costings.

Why did you become a QS?

I did a psychometric test when I was 16 and one of the options it came up with was quantity surveying. I thought, I like numbers, I’m good at mental arithmetic, and I like interacting with people at meetings, so it seemed a good idea. I also liked the idea of being in a business where you can see something being created.

You were seconded to the government for a year. Was it really like Yes, Minister?

About 20 people from the private sector formed the government’s PFI panel. We didn’t actually work in Whitehall – we were in an office on Victoria Street – but I did meet a lot of civil servants. They were all very intelligent and extremely knowledgeable about how government works. Because of their insight, they could explain certain procedures that an outsider might find hard to understand.

What do you think of the Treasury’s PFI taskforce?

The taskforce has been given more power, which I think is quite right. Allowing it to review projects before they reach the private sector gives the market more confidence in those projects and in the PFI in general.

/Do you think the PFI is here to stay?

Definitely. The basic concept will remain the same, although it may change a little around the fringes.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

It’s a fascinating sector. I enjoy looking at how a deal comes together, and helping to create a consortium is certainly rewarding.

Also, no two days are the same.

What stresses you out?

I have had a few sleepless nights in the time between bid submission and finding out if the consortium has been successful. And the volume of paperwork can be too much sometimes – there’s a lot to read through.

How do you switch off after work?

I used to do DIY or listen to music but having a baby has changed all that.

If you weren’t Gleeds’ head of PFI, what would you be doing?

The sensible answer is property development – I’d like to finance projects.

Ideally, I’d be a ski instructor or a rugby player, but I don’t think it would be profitable enough.

Age 31 Current job Head of PFI/PPP at Gleeds Employment history Year at Gleeds before university 1986-87; joined as graduate in 1990, gained ARICS qualification in 1993 and progressed from assistant surveyor through quantity surveyor, project manager and executive surveyor to associate in 1997; 1996-97 seconded to the Treasury as part of the PFI panel that helped pave the way for the PFI taskforce Qualifications BSc in quantity surveying, Reading University, 1987-1990 Lives Tunbridge Wells, Kent Salary £35 000 plus incentive-driven bonus Family Wife Caroline and new baby Phoebe Ella Drives Alfa Romeo 156