Stewart Ford: The Rise and Fall of the Keydata Founder

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Stewart Owen Ford, born in 1964, is a British businessman and the founder and chief executive (CEO) of the now-defunct financial company Keydata Investment Services. He made headlines in January 2019 when he was fined a record £76 million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for his role in the company’s collapse. The fine stemmed from the alleged mis-selling of “death bonds” totaling £475 million, which wrongly led investors to believe they qualified for tax-free ISAs.

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Ford’s journey to business was unconventional. He studied printing in London at 20, then returned to Edinburgh to start his own business. His career evolved from printing and publishing to financial services entrepreneurship. However, his business ventures have not been without controversy.

In 2015, Ford was fined £75 million by the FCA due to the mis-selling scandal, but he fought back by suing the FCA for £370 million. He claimed that Keydata’s closure was politically motivated and insisted the company was highly successful, managing nearly £3 billion in assets. Ford argued that the FCA’s actions caused him “grievous and irreparable” harm to his reputation.

The one-day Upper Tribunal hearing to challenge the FCA’s decision was scheduled for 23 September 2015. Ultimately, Judge Berner sided with the FCA, increasing Ford’s fine to £76 million. Despite the legal turmoil, Ford continued to work in various business and philanthropic pursuits.

Current Roles and Ventures

Stewart Owen Ford has worn many hats over the years, from entrepreneur to mentor. Since 2004, he has focused on entrepreneurial projects, helping bridge the gap between business ideas and reality. He has supported numerous businesses and often provides advice based on his extensive experience.

Ford’s adaptability has made him a valuable asset in various industries. One example is when he worked with a fund manager, recognizing the individual’s talent and encouraging him to create a venture capitalist trust. This move helped the manager raise significant funds.

Ford’s work extends to creating Income and Growth Venture Capital Trusts, where he has served on the boards of various PLC companies. These trusts focused on AIM-listed companies with substantial growth potential and renewable energy assets. Stewart’s expertise in raising investment capital was key to their success.

Professional Skills and Experience

Stewart Ford has a diverse skill set, including marketing, publishing, renewable energy, and life settlement assets. His approach to business is pragmatic and results-oriented, turning struggling companies into multimillion-pound enterprises. At Keydata, he acquired a failing business, rebranded it, and transformed it into a multi-billion-pound investment firm.

Ford is known for creating order and efficiency, then stepping back to let his team execute. His talent for identifying complementary skills among team members has been instrumental in his success. Ford’s leadership style is about creating a framework and allowing others to fill in the gaps.

Philanthropy and Mentoring

Beyond business, Ford has a philanthropic side. After his daughter was born with Ring Chromosome 20 syndrome in 2002, he founded the Ring Chromosome 20 Charitable Trust to support research and raise awareness about the condition. Additionally, he is involved with “Jeeps for Peace,” a program providing four-wheel-drive vehicles to Ukraine to help retrieve wounded soldiers and civilians.

As a mentor, Ford has worked with managing directors in publishing, renewable energy, and financial sectors. His mentoring style focuses on building trust and guiding individuals through the fast-paced business world.


Stewart Owen Ford’s expertise spans structured investments, fintech, venture capital, renewable energy, publishing, and advertising. In 2007, he stepped back from daily operations to focus more on mentoring and philanthropic efforts, having achieved a net worth of over £500 million. He moved to Switzerland for ten years to continue refining his mentorship and charitable activities. Despite his legal troubles, Ford remains a significant figure in various industries.

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