Category: Views

In a statement last month, the Secretary for State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced an extension of the Permitted Development Rights planning measure. This was originally brought in a decade ago and saw millions of square feet of vacant offices converted into homes. Under this new policy, getting planning permission to turn vacant shops, takeaway restaurants, betting shops et al into homes would be similarly straightforward.

However, one of the potential fault lines in this strategy is the configuration of the properties in question.

Previously, the majority of old offices that were turned into homes were tower blocks of varying sizes. As such, they were relatively straightforward to convert into flats, and the multiplicity of units they created enabled the developments to be viable.

When looking at converting shops to residential, it’s hard to benefit from the same dynamics. Their lay-out is often not very amenable to conversion and the pattern of multi-ownership across town centres means that doing developments of any scale could involve painstaking site acquisitions.

Encouragingly however, many conversions/redevelopments are already taking place. A cursory look at the flow of High Street assets which pass through UK property auctions shows that those which are snapped up most quickly often have scope for whole or partial residential conversion.

Of course, the reason that these properties are in demand is because of their economic viability and prime locations: two key factors that attracts considerable attention from would-be investors. And this touches on the other major fault line in Gove’s plan. A huge number of the empty properties he has in mind are in areas of economic deprivation where the cost-return equation would simply not make conversion viable.

So, whilst a more congenial planning system would be welcome to get the conversion ball rolling it would have to be – in many UK locations – supplemented by some kind of financial support to create viability. Perhaps a partial or whole VAT exemption on necessary conversion works?

At a time like this when the Government is as strapped for cash as most of the population, it may be hard to expect the Treasury to forego any tax revenues. But if there is real intent to address the problems of our urban areas then there needs to be fiscal encouragement which can be more than repaid through increased economic vitality and enhanced environments.

Helen Thomas’s column in the Financial Times on the need to kill the City of London’s paper fetish piqued my interest. It’s interesting to note that a paper legacy still influences content marketing, as well.

The formatting of digital documents often still follows the ‘old school’ format of print layouts in today’s digital era – a quirk which has a disproportionately negative effect on businesses trying to get their message across.

In the realm of corporate communications, it’s still far too common to encounter lengthy double-column PDFs that do not align with the landscape orientation of most monitors.

This format forces readers to scroll through each page multiple times – down, up, and down again in an irritating visual gyration that might as well earn it Peter Crouch’s famous Chumbawamba moniker (if you know, you know). This unfriendly formatting renders content nearly unreadable on mobile devices, making it awkward to skim through during commutes, coffee breaks and other prime target times for casual reading.

To be fair, sometimes PDFs are simply digital versions of documents which have been produced for print. However, even in that case some thought should perhaps be given to the accessibility of the digital counterpart, because that is the version in which they will eventually survive.

Otherwise, many recipients will either print out the content to access it more easily or simply delete it: sub-optimal outcomes for both the authors and the environment.

In an era driven by sustainability, where every email signature encourages readers to refrain from printing out unnecessary content – the “Think before you ink” of the business world – it’s disheartening to see corporate graphic designers indulge in this pulp kink (pun intended) in the formatting of marketing materials.

For these reasons, we usually advise clients to keep texts concise and punchy, or to embrace more practical layouts for effective and accessible reproduction on websites and other digital channels. Formats that look to the past will not endear you to an audience which progressively comprises more and more digital natives.

As London celebrates the long-awaited reopening of the National Portrait Gallery, perhaps businesses should consider donating their vertically orientated marketing materials to the museum’s collection!

As high-profile businesses either abandon the UK market, bet on dual listings to access US investors who value growth, or seek private investment to avoid the regulatory costs and pressure that comes with being a listed entity, the question has come, better late than never, about what can be done to reverse the tide of a lack of investment in UK companies.

At the same time, DB pension schemes are continuing to reduce their exposure to growth assets such as equities, as they edge closer to potential buyout, resulting in total DB pension fund exposure to UK equities plummeting to 10% from 50% in 2008.

Politicians and commentators on all sides of the political spectrum are vying to present their best ideas on how to rectify the situation and attract investment into the UK, including mandating pension funds to commit a minimum investment into UK equities; removing the ISA tax break on non-UK investments; taxing passive investment vehicles and proposing various growth funds into which pension funds may or may not be instructed to allocate investment.

These suggestions have received mixed reactions. On the buy-side there is scepticism about forcing investors to commit their savings to UK growth. On the sell-side relief that politicians have finally noticed the lack of investment into the UK.

As the debate continues, and it is presumed it will continue as the current government remains distracted by the many issues consuming its tenure and as Labour positions itself to be the next business-friendly government, the issue remains: how to increase investment and risk appetite in order to increase not only investment in the UK, but also investment returns for savers, which have underperformed.

Research by JPES Partners shows that investors, including DB schemes, wealth managers and wholesale platforms, are underwhelmed by their asset managers, with a headline 36% decline in confidence in their managers and with only 25% of respondents satisfied with the delivery of investment results versus objectives.

Investment objectives and returns are a personal choice but it would be fair to assume that the majority of investors are hoping to preserve, and increase, their capital whilst minimising volatility, albeit accepting that it forms part of an investment timeline. Another key consideration is of course cost, which has led to the rise of trackers and passive investing.

It is perhaps this trend towards passive investing, combined with increasing regulation and cost, that has had the greatest impact on returns and investing. As Simon French, Economist at Panmure Gordon wrote in The Times, “These investments…contribute next to nothing to the key social function of financial markets…” Many passive vehicles route capital and investment away from the smallest and fastest-growing companies in favour of the biggest. They also encourage a lack of diversification. Take the FTSE 100 as a case in point where investors’ exposure will be dominated by banks and natural resources, or the US Nasdaq where investors will end up long technology. In the end, it drives more money to certain corners of the market; it doesn’t support growth of new or growing businesses, only of those that have, in effect, already made it.

The desire to re-route capital to nascent or growing parts of the economy and to create a liquid market to encourage growth is surely a good thing for all market participants – to encourage economic growth and all the benefits that brings with it – and to precipitate a growth in investments for savers. No-one is suggesting allocating all pension pots to growth or dismissing the role of trackers – but the current downward trend is bad for the UK economy, UK plc and UK savers.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I always knew I wanted a job combining writing and strategic thinking and that’s how I see PR. I studied theology at university. Then one of my first jobs was content editing for PwC, which I ended up doing for 5 years. This was great and gave me a good sense of financial literacy early on. Other sectors I’ve worked in include mining/natural resources, fashion PR, agrifood & meat, but I really feel like I’ve found my home in financial PR.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

It’s definitely been an interesting transition, since I’ve now worked for a few firms both before and during the pandemic, all of whom had differing approaches to hybrid working.

I really love the balance we’ve struck at JPES because I find our in-office days so valuable. Being in the office is very productive both in terms of focus and collaboration with colleagues—and I always look forward to being with our lively team!

On the other hand, it’s great to also have some time at home when you can really buckle down and get through more individual tasks.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

I’ve been really interested in what’s been happening in fixed income markets over the course of the past year or so. On one hand, with inflation hitting so many countries hard and central banks continuing to raise interest rates, we’re seeing a lot of opportunities emerging in corporate credit all the way up and down the rating scales. On the other hand, there’s been a spate of recent elections, in countries such as Turkey and Greece, to name a few. We’ve seen how this can really impact sovereign debt markets and I think it will be really interesting to watch the fixed income space over the next 24 or so months.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a huge cinephile and I watch everything I can get my hands on. I go to the movies weekly, enjoying old classics like Bergman and Buñuel, but I also like some new stuff. Any international films, for example Iranian director Asghar Farhadi— bring it on.

Outside of that, I live in Richmond and spend lots of time in Richmond Park and around nature. I also love wandering around London for hours not knowing where I’ll end up.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I recently reread “The World of Yesterday,” an autobiography by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. It’s a captivating account of his life as a European intellectual during the early 20th century. Zweig shares his personal experiences and encounters with various figures of his time, including artists, writers, and filmmakers. His narrative delves into the vibrant cultural scene of the era, exploring the interconnectedness of art, history, and society.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

I’d like to continue to spend plenty of time outside as I really want to make more of an effort to disconnect from technology over the course of the next year. As a part of that, I also want to travel around the UK a bit more. I recently visited Oxford and it was just the break I needed. I’ve been living in the UK many years but there’s so much I haven’t explored. I attended Durham University and I definitely miss that part of the country too. Next up I’d really like to visit the Lake District.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I became interested in communications while working for a luxury hotel in India, where I met the hotel’s PR and was intrigued by her job. So, I got my degree in PR & Comms and have been in love with the profession ever since. It has been about 12 years now.

I have worked in aviation, construction, technology and, most recently, in pensions and investment communications, and I was astonished by the power of this industry to make positive changes.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

With hybrid working, I found my perfect fit. I cannot imagine now that there was a time when we were commuting to work five days a week.

Hybrid working allows me to mingle with colleagues and meet journalists and clients. I enjoy the flexibility of coming to work, having face-to-face time with my colleagues, travelling for meetings and working from home when it’s too cold.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

Before joining the pensions and investment sector, I didn’t realise how influential this sector was. Our money, which we put away as a form of savings every month for retirement, is surprisingly very powerful and can shape a more sustainable future for everyone.

Ethical pension investments can be very effective in creating sustainable solutions for the future. Not only can our pension money be invested in companies that play a crucial role in tackling global crises such as climate change and inequality, but funding from pensions can also exert a powerful influence over the direction companies take, such as transitioning to becoming more ESG and sustainability-friendly.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have a decent collection of Legos and my latest completed set is ‘Ship in a bottle.’ Next in line is Lego’s International Space Station. I also enjoy going for a walk and exploring London from a tourist’s point of view. I am always surprised by something that I haven’t noticed before.

During summers, cricket takes over my life. Either I am watching it, talking about it or playing for my local cricket club.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

The last book I read was “The island of missing trees” by Elif Shafak. Elif Shafak writes with an understanding of the power and importance of the written word. She uses her gift to broaden minds and start much-needed conversations about how we treat the least privileged among us. She combines fiction with non-fiction to present beautiful stories.

The island of missing trees is set against the 1974 Greek and Turkish conflict in Cyprus, spanning multiple timelines. It follows the story of a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, their eventual move to London, and the impact of their past and history on their daughter Ada, all narrated by a ‘fig tree.’

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months
I would like to focus on reading more this year. I have a list of books I want to get to by December 2023.

I also want to improve my calligraphy skills as it helps me avoid screens and give time to good old paper and pen.

Citywire editor Chris Sloley’s article on fund selector’s dislike for factsheets rekindled some memories from a meeting I had with an executive at an asset management firm that occurred just before the pandemic.

“No one cares about factsheets!” the executive cried during a meeting on content generation. “They are dull, and no one really reads them!” he continued, citing poor traffic data on dedicated webpages as the evidence behind his claim.

While his frustration was understandable then, as it clearly still is, as is evident from Chris’s piece, we explained to him that we are of a different opinion at JPES.

As specialist communications professionals in the asset management industry, we are well-aware of portfolio managers’ time constraints, and appreciate they may not be able to provide original insights or share their latest views on the news agenda too frequently and in a timely fashion.

Therefore, when needs must, every available piece of information on a specific strategy assumes a greater relevance for an investment firm’s communication plan, sometimes even the seemingly most insignificant ones.

While insightful thought leadership articles or in-depth reports can be practical and versatile tools for media engagement purposes, they often take a very long time to see the light. That’s why factsheets must not be overlooked within the broader communications toolkit.

The content is a balanced compromise between conflicting forces: investors’ requirements for disclosure and assessment on one hand; and portfolio managers’ simultaneous desire for promotion and secrecy around their skills on the other – they must say the most, while actually telling the least.

The resulting documents from these conflicting needs can therefore be treasure troves of data points and graphs.

While charts and tables may appear rather static and of limited use at a cursory sight, they are often an unsung and effective cog within an investment firm’s communication machine.

Geographies, industry exposures, product characteristics and many other data points. These pieces of information acquire new meaning and expand beyond their margins when plotted against the background of current affairs. Analysing consecutive editions can also be plugged one into the other, thus revealing bigger pictures, like the dot-to-dot puzzles that most of us completed as kids.

In this way, communications professionals are able to overcome potential content barriers, by devising compelling and relevant narratives that not only gain journalists’ interest, thanks to their relevance within the broader news agenda; but also zero in on themes that are most pertinent to the spokespeople.

Like the fund selectors in the story, we also receive many factsheets; but it is our job to sieve through each and every one in search of that golden nugget of information to push to the right audience.

When it comes to factsheets, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I discovered that I wanted to go into communications when I heard about the life of a PR executive from my friends who would tell me how much they “love their job.” The statement seemed so bold and alien to me which only ignited my curiosity for the world of communications. Having come from a business development and recruitment background, I discovered that communications combined all the favourite aspects I had from previous roles into one. I love building relationships with people, attending events, working collaboratively with my peers and seeing results from hard work that I’ve put in. PR has given me the room to nurture my creativity and sociability while providing me the support to accomplish the life-long goals I had in mind for my career.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

Hybrid working has been the best thing to come out of the pandemic from my point of view. I love the flexibility in working from home as I often travel around the country to see my family and friends outside of London. However, with the requirement of going into the office 3 days a week, it means that I’m always guaranteed to see all my colleagues at work at the same time, which works amazingly when I need assistance on tasks from peers with outstanding knowledge of the asset management industry and when I need inspiration in forming new ideas.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

At this time, I am most interested in the outlook of emerging markets. It was interesting to see that while developed markets were in turmoil as inflation sky-rocketed last year, EMs have prospered. As I was born in the Philippines but haven’t returned for 18 years, I find it fascinating to learn about the progress and growth of the Asian economy, especially as the disparity between most countries in Asia mean that they are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to wealth. On the other side of the world, I have enjoyed keeping up with the Brazilian elections as I work with PMs who follow it closely.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I love to try new activities and travel as I’m always on the hunt for a new picturesque view. As all of my friends and family are scattered around the world, I am fortunate enough to have a tour guide wherever I go. My next trip is to the Philippines which I’m extremely excited for! It’ll be very interesting to see how everything has changed since I left. On a more regular basis, I like to return to North Wales where I attended university as I’ve fallen in love with Snowdonia and Llanddwyn Beach. I’d describe it as my favourite place in the UK and cannot rave about it enough. If you ever fancy going to a beach where you can sun bathe, swim, hike and see the most amazing views at the same time, go visit North Wales (especially Llanddwyn Beach).

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

The last book I read was Tuesdays with Morrie. Given how seemingly negative everything has been with the cost of living crisis, sometimes it proved difficult to notice the little uplifting moments in everyday life that we can take for granted. Reading Tuesdays with Morrie has been a breath of fresh air. It was inspiring to read about Morrie’s endless optimism, appreciation and advice for all stages of life as he lived the last few months of his, battling Lou Gherig’s Disease. I recommend this book to everyone, it can be easily read in a day but leaves a long-lasting impression.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

For the next 12 months, I’m prioritising my health and wellbeing. Upon moving to London last summer, I got caught up in the thrill of exploring new areas around the city and spent more time at music events than feeding into my creativity and fitness. This year, I’ve re-sparked my interest in yoga and art and have committed to a regular yoga practice and the generation of a new piece of artwork (be it a photograph, painting or sketch), every week for the rest of 2023.

Covid has changed the working week to such an extent that Friday is now the nation’s favourite ‘WFH’ day and there’s little point in doing distribution if there’s no one there to pick up your paper.

Urban freesheets like City AM, The London Evening Standard and Metro have managed to continue to stay in print despite the inexorable rise of digital channels over recent years.

But now, with daily commuting firmly in retreat, the Golden Age of Print Journalism is facing a challenge which could finally prove fatal.

Whilst this might be welcomed in some quarters on the grounds of sustainability factors, it’s worrying with respect to the future of quality and diversity of journalism.

Anything which further compromises the future revenue prospects of the media also, by extension, makes the viability of good journalism more precarious and will increasingly polarise the dissemination of news.

City AM, Metro and The Standard may not be the stuff of which Pulitzer prizes are made, but they are all solid news platforms and a step-up from the grisly click-bait that pervades many of their online peers.

However, at a time when it feels like the Duke of Sussex would be quite happy to preside over a bonfire of just about every UK paper in print, and the rail unions are doing their best to make train travel even more unattractive than it was, it’s a hard time for the hard copy titles which catered for the commuting public.

It’ll be interesting to see if a trend which has started with a free-sheet may now spread to other mainstream titles.

It’s not been an easy twelve months for the asset management sector. A much-changed world – characterised by rising inflation and interest rates, geopolitical tension and growing regulatory pressures – has made for a markedly different environment for investment businesses and their clients to operate in. The benign markets of the last decade feel a long time ago.

In such an environment, it is critical to understand the key concerns, priorities and thinking facing asset managers’ underlying clients. It is on this basis that JPES Partners has conducted its annual asset owner survey – Looking Beyond Investment Returns: Assessing Asset Owner Priorities in 2023 – a major research initiative surveying the views of 32 UK pension schemes, charities, investment consultants, fiduciary managers, wealth managers and wholesale platforms who are collectively responsible for more than £800 billion of assets

The results of the study – which were presented at the annual JPES Asset Management Seminar – are stark. Confidence among asset owners in the managers they employ has fallen by 36% in the last twelve months, with just one third of respondents now ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ in their existing managers. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed indicated they would likely make changes to their manager roster in the next year.

Satisfaction levels of asset owners towards the asset managers they employ over 12 months compared to 2021

Source: JPES Partners

While some increased dissatisfaction among clients should be expected in these turbulent times, the scale of this fall in confidence should raise questions. Asset owners noted particular concern over the ability of investment strategies to respond to crisis, as well as the quality of information provided by managers to their clients. The latter certainly appears an area where additional work is needed, not least given the increased reporting and regulatory pressures under which asset owners find themselves.

Though this clearly represents a challenge in terms of client retention, does it also indicate opportunities from a new business perspective? In theory at least, one person’s loss can be another’s gain.

The reality is a little more complicated, with asset managers needing to understand the key priorities and criteria used by asset owners to select future service providers. More work also appears required here, with those areas that asset owners are prioritising – team quality and continuity, ability to explain investment strategy, and ability to demonstrate a positive corporate culture – being where decision-makers feel managers fall short. The importance attached to the cultural element of investment firms is especially notable, with just 8% indicating satisfaction towards managers in this area.

With this in mind, reviewing and improving client engagement and communications practices should now be a clear priority. Managers must be able to meet investor needs and demonstrate the unique characteristics and attributes of their own businesses. Investment performance and track record alone are no longer enough – success now also requires the ‘softer’ skills of communication.


For more information on JPES Partners’ proprietary research programme and our latest study – Looking Beyond Investment Returns: Assessing Asset Owner Priorities in 2023 – please contact

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I previously trained as an academic historian and spent several years teaching ancient and medieval history at a number of universities across London. The pandemic gave me time to pause and consider other career options, especially ones where I could work more collaboratively and be part of a team. I met with JPES consultant Dr. Steve Tibble to tap into his experiences of the cross-over between academia and communications and reflecting upon it presently, it was very sound advice!

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

It feels quite natural now. It was always one of the perks in my previous job that I was never stuck doing a ‘9-5’ in some office, and dare I say that the transition to hybrid-working coincided nicely with my change of career. Commuting in is not bad when there is some flexibility about it, and the current pattern at JPES allows me to work to my strengths and priorities as and when I need to.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

I am very intrigued with the ‘greenwashing’ issue that has been playing out within financial services and asset manager space, though I am aware that other industries have been plagued with similar issues. In the property sector, I am keeping a keen eye on office occupancy levels, and how office owners and employers make sense of hybrid-working to encourage and foster working environments that align with modern working practices.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am putting the finishing touches to my first book, which is based on my PhD thesis. I particularly love my sport across the year being an avid follower of cricket, rugby and F1. Attending Lords and the Oval are always highlights of my summer. In general, I am always looking for fun things to do whether that is playing cricket, exploring the countryside, or visiting the traditional British pub.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I am going to give a shout-out to two of my regular podcasts, both of which get me through commuting. The first is Tailenders – a loosely cricket based podcast with Greg James, Felix White, and Jimmy Anderson. It is pitched at exactly the right tempo to unwind and have a laugh to. The other is The Rest is History with Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland. The topics covered by the pod feeds into my deep fascination with all things history, but again, like Tailenders, the two hosts have an affable and humorous rapport with one another that is often missing in day-to-day life.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

As I have already mentioned, I am finishing off my first book which I hope to have published early next year. I also want to find more time next summer to play cricket, as well as follow as much of the Ashes series as possible.

In describing what its new HQ would provide, it said that the building would “set new standards in sustainability and accommodate more than 1,800 seats”. Seats. Not desks. Not workstations. And certainly not offices which – with its connotations of cubicles and corner offices – are increasingly seen as an outdated way of looking at working environments.

Blackstone’s choice of the word “seats” speaks volumes about “white collar” work in a post-Lockdown world.

It underlines how hybrid working has altered the relationship between individuals and their workspace. Hot-desking was, of course, an established practice before the pandemic, but the way in which the concept of working space has shrunk to a simple seat is an attitudinal landmark.

It also hints at the planned trajectory of Blackstone’s UK business. The US giant currently has 500 people in London so, if it’s projecting a need for 1,800 seats, well – as our American cousins say –“you do the math”.

It’s a shift of attitudes which also asks questions of other stakeholders in the sector. Will leasing agents start referring to “seats” in their marketing collateral for space? And where does this leave one of the erstwhile pillars of the office sector: the British Council for Offices’ space density person measure?

Interestingly, while the concept of “seats” may feel like packing people in, the BCO  has signalled this week that current trends – and workplace efficiencies – mean that space densities should be relaxed rather than intensified. Recommended densities had steadily tracked up since the Millennium, but the BCO is now proposing that the base-level occupancy criterion should be relaxed from the current UK average of 9.8 square metres per person up 10-12 square metres.

So whilst the Blackstone cohorts may not be able to have desks festooned with family pictures, stress balls and their favourite coffee mug, they may end up getting more personal space.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, passive management in the US is set to expand steadily for the foreseeable future and essentially for active management, the domestic market for most products has gone ex-growth. If they have not done so already, there is an increasing need for ambitious US asset managers to build a more stable three-legged business based in the US, EMEA and Asia, in particular offering strong global, Emerging Market and to some extent US equity products outside the US.

The opportunities for US managers overseas are highly attractive. There are institutional markets to pursue, even with defined benefit markets in decline, in the public sector for example, a rapidly growing private wealth market and, of course, sovereign wealth funds. We met one boutique US manager who had been appointed to a leading UK wealth management platform and it has transformed their business. Where one major appointment occurs others can follow.

The challenge, however, is that the international marketplace is highly competitive. Sales and marketing techniques need to reflect cultural differences and building an overseas business from a US perspective requires patience and visible commitment, often by having people on the ground in key markets.

One further hurdle is in the arena of ESG policies. This is perhaps the only area of the investment management industry US managers lag their overseas counterparts, but it is crucial. Unless there is a demonstrable commitment to combatting climate change and incorporating diversity and inclusion policies into investment strategies, they will fail to gain momentum in building an overseas business. In particular, regulatory issues in respect of ESG policies have to be fully understood to ensure funds have the necessary categorisations to allow full access in Europe.

With all this in mind, raising a US manager’s international profile through strong, tailored marketing collateral, differentiated and forward looking ESG policies, careful media relations strategies to display thought leadership credentials and a demonstrative commitment to individual markets through client service delivered by local employees all maximise opportunities.

Interestingly, the takeaway from last week was an increasing recognition by astute US based asset managers that this is exactly what is required to broaden their business base successfully.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’ve always been fascinated by the persuasive power of words and the ways they can be used to express ideas. At the University of Michigan, I completed my Bachelors in Creative Writing and Literature. Although I learned a lot about writing and analysis, I ultimately sought to pursue a career where I felt what I did had more real-life implications. This led me to study a Masters’ degree in War Studies at King’s College, and now to financial communications at JPES Partners. I love educating myself about often complex topics and relaying that information to others in a way that helps them understand, so communications has been a natural fit for me.

How have you found hybrid working over the last few months?

I’ve been really enjoying hybrid working, much to my own surprise. Prior to joining JPES, I had a strong bias against working from home, due to spending much of 2020 in one of the world’s longest continuous lockdowns in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, I’ve actually come to appreciate the flexibility and quiet that comes with working from home.

At the same time, the days I spend working in the office are definitely the highlight of the week for me. Seeing people face to face is so important for sharing ideas, learning from one another, and getting to know your colleagues. I feel being in the office in person helps collaboration and inspiration flow in a much more natural way.

What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

Because what happens in emerging markets impacts the global economy as a whole, I believe the future development of EMs merits increased attention. On a personal level, living in Argentina allowed me to practically see how macro events like IMF bailouts and elections can have consequences on the day-to-day purchasing power of a currency, and thus daily life.

Simultaneously, the war in Ukraine has brought an acute awareness to the fact that we live in an interlinked, global economy. Overdependence on Russian energy and rising prices of Ukrainian commodities such as wheat are putting further pressure on Western economies which have suffered under Covid-19. Events in Emerging Markets are compounding inflationary stress around the world, leading to a diverse range of approaches by central banks in an attempt to combat this, and also affecting all of our lives on multiple levels.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I like to go running and play football. I used to run semi-competitively for a number of years, but it is something I now do for my own peace of mind. In addition to providing an outlet for my competitive streak, I find playing football a great way to make local friends. More generally, I always make a lot of time in my schedule to catch up with friends and family, both in here in London and abroad.

Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I recently finished The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo which I really enjoyed, as it combined several of my interests. The book weaves together Italian and South American 19th century history, and deals with some of challenges particular to women of the period.

My favourite podcast is called Throughline, which explores current events through a historical lens. The podcast links issues contemporary issues including politics, economics, and the environment to past events, really contextualizing and unlocking hidden layers of meaning in our modern world.

Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

One of my priorities at the moment is improving my Italian. I previously spent a semester of university studying in Venice, Italy, and focused on Italian history and security in my masters’ degree as well, but I’ve unfortunately lost some of my speaking skills over the years. I’ve been meeting with some other Italian learners and a native speaker for informal classes over the past few months. I see this as both a professional and personal goal because further language skills and culture awareness of course benefits clients as well as myself.

In the same way as I did with my daughter, I now enjoy reading to my grandchildren. It is wonderful to see the awe on their faces in response to simple pictures and messages. Admittedly this often leads to them wanting to hear the same story several times in a row, but it is an important part of how they learn and understand things.

Storytelling is a skill and, when done well, people have the ability to educate, influence and motivate others. After all, if good storytelling can have such a positive effect on children, why not adults? Some of the most famous names in history owe their prominence to their ability to tell a story and bring people along with them.

Good storytelling also tells an audience as much about the messenger as it does the message. Done well, it not only demonstrates that the person knows their subject; it shows they have taken the time to think about their audience – what their needs are, what is most likely to resonate with them as a result and how, in a commercial sense, the person telling the story can meet those requirements.

One of the best presentations I attended over the course of my career was a discussion on liability-driven investment (LDI) around 20 years ago. As an investment approach, LDI was in its relative infancy and it would have been all too easy for the presenter to explain the concept at length using a lot of technical terms. Instead, that person focused on the challenges asset owners faced and the client problem that LDI solved. It was a well-told story that showed understanding of and addressed the needs of that audience. As a result, the audience went away wanting to hear more and so were much more likely to engage with that business in future.

Today, however, good storytelling feels like something of a lost art. As we get older, we have a tendency to want to make things more complicated – to make ourselves look clever; to believe we have knowledge (and hence power) that others don’t; to cover up the fact we actually have less knowledge than it might appear; or because it is just too hard to keep things simple. The result is often something overly technical, complicated and laden with jargon or language that others don’t understand.

Today, we are bombarded by information from endless different sources and channels. There have also been numerous studies showing that our ability to retain information has decreased. In this context, the art of storytelling is more important than ever. Yet it is something that too many people either overthink or overcomplicate.

We have to remember that people won’t necessarily take on board or retain everything we say. They are much more likely, however, to respond to how we make them feel. They are much more likely to respond positively if things are kept simple and are made to feel special by messages which demonstrate an understanding of their needs (rather than get lost in complex language and jargon).

With that, I am going back to my storytelling and am looking forward to reading the Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury classic, “We’re going on a bear hunt” – a simple story with a clear direction and simple message.

How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’m interested in where economics, finance, politics and media overlap – and that’s here at JPES Partners!

Originally I studied science before briefly working as a civil servant, so I’ve always been interested in the facts ‘behind’ the news. After that I found myself more interested in where the real decisions often seemed to take place, which is a matter of media and debate and communications in some form.

In my current role as Head of Data and Insights, I can pursue both my research specialism, and then alongside my colleagues, apply those insights to campaigns.


How have you found the return to the office over the last few months?

First of all, it’s been great to meet some new colleagues in person for the first time!

It’s also wonderful to have a chance to discuss, teach and learn about other specialisms in the relaxed and friendly environment of our offices. I still don’t always like the return to commuting – but as soon as I’m back through our familiar front door (and properly caffeinated) the company of the JPES family can overcome the stress of that rail journey in a minute, which probably says a lot about how much I love our team.


What areas or trends interest you the most at this time?

Climate should still be at the top of everyone’s agenda. I hope to draw my state pension on time in 2058 and I hope there’s an economy and an atmosphere worth living in by then. In the words of one client expert, “you can’t persuade water not to melt at zero degrees”, but we can persuade people to care about it and we must.

Complexity is another side to this, made all the more relevant by the recent outbreak of war in Europe. When do free markets end, when actual freedom ends? Are weapons sustainable? Are your clothes made by slave labour? Our job as good consultants is to ask clients for answers to these kinds of difficult questions – and help to explain the connection between your pension and a company, commodity, government or ecosystem. That’s difficult but if done well you’re on the right side.

Division is the third big trend I keep puzzling over. I’m just about old enough to remember when we could almost describe a unified national or international ‘news agenda’. But now the economy, internet and society are so much more fragmented. Division makes communication far more complicated – and far more important.


What do you do in your spare time?

I have two cats, one wife and about ten thousand constituents in my other role as a local Borough Councillor. So my evenings and weekends are usually spent either in the Council chamber or out and about at various local events.

If I ever get some real free time, I have been known to bake (see JPES Instagram for the occasional cake creation) or more realistically crash in front of the TV. There’s also about a hundred half-read books around the house, usually non-fiction but I have recently finished Hilary Mantel’s epic Thomas Cromwell series which is only ‘mostly’ fact-based and a masterpiece.


Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

I’ve also recently got into Kleptopia by Tom Burgis and it’s a real page-turner about the true story of unexplained wealth in London, America, Russia and beyond. Any book that a month ago might have been considered controversial, but is now scarily universal… is probably worth you reading too!


Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the rest of the year

I want to spend more money on clothes and more time with friends and family. The lockdowns of past two years have been difficult, but hopefully this summer can be a good opportunity to catch-up with loved ones and make up for lost time.

Time and time again, we have all seen examples of companies (and, in some cases, governments) seemingly getting their wires crossed, releasing contradictory statements, and generally making a bit of a mess of their external comms. Whether you’re a consumer or a pension scheme trustee, no one likes being told one thing one day, and then another thing the next without good reason.

If speed isn’t everything, what is?

Anyone who has ever been media trained by me (and there are a few of you!) will know that I always stress the importance of preparation. And why should communications on a company scale be any different? The same pitfalls that apply to an individual not preparing ahead of a media engagement exist for companies, albeit on a far larger scale.

One criticism I often have of business’ communications practices is that it is often clear various channels are not aligned. Haven’t we all seen instances of a CEO being critical of a certain asset class in the media, while the business has promoted that very same asset class in ads splashed across the internet? Or perhaps a fund manager reassuring the media that all is well, only to have their letter to clients leaked to the media which essentially says “Oops. That didn’t exactly go to plan.”

In the grand scheme of things, these examples may be considered by external onlookers as relatively minor, if entirely preventable, snafus. So, what about when something really important happens? Take for example, the war in Ukraine. Asset managers have been keen to fly the ESG flag in recent years, but events over the last few weeks have the industry wondering if it’s been looking at the topic in quite the right way, and whether a significant rethink is required. Here we have seen many businesses hesitating. After all, it isn’t just a matter of greenwashing – people’s lives are at stake, and if a business wants to criticise Russia while simultaneously holding Russian state-backed securities, it’s seen as being hypocritical at best, and immoral at worst.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Businesses that are looking to assert themselves as leaders on a topic often hit the media earlier than others, but those who do so successfully, are only able to by preparing in advance. How could one prepare for a situation such as Ukraine, some might ask? And herein lies the difference between the ESG wheat and chaff.

A true ESG leader does not look at issues of this type in isolation; they have already engaged in a large-scale ESG integration plan which has looked at key issues in great depth, and have a clear understanding of how it affects each of its asset classes and how it conducts business (preferably with case studies available to give tangible examples of what it is doing).

It’s not just about making sure the PR team has shared its key messages or reactive Q&A document with other teams. It’s about driving the agenda from the top, and getting key stakeholders and decision makers in a room regularly to discuss key topics, such as (but not limited to):

  • Is the current model of ESG fit for purpose? If not, how does the industry need to change and where does out business fit?
  • How can our business be advocates for change, not just withing the scope of our own investments, but more broadly across the industry?
  • Where does our business draw the line between engagement and divestment?

More specifically, within these questions there are deeper questions, such as:

  • Is what we deem to be “ESG friendly” correct?
  • Where are the fatal flaws in the current ESG framework?
  • Where are the (next) ESG risks to look out for?


Make no mistake, these are difficult questions to answer. And, crucially, it’s okay to not have all the answers, but it is essential that a business continues to challenge itself – because the media certainly will.

The last two years have brought numerous unforeseen events that, in their own ways, have really shaken society.  By no means will these events be the last global shocks that we see in our lifetimes. Businesses must therefore learn from the experiences of navigating these issues or, rightly, risk being questioned and criticised by stakeholders.

It certainly doesn’t feel like the first time we as a nation have reached the end of the pandemic, only for a new challenge to present itself such as the rise of the Omicron variant late last year.

But aside from the fears, the latest developments will give many people hope that the coming months may see a return to some kind of normality.

Be it in our personal, family, or work lives, adaptability has been key since the start of the pandemic. Technology has played a huge role here, and has allowed us to communicate with colleagues and loved ones in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. In 2019, Zoom’s average daily meeting participant figures were around 10 million. By the end of 2020, that average daily figure had increased to 350 million. There was a huge communications gap created by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but video conferencing services stepped in to fill the void and keep us connected.

In a professional capacity this has also brought efficiencies for many. An investment manager recently noted that virtual meetings have allowed them to interact with the management team of a company it had invested in, and extract the required details without having to travel across the world to speak in-person. Journalists have also expressed their satisfaction with the increased flexibility that virtual meetings and events have provided, particularly under the pressures of impending editorial deadlines.

That said, it does seem that fatigue with virtual meetings has crept in over the last year. While most would acknowledge that video conferencing services have been crucial to ensure business plans stay on track over the last two years, the flexibility of taking a meeting from home has meant for many that they spend their days in back-to-back calls.

As such, with the lifting of restrictions in the UK, 2022 may finally provide a platform for hybrid working to truly come into force after so many false starts in the last year. While many have already returned to offices, in-person meetings and interviews may start to become slightly more common over the next few months. This will also bring with it new opportunities, and the chance to further build relationships with industry peers that have been confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or similar platforms for the last two years.

