Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Catherine Pepinster

Tablet editor Catherine Pepinster must have one of the most interesting jobs in journalism. As an individual she is by turns thoughtful, though provoking and thought-leading so who better to be at the helm of the leading Catholic newspaper in such fast-changing and challenging times for faith organisations.  As she pointed out to me, whilst her predecessor at The Tablet covered the tenure of only one Pope (John Paul II) in 22 years, she is on her third pope in only 10!
But the change she is responsible for covering in her editorial role reaches far beyond the internal concerns of the Catholic Church.
I first met Catherine in the "green room" at Sky studios, preparing for a live TV debate on the subject of prenups becoming enshrined in UK law. I was rehearsing a lawyer on one side of the argument (the very impressive Mei-Ling McNab from Brachers); Catherine was presenting an opposing view as a "seasoned spiritual pundit"; she is regularly invited on TV and radio on programmes such as Radio 4's Thought for the Day and so forth. 
What's particularly impressive for someone working in a specialist title within the already narrow field of religious affairs reporting, is that she has such a broad world view. Not surprising perhaps given her role prior to joining The Tablet as executive editor of the Independent on Sunday. This outward-looking perspective is apparent as she tells me how her editing role at The Tablet has changed over her 10 years at the helm:
"A significant coincidence for me, making my job far more interesting, has been how religious affairs has shot up the mainstream news agenda compared to being the (dwindling) specialist interest subject it was just 15-20 years ago. There are a number of factors behind this:
  • First, since the impact of 9/11 in 2001, people feel a greater need to understand religion, particularly fundamentalism and particularly Islam. Religious fundamentalism was seen as the new threat and suddenly everyone wanted to know more about what drives these people.
  • Second, the immigrant population in the UK has grown exponentially, and many of these immigrant groups bring a faith from overseas whether Catholic (e.g. from the explosion in Eastern Europe immigrants) or Islamic, or other.
  • Third, we have seen an increase in clashes between the Church and politicians in recent years over a number of high-profile public interest topics such as faith schools, same sex marriage, etc.
  • And lastly the lid has been blown off the Church's cover-up of sex abuse by its priests, which is of widespread public interest.
All these developments have had a big impact on the content we need to provide for our own readers, as well as how the magazine relates to and engages with the outside world."

And of course Catherine is facing the same challenges as all other senior editors of the media, guiding their titles and their businesses through the digital revolution. As soon as we met, Catherine and I connected on Twitter. The magazine has its own Twitter identity too, sharing a certain amount of free content to 'entice' people in, more available with a subscription.
"I love the interactivity you can have with readers in the digital environment" (for example, when she invited readers to say what they thought of new Pope Francis a year on from his election she had no less than 1600 replies almost immediately),"and the richness of the content you can provide for them", for example including hyperlinks to reports and documents referenced in their news reports.
The Tablet today is published in print, online and app formats and includes blogs and a Twitter stream as well as conventional editorial, i.e. news and features. The online archive now includes every single edition dating back to its very first issue in 1840. This magazine has a long history and is celebrating its 175th anniversary next year. Right now it is doing very well, turning a modest profit each year at a time when most national broadsheets are operating at a huge loss. And given Catherine's sense for moving with the times and embracing all things new, its future looks bright too.
Was this shoe app made just for me?? Loved this story about ASAP54 which uses similar recognition technology to Shazam, enabling you to take photos of desired items of clothing, whether your own favourite pair of shoes that's about to die or your best friend's dress you want to copy, then search the internet for where to buy the closest match. This app has my name on it! (At least I'm so convinced of it I'm even thinking of changing my name to ASAP54 by deed poll!)
Prize for selfie of the week (but not in a good way) goes to a Mr Daniel Thomas who posted a photo of himself on Facebook taken inside Mold Crown Court ... with the judge and the court crest in the background. He said he didn't realise it was a criminal offence but was still fined £400. Ouch.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Elinor Dautlich

HFW partner Elinor Dautlich is most definitely a woman in a man's world if ever I met one.  She is commandingly feminine: blond and pretty, softly spoken with a cut-glass English accent, perfectly turned out and immaculately dressed with a wonderful line in smart coloured leather jackets (more of that later... the day I met her she was resplendent in a lime green one). At the same time she is the true market leader in one of THE most male-dominated areas of the law.  I'm not just referring to her role as a corporate partner in the world's top maritime law team, but more the fact she's an expert in an even more macho legal niche: maritime security and armed guards.  She has been heavily involved in the drafting of industry standard contracts governing the use of armed guards on ships and "floating armouries", required these days to protect crews of trade ships from pirate attack.

I was particularly interested to know what had attracted her to this area of law.  Why had she chosen this specialism? It can't be easy for a woman to make her mark in this area of law at all, let alone rise to the very top as Elinor has done.

"After leaving university with an English degree I started my career as a trade journalist" she tells me.  She is full of surprises, as you might have guessed.  "I wrote for a water title, at a very interesting time in fact: as all the water companies were being privatised.  I then moved to a building title, but ultimately I wanted more of a challenge than I knew business journalism could ever give me.  So I decided on law, but in that same moment I knew it had to be maritime law. My father worked for Shell and had taken me on an oil tanker in my formative years which had made a huge impression.  I was hooked! Ships are sexy.  The law isn't... but it does provide a good solid career path.  So I set my sights on this niche, only applying to maritime firms and qualifying into transactional shipping at HFW in 1996."

As a woman running a busy (noisy) family as well as a business myself, I was curious to know how Elinor had found managing work and family, a notoriously difficult balancing act to pull off in any City firm.  Surely even more of a challenge in this very masculine niche?

"I had my two sons as an associate and came back to work full time thanks to the support and flexibility from the firm,  Ultimately the key is keeping clients happy rather than being in any particular working environment and certainly that's a lot easier with modern IT and connectivity".  A woman after my own heart! I've often talked about the pointlessness of the "first in, last out" -type games played in some City firms, designed to set up for failure anyone with significant responsibilities and interests outside of work.  Good to hear an example of a firm focussing instead on people's contribution, rather than paying attention to silly game play. HFW clearly appreciated Elinor's gift with clients, making her a partner in 2004.  But I was still interested to know why she had chosen to specialise in this particularly gritty area of maritime law.

"It's partly driven by opportunity. But I have to say it helps that I'm naturally tough and I have always had a bit of an attitude: "Just try and knock me down and watch me get up again".  The whole issue of private armed guards is a fascinating one too.  The shipping industry has had to change its position as the piracy threat has intensified, from its starting point that arms on trade ships are generally a bad idea, increasing risk and creating more potential problems than they solve, to a realisation that they are a necessary part of protecting crews.  The legal issues around them are immensely complex and that intellectual challenge I really enjoy". 

Being a massive Beatrix Kiddo fan, of course I wanted to know more about those impeccably smart coloured leather jackets she wears to the office.  "I just think they're fun" she smiles.  Most definitely.  And of course they also send out a very clear message that Elinor Dautlich is a woman not to be messed with.
Thanks to @Markomms for an excellent guide to the City's insurance district. I've known Mark for (ahem) years, as a fellow professional services marketeer. (He lists successful stints at Linklaters, SJ Berwin and Lewis Silkin on his resumé) and in 2008 he decided to develop a portfolio career and now mixes professional services marketing consultancy with Blue Badge Tour Guiding. We were the beneficiaries this week as he tutored us through a tour of London's insurance market landmarks. 

Each year we invite a series of guest speakers to induct our latest recruits with talks on how the City/insurance world/financial markets work. This year we thought we'd freshen things up, by walking the walk as well as talking the talk! A much more fun way to do our learning. We lucked out on the weather too... we booked our Blue Badge tour a couple of months in advance and were delighted when our #KysenOuting turned out to be on the first real day of Spring - :)
You may remember that Kysen Account Executive Mariya Derelieva is an accomplished dancer and choreographer, inviting her Kysen team mates to a dance extravaganza at her alma mater King's College last year. She continues to dance three or four times a week and is an established member of London's salsa scene. We were chatting recently in the office about the latest movies, and Mariya casually drops into the conversation that several of her friends are extras in Nick Frost's latest dance comedy Cuban Fury (co-starring Chris O'Dowd, Rashida Jones and Olivia Colman). She would have been involved too, if it hadn't clashed with her finals.

Sounds like a good excuse for another #KysenOuting.