A Minute with the Masters - Conor Killeen


A Minute With The Masters is 10 questions that IDEATE Ireland ask successful entrepreneurs. The questions are adapted from Tim Ferriss’s book ‘Tribe of Mentors’.

Conor Killeen, Chairman, Key Capital

Conor Killeen is Chairman of Key Capital, a business he established in 2001.  Prior to the establishment of Key Capital, he was Global Head of Equities and a Member of the Executive Committee of Dresdner Kleinwort. Before this he held senior product and management positions at UBS and Schroders. Conor has worked on numerous high profile IPOs, secondary share offerings and convertible issues. In addition to raising over €100bn of equity for companies and governments, Conor has significant experience in M&A and starting a business.


1. What is the book you’ve given most as a gift?

Most recently, When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Hyper-Inflation (Adam Fergusson).  A classic parable in the horror genre.

2. What purchase of €100 or less has impacted mostly in your life?

The reading glasses that come in a case that fit on the back of the phone.

3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

At 26 years of age I bought a call option.  It didn’t turn out to be a great monetary investment but I had to learn very quickly and it taught me how they work.  It’s the same with crypto.  You have to stay naturally curious to keep ahead and learn by doing.

4. Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

The advice my father gave me which is: always do an excellent job in anything you are asked to do, and don’t seek to be too ambitious.  It was his way of telling me that not everything needs a transaction and make sure that the other side feel they’re getting value.

5. What are the best investments you’ve ever made?

Not the call option anyway, but always looking for value and asking ‘Am I getting this right? Is my judgement right?’. Constantly thinking about value conditions your mind around value, and valuation and judgement are critical aspects in our business. My mother brought me to a bookie in Sandymount when I was about 14. She stayed outside and I went in. She gave me a pound and told me to take my time and place the bet.

Constantly thinking about value conditions your mind around value, and valuation and judgement are critical aspects in our business.
Conor Killeen, Key Capital

6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I’m fascinated by art techniques and have a deep interest in how many different stroke directions can affect the final result.  I visited Mont Sainte-Victoire recently which Cezanne was obsessed with and painted over 80 times, exploring colour and light and how a different medium can change the style.

7. What new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

My family bought me a Christmas gift of art lessons.  I’m hoping it will become my new obsession and that I can do justice to the Sugarloaf. 

8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?

It depends on the discipline chosen but don’t expect to love the first job of your working life after studying.  Commit to working for at least two years to learn as much as you can by working hard and talking to as many people as possible. Advice doesn’t come in a generic form.  You can listen to podcasts and read but talking to a wide range of people will help you plan, shape and refine your next steps.

9. What have you become better at saying no to in the last five years?

Messers.  We have a saying: once a messer, always a messer.

10. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Go for a walk.  If that doesn’t work, hook up with mates.  Avoid reading the book in point 1.


For more information and to see profiles of other business leaders: IDEATE Ireland

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates