We talk to Bobby Seagull, motivational finance speaker.

8th Sep 2023

Bobby Seagull, motivational finance speaker chats with Jane Farnham, Director of Great British Speakers.

We talk to maths wizard, TV star and motivational finance speaker Bobby Seagull to find out all about his journey from East Ham to Eton.

Bobby Seagull is a captivating and motivational finance speaker, esteemed educator, finance presenter, and the acclaimed author behind THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF NUMBERS. His dynamic presentations have resonated across the nation and beyond, fostering a newfound appreciation for numbers and dispelling any apprehensions surrounding them.

Bobby’s magnetic presence extends to various media platforms. You’ll find him making regular appearances on esteemed programs such as Good Morning Britain, participating in engaging discussions on BBC Paper Reviews, and lending his insights to BBC Radio Four’s Any Questions.

For aficionados of University Challenge, Bobby’s leadership as the team captain for Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, remains a cherished memory. His engaging interactions with fellow contestant Eric Monkman have etched a heartwarming camaraderie into the show’s history, transforming the two into a beloved TV duo. Additionally, Bobby’s triumph on Celebrity Mastermind 2020 is another testament to his exceptional intellect and charisma.

Contact Great British Speakers today to book motivational finance speaker Bobby Seagull for your next event.

Here’s the full transcript of motivational finance speaker Bobby Seagull‘s chat with Jane Farnham of Great British Speakers:

00:00:08:16 – 00:00:17:25

Jane Farnham

Hi, I’m Jane Farnham from Great British Speakers. So I’m here today chatting to Britain’s favourite maths teacher, Bobby Seagull. Bobby, great to see you. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

00:00:18:07 – 00:00:19:06

Bobby Seagull

It’s a pleasure to be here.

00:00:19:55 – 00:00:21:48

Jane Farnham

Tell me about your early school days.

00:00:22:51 – 00:00:47:44

Bobby Seagull

So I am from East London. You may recall I’ve got a West Ham football championship from the town of East Ham. So my parents actually moved to UK in the late seventies, early eighties from Kerala in south-west India. They settled in East London and they did that because otherwise I wouldn’t be a West Ham fan. But we grew up in a councils estate in East London, in East Ham, but I went to St Michael’s, my local primary school and one event is my secondary school.

It was it was a good state school for the area at the time because Newham has historically defined as a borough. But lucky enough for my ETA was to get a scholarship to Eton College, obviously going from an East London council estate. So going from weaning Nike & Adidas to Eton in those outfits was a surreal experience, but an experience I think as a young boy -16, I really just took advantage of all the opportunities. Among the reasons is that I think throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed meeting, mingling, mixing with all sorts of people. And part of it, I think, is attributable to every Saturday, our dad used to take all us boys. I’m one of four boys to East Ham Library every Saturday, and we’d go there with a shopping trolley.

00:01:28:49 – 00:01:48:00

Bobby Seagull

Many actually do, I would say, to get shopping, but we’d go to the library, sit there for hours, cross-legged, reading all sorts of books from Aztec civilizations on Victorian engineering, on the fiction of Tolkien. And those Saturdays actually gave me the sense of actually, there’s so much out there in the world, there’s so many people to meet, so many places to see.

And that’s why I think despite all sorts of different environments I’ve been in, I’ve always managed to take to it like a duck to water, like a seagull to water. I like that.

00:01:58:37 – 00:02:08:00

Jane Farnham

I would love to meet your parents. They sound phenomenal. So. So you went to Eton? Yes. And then what happened after Eton? Did you go on to further education?

00:02:08:00 – 00:02:35:00

Bobby Seagull

Yeah. So actually, before I went to uni, I started out working. I had a gap year, so I spent nine months working the city for KPMG and that sort of as angle apart, my current as working finance and I did two or three months working in a sort of youth center in Muirhouse. Anyone seen the film Trainspotting in Trainspotting is actually set in Muirhouse, so obviously it’s an area that’s back then and I’m not sure what it is now, but it’s like riddled with drugs and poverty and addictions.

And my job was that to be sort of a youth ambassador work with young children. And that was almost like has defined my life because there’s always been sort of finance and education. And then I started out working – sorry before working – I studied Maths at Lady Margaret at Oxford, Maths and economics at Royal Holloway, and that gave me the foundation for that, my first part of my career, actually.

00:02:57:34 – 00:03:00:54

Jane Farnham

So tell me more about that first part of your career. How did that progress?

00:03:01:19 – 00:03:19:46

Bobby Seagull

So coming from East London, if you’re a numerate graduate that is quite bright and sharp, actually, a lot of people are drawn to the city. So I spent my first few years about seven years working in banking and accounting. So I was actually a trader – mother, yes, I’m a trader going to make my millions. And I chose Lehman Brothers as an investment banker.

Any of us know the history. 50 of September 2008 was not a good day. It was mostly it came out the bank after went bankrupt came cardboard boxes. But I actually came in with a shopping trolley because I thought, It’s not good for your back, is it? You want to be kind of get on the tube.

00:03:34:31 – 00:03:35:04

Jane Farnham

Don’t you.

00:03:35:22 – 00:03:53:06

Bobby Seagull

Know? So I brought a shopping trolley and all my goods took it back now. And I worked for Nomura as well. Afterwards, the investment bank again as a trader. So I traded in equities and fixed income, but I took a sort of a sideways step working for the VWC to see that I could consultancy. Although I was a qualified chartered accountant, my dad actually is part of many things I’ve done.

00:03:53:18 – 00:04:12:27

Bobby Seagull

But the one thing he’s most proud of is ‘Bobby, my son is a chartered accountant’. My dad’s a chartered accountant in Indian families. They love like I think doctors are top rank, maybe engineers, but chartered accountant is not, you know, pretty bad. But I’m just my lawyer. We’re quite high up, so my dad’s very proud of that. So I am actually still Bobby Seagull, a.k.a chartered accountant, so I can do my own accounts.

00:04:13:37 – 00:04:20:07

Jane Farnham

So was there a watershed moment, Bobby, where you just saw, You know what I need to do something different.

00:04:21:01 – 00:04:38:51

Bobby Seagull

So from the time I was 30 and obviously, you know, people have these landmarks in their life, in their 30, 40, 50, whatever, and then they sort of reevaluate. So it may have been partially through the age, but actually PWC, after I qualified, I took a mini sort of like a sabbatical, tutoring new graduates, joining the firm.

And these aren’t they’re not children. They are 21 year old fresh faced graduates. And honestly, I absolutely love the teaching aspect. I found, like I was good at my corporate job, I could have continued it for the rest of my life. It pays very well, obviously very lucrative. But I find in the end the sort of education for your teaching these young people. Wow. 

There’s this new part of me that I’ve always been. I’ve always enjoyed explaining ideas to other people because there’s one thing consuming information, which I’ve always done, but I love the idea of, you know, my family birthday parties, Christmas parties, or meeting relatives. I always tell, Oh, I’ve read something about isn’t barking and piano and you you’re that picture with the road race.

00:05:16:49 – 00:05:38:13

Bobby Seagull

Got a cigar? That’s all. In fact, I love these little stories I can tell people. And in education and teaching, albeit it was teaching accountancy and finance, I found actually this is this is my calling. And I decided that actually I wanted to work in education and involvement, corporate education and actually, where can you be someone that influences and shapes young people everyday and achieve some teaching?

00:05:38:29 – 00:05:47:36

Bobby Seagull

So I actually went then decided to take a it was like a complete change in career and went to Cambridge to do my teacher training and train to become a teacher, a maths teacher.

00:05:48:03 – 00:05:55:10

Jane Farnham

Right on the frontline. So. So you taught then for how many years before you then your career changed again.

00:05:55:30 – 00:06:13:39

Bobby Seagull

Yeah. So like interesting now I would still so I actually filming Celebrity Pointless very recently and Richard Osman said to me, So Bobby, you’re a professional Quizzer I don’t know. I’m a professional teacher and then I do other things. I still probably regard myself. I am I still teach part-time in a secondary school, so I’m still a teacher.

00:06:13:39 – 00:06:32:58

Bobby Seagull

And that in fact, when I joined teaching, I was very ambitious. Like I’ve always been an ambitious person. In fact, in my first year of teaching, which is you shouldn’t do this sort of thing ever going teach you don’t is I became the acting head of a math department, and when you are a new teacher, you’re just getting to sort of grips of the profession and young people.

Suddenly doors are responsible for managing a department curriculum. Not a bad idea, but I did it as I threw myself in at the deep end, I’m a teacher. But the thing that sort of changed my path because at the time my ambition was how to department senior leadership, head teacher, super headteacher, government. I don’t know. You know, they’ve got this government during the Czars education.

00:06:53:04 – 00:07:12:36

Bobby Seagull

So that was my plan to become the but I was captain of my Cambridge team on University Challenge and I was in fact this might give you a clue one of my fans made this challenge quiz book and my team. We did really well. We didn’t actually win. We lost to a guy called Eric Monkman from Wolfson College Cambridge.

But people love my energy, my enthusiasm, my knowledge, the way it grew to my teammates and the really cohesive way. I went viral on social media quite a few times during my series. And so did my opponent and when we faced off each other, that probably was the turning point in my life in terms of people like Louis Theroux and Stephen Fry commenting on Twitter, Do you support Bobby Seagull or Eric Monkman?

00:07:31:57 – 00:07:52:10

Bobby Seagull

And after a match, we were invited on the One Show, Radio 4 and lots of newspaper articles, and then I think every year on Universal Challenge, a couple of contestants go viral because they’ve got some amazing knowledge of quirky outfit. But I think I because I was a 30 year old graduate, I sort of thought, actually, I’ve got this little platform and I’ll enjoy it.

00:07:52:24 – 00:08:08:02

Bobby Seagull

I’ll enjoy going in these television shows, but can I use it for something? And my nose every time I have the conversation is Zimbabwe. Do you love being in the limelight? I quite enjoy being on television, but actually I’m going to use it to raise awareness of mass education, of reading, of teachings. Actually, it gave me a purpose.

00:08:08:43 – 00:08:16:42

Jane Farnham

It gave you a platform. Brilliant. So that was how your TV career started then from from that first university challenge?

00:08:16:48 – 00:08:38:11

Bobby Seagull

Yeah, it was again, it was I never planned. I always loved television again. My family, we love reading. We love television just as much. You know, we watched Top of the Pops, Blue Peter Byker Grove, Star Trek. Yeah, Neighbors, We love television. We consume popular culture as well as high brow reading things about the classics and Jane Eyre and mathematics we love doing.

I’ve been very open about learning lots of things, but that platform was unexpected. But when I had that, I sort of said, Let us go with it, see what happened. Because we always think nowadays people there’s no was like one job for life. The nature of technology, the nature of our society means that people have got to be prepared for so many different opportunities.

00:08:57:48 – 00:09:13:17

Bobby Seagull

And I just ran with television and again, initially, radio 4 approached me and Eric Monkman to do a radio four show about the nature of knowledge, and we interviewed Stephen Fry. He was our first guest, and I was like, I’m meeting Stephen Fry. He’s like a legend. I want to sort of be like a 21st century version of Stephen Fry?

That’s one of my long term ambitions.

00:09:15:59 – 00:09:16:55

Jane Farnham

You already are!!!

00:09:17:34 – 00:09:40:13

Bobby Seagull

Thank you. Thank you. Well, he supports Norwich City, so you build up a good team. And then I actually wanted to publish a quiz book here with Eric Monkman and then my own book, The Life Changing Magical Numbers. That’s My Face can see brilliance. And a funny enough, they did like this, a version. It’s actually a book meant for adults, but they thought, what if kids were appalled by this?

So they made a paperback More Dark. It’s the same book, but again, I published books, but again with Eric Monkman, this guy here, we went on to publish sort of broadcast two series of Monkman and Seagulls A Genius Guide to Britain. So this is where we go in a Mini car. I had to learn how to drive because Eric is the wrong side of the road.

00:10:00:21 – 00:10:20:31

Bobby Seagull

He’s in Canada, so I really learned to drive for the series and we went around the UK exploring cool bits of science, history, technology. I’ve done two seasons of that and then also recently I filmed the quiz show The Answer Trap, and the quiz expert shows almost like Richard Osman but for four Channel Four’s quiz show, so I’m just, yeah, I’m just going with the flow.

00:10:20:51 – 00:10:26:09

Jane Farnham

And it’s about saying yes to all these opportunities, isn’t it? Stepping out of your comfort zone and just going with it?

00:10:26:51 – 00:10:46:33

Bobby Seagull

Yeah, I think in life there is also a point to say no. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by I think generally speaking in life, what I found is that the ones that succeed, I want to see the ones who are smarter, more intelligent, but I think the ones who say yes to opportunities, it’s almost like this is the I’ve sort of phrase I’ve thought about.

00:10:46:46 – 00:11:03:46

Bobby Seagull

There’s the window knockers, the door knockers and the window openers and the window openers. They’ll look out the window. They’ll see what’s there. Is anything there? Is there a car passing by? And sometimes you get a great car. So an Mini car and just kind of jump in and go, I love this car. But then the door knockers are the ones I just go knock on every single door.

And so most of the doors won’t even ignore you like this crazy person. But keep going and a door open up and say, You’ve got this amazing car inside, We will wait for someone to knock on the door so you can. Sometimes in life you’re a window open and you’re sort of waiting for, but other times you are knocking doors.

00:11:17:36 – 00:11:19:34

Bobby Seagull

And that’s why I’ve always believed just knock on doors. As many doors as you can.

00:11:19:54 – 00:11:50:34

Jane Farnham

Absolutely. Tenacity is key, I think. And so how specifically – so you’ve done at this stage of your life then you’ve done lots of different types of presenting work. Through the success of the University Challenge. You’ve been and still are a teacher, you’ve worked in the city, you know, you’ve been to Eton and Cambridge and Oxford. How did the speaking start? Is that something that just happened naturally, or were you specifically did you specifically choose to do more of that?

00:11:51:10 – 00:12:11:24

Bobby Seagull

So it’s something that, to be honest, I’ve always enjoyed this. I’ve wondered, I’ve renewed my voice again. Growing up in a family of four boys where everyone is academic, everyone’s got lots of knowledge, you need to learn to stand up for yourself. And about my youngest brother, I like to think that I’m confident. But he because he was like ten years younger than all of us, he had to learn to speak up even more.

00:12:11:24 – 00:12:31:03

Bobby Seagull

So he ended up becoming he got to scholarship at Eton. He became the UK school’s debating champion. Did politics was the only Oxford was trained to be a criminal barrister, so we had to compete with the likes of him. So in my house people have always had to learn to be confident in what they say. But speaking sort of came up as I guess as a result of my public profile.

00:12:31:03 – 00:12:49:13

Bobby Seagull

People say, Oh, Bobby, we’ve seen you on university and we’d love you to come and do a talk at our school, talk in our business. And again, when I was at university, I set up a social enterprise. I work with young people applying to universities, and that’s the charity at Oxford about ten years back, 12 years back, and we actually raised £1,000,000 for Charity.

00:12:49:13 – 00:13:09:50

Bobby Seagull

The charity sadly folded like many things in lockdown, but in that we organized public speaking sessions for young people on debating sessions. So I’ve always enjoyed the art of communication and the reality is people. Just again, my family was and since I’ve had this platform to speak and speak on occasions and on television and radio, I’m still pretty much the same person.

00:13:10:15 – 00:13:25:22

Bobby Seagull

But it’s just now people are like, Oh, oh, there’s Bobby Guy. He looks really good. He’s got me energetic. So my family and friends said, We’ve always on this side of you, but now just a wider proportion of the public are going to be aware that Bobby is a confident public speaker. He’s someone that again, I can be serious.

00:13:25:22 – 00:13:42:03

Bobby Seagull

I’ve done things like any questions on Radio four in Question Time soonish, I hope. But I also do fun things like simply it takes two. Would I lie to you so I can I on some of that I am. I’m a serious person. I like to think that education you know, which is something that’s very important, gives people life opportunities, are very passionate about that.

00:13:42:03 – 00:13:46:36

Bobby Seagull

But I’m someone they’re not. City. That’s the wrong word. But I can take myself with a pinch of salt.

00:13:46:36 – 00:14:06:28

Jane Farnham

And so I think that’s really important. So, you know, you to be able to step into lots of different environments and feel at ease is really a lovely trait to have. Now, I notice that, you know, your subject areas can span education, commerce, charitable work. So give me some examples of some of the subjects that you talk about and what you’re asked to speak about.

00:14:06:55 – 00:14:29:33

Bobby Seagull

Yeah. So the most the sort of most obvious one is about looking at my life story and applying lessons to the way which people can operate businesses, education, charities. Again, the story of again in life. Obviously people have disadvantages and you can either I think you can some people choose to like, Oh, I’m very upset about this and they complain.

And of course that’s that’s part of human nature. But all you can do something about it as well. And my approach is always have an issue, have a moan, but then what can you suggest? What solutions? But again, as a teacher, I know that in banking, what about my social enterprise, my staff, etc. would say, Oh, here’s a problem.

00:14:44:27 – 00:15:06:52

Bobby Seagull

I say, Great, thank you. But what solutions? I think my talks have been about looking at my life story and how I’ve managed to find solutions to different things. Always thinking creatively. And this is something that for some of us watching my talk, it might give a spring in your step, because one thing I’ve always been is very positive that there have been many people have ups and downs in my life, but it’s positivity that I think I can bring to a room.

00:15:08:02 – 00:15:45:41

Bobby Seagull

And again, with education, I’m an ambassador for National Numeracy, a charity that focuses on numeracy and alongside the likes of Rachel Reily from Countdown. Martin Lewis from Moneysavingexpert I’ve actually managed to recruit people like Pieters-Hawke in the back of Champion and Katya Johnson’s Strictly Come Dancing event with Katya. We actually do maths and don’t Instagram lives together, so I think it’s like can what I tend to do again, obviously people look for what’s a set talk that Bobby can do, but generally like because I’ve got such a broad range of interest you can put me in and an association of, of carers or an association of British insurers or the committee society or the British Pensioners Society and any organization. I can probably find an angle because I’m always again, I’ve, I’ve played football with Prince Harry or Jermaine before the England international footballer. Well hang out. I grew up in a really challenging council state and yeah, I work in the city and I’ve lobbied parliamentarians of the House of Lords on a speech there.

So I think it’s something where I can bring a sort of fresh, positive perspective to almost anything a partner in West Ham lose. I can’t find a positive perspective.

00:16:10:33 – 00:16:28:21

Jane Farnham

It’s no peace with that. No, I know what you’re saying. The 70 people stand in their own way, aren’t they? It’s about positivity and there is a solution to every problem and so many people. So to put a problem where, you know, you offer a solution and they find another problem. So it’s about changing your mindset and thinking positively and, you know, living your life that way.

So what do you enjoy doing the most? Bobby Because I see that you get some so much positive positivity from all these different experiences that you’ve had, but what’s your favourite thing to do? Is it teach?

00:16:42:39 – 00:16:57:52

Bobby Seagull

Things? I was teaching art in school yesterday, as you can see, 11 students and I was thinking about the other day, I think I’ve got a busy day, but few things to sort out work. I’m actually in the process of writing a couple of new books. I’ve got a set up of my proposals. So in the middle of the lesson, I was thinking I was getting a bit distracted.

00:16:58:13 – 00:17:16:19

Bobby Seagull

And then I remember this. This code came back to my head. Life is a journey, not a destination. Of course I’ve got ambitions like I want to one day get really far and Strictly Come dancing. I want to be the host of University Challenge one and publish loads of books. But the thing is, you mustn’t forget to live in the moment because life is a collection of moments.

00:17:16:19 – 00:17:39:39

Bobby Seagull

And I And then I said, Stop thinking about writing your books etc.. Focus on the lesson. Focus on these students. And the thing I love, I love teaching. I love working with young people because it sounds a bit clichéd about the sense of giving back. But I grew up in a challenging economic background, but because of my parents willingness to believe in me, I had a good state school, my education, I’ve succeeded and I want to be someone that can inspire young people again.

00:17:39:50 – 00:18:00:59

Bobby Seagull

I can do it through television, radio, and print talks. But when I’m at the chalk face, she’s not the chalk beside the interactive whiteboard face now is no chalk. There’s no chalk when I’m there, I’m directly impacting on people. That’s why I think Mr. Seagull, I’m at my happiest when I’m with students. You know, yesterday, sorry to use my got distracted because I made a couple of arithmetic mistakes yesterday, and that’s because I was getting distracted.

00:18:00:59 – 00:18:10:01

Bobby Seagull

I was like, what am I doing it? Seven plus three is ten. It’s not nine. What am I talking about? So being with young people and inspiring them. That’s what I like most.

00:18:11:00 – 00:18:13:55

Jane Farnham

And I hear you have a penchant for quiz nights.

00:18:14:16 – 00:18:33:25

Bobby Seagull

Oh my God, that’s. I’ve always funny enough, I never watched quiz shows properly before university, but I’ve always read. So I’ve always had this like a building up this like massive volume of knowledge for years and years. And since I went on University Challenge, I’ve loved quiz shows and I’ve won Celebrity Mastermind taking on celebrity points.

00:18:33:25 – 00:18:50:07

Bobby Seagull

I can’t tell you the result, but you can assume I’ve done well. So I love quiz shows but actually the thing that I love to do more than taking part in quiz shows is writing them again. I was host of the Channel four quiz show The Answer Trap, and I host quizzes. People often think, Oh, God, it’s a quiz by the University Challenge guy, and they’re going to be impossible.

00:18:50:24 – 00:19:11:13

Bobby Seagull

But I have quizzes of impossible that people get one out of ten, not enjoy themselves. You want to find a sweet spot where people are. There are questions that they get that. I guess I got a few things right, but also things where they don’t get by. They’re like, Oh, that’s a really fascinating fact. So I’m actually writing a quiz, being invited by a friend to his birthday party in the Steven Water, and he said, Bobby, can you do a quiz for us?

00:19:11:24 – 00:19:27:10

Bobby Seagull

So I’ve been looking up things in water. The fact that, you know, snowflakes have to have six sides. If you see a eight by eight side of the snowflake, that’s a fake. That’s a snow fake. So I’m going to put on one of the questions like which of these is a real snowflake and show them images. The snow is made out of water, H2O.

00:19:28:10 – 00:19:38:09

Bobby Seagull

So I think being the quest question master, something about my true Bobby comes out. Obviously, I like answering questions, but I prefer to ask them. Watch out. Paxman Now, after your job one day.

00:19:38:52 – 00:20:32:49

Jane Farnham

Well, I tell you what, there’s a good chance that might happen. I want you to stay on the line. What? We finish because I’m actually currently. Oh, yet so I’ve agreed to do a Maths A level with my son, who we are currently studying at home. But I realize that I’ve got to get up to GCSE standard again because it’s been a very long time since I passed my math GCSE baby, so I might be calling you for a bit of tutoring.

A virtual can be amazing. Now listen, Bobby, it’s been so lovely to chat to you. I could chat to you all day. Your energy is inspiring and you can inspire so many people from so many different walks of life. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really do appreciate your time. But if you’d like to book Bobby, simply contact myself or Steve at Great British Speakers on 01753439289 or you can email bookings at bookings@greatbritishtalent.com. Thanks very much.


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