From a personal perspective, virtual media interviews and events have worked really well, and it seems a safe bet they will continue to play a major role in media relations for the foreseeable future. However, the chance to shake someone’s hand (or tap elbows as was suggested at the height of the pandemic) cannot be replicated online, nor can the more informal conversations had before and after meetings. Similarly, there seems to be a greater degree of spontaneity in in-person meetings, and something that we have perhaps missed out on over the last few years.

Humans are social creatures and hopefully the ability integrate in-person elements into the working environment will allow us to learn more from each other and gain a great understanding of each other.

JPES Partners’ 2021 Asset Management Trends Report outlined that 91% of communications professionals from asset management firms believe hybrid/remote is here to stay, and this should be seen as a positive. It should mean we can continue to make use of the efficiencies gained throughout the pandemic, and work ‘smarter’ as opposed to harder.


How and why did you decide to go into communications?

I’m certainly one example of the many different backgrounds we have at JPES Partners!  Fresh out of university with a bachelors’ degree in Economics and Finance I joined one of the major television networks in New Zealand. After three years I brought in several innovations including a ground-breaking Market Analysis Division, providing a unique market perspective. In terms of communications, my calling for this industry was my excitement for JPES’ business initiative developing a data & business intelligence division. I enjoy learning about the impact communications strategy has on the bottom line and business profile, and bridging this with data to  enhance strategy.


How have you found the return to the office over the last few months?

I’m based very nearby to the office, meaning that luckily travel has never been an issue for me during the pandemic. Having expressed desire to not work from home, I was lucky to return to the office earlier than most this year and found this really helpful in separating my work life from my social life. I totally enjoyed the return of the team, and this definitely crystallised the shortcomings of virtual working – even if this is to play a significant role moving forwards.


What areas or trends interests you the most at this time?

From the daily dose of financial news headlines, I am very interested in ESG, particularly the issue of “greenwashing”. In my opinion, there is a lack of regulatory oversight on what markets do best: measurement. Until the day the financial, environmental, and social impact can be accurately measured, the inertia of greenwashing continues. I’m interested in how financial institutions will react or change their participation in the market after actions made (if any) by regulatory bodies.


What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a huge fan of travelling, which provides me with an opportunity to absorb a foreign culture and add amazing stories to my already full cache. My most recent trip was a road trip with my mate James from Riga Latvia to Gdansk Poland. Nearly 2000 kms over 6 days. Poland has many hidden gems of wonder and rich culture. Highlights were staying overnight in a castle 800 years old, Wolf’s Lair, and the food!

I also enjoy my commitment to following the US political landscape through news channels, twitter and TV shows.


Tell us about the last book you read or the last podcast you listened to?

Having quirky tastes, I got into the Radio Diaries (a.k.a Teenage Diaries) podcast which interviews interesting personalities in the 1990s. The first episode was on the daily life of a man named ‘Josh’ who suffers with tourette syndrome. I found it riveting and learned a huge amount about the struggles and silver linings of his condition.


Name one goal, professional or personal, you have set yourself for the next 12 months

One major goal of mine is to roll out a social media coverage program to enable JPES to monitor each client’s social media footprint. You cannot just rely on traditional media to assess a communications strategy. Everybody is on social media, but is it beneficial or is it detrimental to our client’s brand?  Soon we will be able to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns and engagement, and to augment this datapoint to our client’s overall strategy.



From politics to cooking, there is a niche topic for everyone – and yes, there are even plenty of podcasts on investing. Podcasts have steadily become an important and highly sought-after form of media.

But with thousands of podcasts already out there, why is it important for investment managers to jump on this particular trend?

Clients ultimately want to hear direct from their managers. As such, podcasts can help address some key content challenges asset managers face. In our recent Asset Managers Trends report, we noted that, while the volume of content produced by investment firms has gone down across the board since the pandemic, managers still plan to produce a plethora of material going forwards: 68% of managers expect to produce the same amount of content in 2022 as they did in 2021, with the largest firms on average churning out 21 pieces per month.

There’s no question that content is extremely important to keep clients informed, but podcasts can help to distil messages and break down that still-looming wall of content. But how?

  1. Content is too long: In his recent Readability Report, The Limitation Game, David Butcher found that investment thought leadership pieces are comprised of, on average, 1,782 words., That is nearly three times longer than that of a typical media article. This is, Butcher notes, too long and likely too complex. The podcast format, which forces you to talk through and explain specific concepts, helps to focus on the key elements. Podcasts aren’t about reading through a whitepaper. They’re about having a pinpointed conversation and educating audiences on what is most important for them to understand and think about.
  2. Audiences are time-poor: When speaking with clients, it shouldn’t take much more than a 10-minute conversation to get the main points of any whitepaper across. Conveniently, some of the best podcasts are 10 to 15 minutes long. While audiences may not be able to take the time to read a 20-page paper during their commute, they can listen to a short, engaging podcast that digests the key takeaways for them. They end the podcast more informed, their interest peaked and with any luck, eager to engage and find out more.
  3. Third-party endorsement: Podcasts are more fun and easier to listen to when there are a few different voices chatting through a topic. It brings personality and depth. It also allows for outside voices to shed light on new tangential ideas. Podcasts allow for dialogue – and having a second or third voice coming from a different perspective will help audiences understand ideas more fully from multiple angles.

Podcasts are part of the vast and growing avenues to get messaging across. Done correctly, they are an excellent addition to any asset manager’s communication toolbox and can help further synthesise ideas for an ever-growing and changing audience.

The Air That We Breathe report, explores how the issue of air quality is impacting the UK property sector; reports on research which shows how attitudes to the quality of the air that we breathe have changed substantially following the Covid-19 pandemic; and looks at what this means for property asset management and occupier engagement.

Stephen Collins, who authored the research, comments: “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) poses an undeniable threat to the long-term success of commercial buildings. This report seeks to highlight the scale of the problem, and where the real estate industry is in response to this”.

For more information, or to get a copy of the report, please contact 

Every day seems to bring an announcement about a new BTR fund or mega-development. Recent converts include Lloyds Bank which has announced its entrance into the private rental market with its Citra Living BTR brand while Canary Wharf Group – a business almost synonymous with office development – is looking to develop a 60-storey build-to-rent skyscraper instead of a 1m sq ft office project.

With £2bn-plus already invested in the UK BTR sector this year, there’s no sign of the flood of cash abating. However, generally all of these proponents are looking at creating tall buildings in urban locations (mostly major cities) as this is the only way to get a catchment and scale which enables viability. At present, the early entrants to the sector such as Grainger plc, Legal & General and Greystar are enjoying relatively low levels of competition with many schemes either still on the drawing board or under construction. But, in due course, every UK city will offer an increasing range of private rental product to choose from. As this situation evolves, it may become similar to the student accommodation market which when it boomed left students typically able to pick and choose between half a dozen competing schemes. No landlord wants to compete on the basis of lower rents as this simply chases the market down so the long-term challenge will be how to differentiate your BTR product from the competition?

Access Self Storage has just secured a planning consent in Hackney for 138 flats and also an 86,300 sq ft replacement storage facility which cannily complements the living space they’re creating and also represents another income stream which is far less management and capital intensive. As someone, who has recently moved into a modest London flat I can certainly see the attraction of this synergy.

And, of course, we have the, as yet unanswered question, as to how much the working from home trend will become a permanent aspect of life. This poses a ticklish question for BTR developers as to the extent of co-working space they might provide or how they can make individual apartments more amenable to ‘WFH’.  It’s a scenario which will most likely play out at ground level as this is invariably where the ‘amenity space’ of a BTR scheme is positioned.  Developers will face the choice of installing everything from convenience stores to co-working space; and storage to swimming pools. They will need a deep understanding of their target markets and the wider economic and demographic characteristics of their locations.

Having previously been viewed as a predominantly high-end product, BTR will inevitably begin to embrace more utilitarian developments with appropriate pricing points. However, it may be the ability to ‘be different’ which is the most important factor for many BTR schemes in the battle to attract residents.

This week sees the resumption of two in-person events that would have previously been firm dates in many property calendars. Property Week’s RESI convention returns to the Celtic Manor resort in Wales while MIPIM – the grandaddy of all real estate shindigs – edges back with a two-day meet-up in Cannes.

Although catering to very different audiences, both events take place between September 7th and 9th so should be a good litmus test for how willing the industry is to get out and about.

MIPIM is expecting around 5,000 delegates– coincidentally about the same number they got for the inaugural show in 1989 – while Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, will be among those travelling to Newport for RESI.

The future for MIPIM is particularly intriguing. Across more than three decades, the show had become one of the first items on hundreds on the business development budgets of property companies, consultants and the sector’s long tail of product sellers.

Nothing about the show was ever described as economical: Cannes doesn’t ‘do cheap’ and a delegate pass into the exhibition would previously set you back the best part of €2,000. More recently, the show’s legendary amount of corporate hospitality had come under scrutiny following the ‘President’s Club’ debacle of 2018. There was also the – actually incorrect – perception that it had become more of a ‘jolly’ than a place to do business. The truth about MIPIM was always that if you wanted to park yourself in a Croisette watering hole in a rosé-induced haze you could, but a serious amount of dealmaking was always being done around you.

Now, MIPIM event will have to find a way back into those BD budgets and also consider its credentials in a much more ESG-conscious world. A business’s carbon footprint in just getting to the event is an obvious starting point to ponder, and also the myriad of exhibition stands – some of which are re-used but many of which are not – will have to be addressed as we journey towards a net-zero world.

For the present, Reed Midem’s MAPIC – the retail property ‘sister’ show to MIPIM – will also be back in Cannes at the end of November. Meanwhile, another fixture in the property calendar, the altogether more sedate Expo-Real will take place again in Munich next month.

So, throughout this Autumn, as property businesses of all types are preparing their business development strategies for next year, they will be able to start taking an informed view of what events make it back on the budget – and which do not.

The Financial Times reported last month that investors poured $54bn into ESG-focused bond products between January and May, with this year’s figures set to eclipse that of the $68bn of inflows seen across the whole of 2020.

However, with the vast growth in ESG investment practices, there has been an increasing concern amongst the industry that this trend could bring about substantial challenges, most notably that of greenwashing. Some in the industry believe that many funds are not as sustainable as they claim to be, whilst it has also been noted that the management of these strategies, specifically the application of ESG credentials, can also be difficult. A notable example of this is labelling of government bonds, which remains a challenge with no industry standard in place.

At JPES Partners, we always seek to be at the forefront of understanding the investment media’s sentiments towards key industry trends. To this end, we will be releasing our 2021 ESG Media Audit in the coming weeks, which outlines leading financial journalists’ views towards the quality, quantity, and usefulness of ESG content they receive from investment firms, along with who they believe are the current leaders in the ESG field.

As part of this, we asked journalists to rank their views on how concerned they currently are by the issue of greenwashing, ranging from ‘very concerned’ to ‘It isn’t an issue at all’. The results are outlined in the graphic below, and it is clear to see that on the whole, the media’s sentiment remains that of concern.


Indeed, over 72% of respondents in our audit stated that they are either ‘slightly’ or ‘very concerned’ about the issue of greenwashing in the investment sector, while none of the participants we spoke to claimed to be ‘unconcerned’ or that they ‘don’t see the topic as an issue’ at this time.

In particular, one contributor noted that for the most part, “the proliferation of content on the subject has not helped matters”, while also adding that the sheer volume of content received now makes it even more difficult to decipher whether a manager / fund is delivering on its ESG objectives.

More worryingly, this seems to be an issue for the media that will not be going away. Investor appetite appears undampened, and while it is certainty positive that investors are becoming more concerned with environmental, social, and governance issues, the increase in the volume of ESG products and content could continue to increase the media’s already existing concerns.

This is a trend that all investment firms must be aware of when communicating with the media around the topic of ESG, presently and moving forwards. More than ever, there is a need for clarity around managers’ investment philosophy, practices, and commitments when communicating externally. Failure to do so runs the risk of adding to uncertainty that already exists in the space.

Journalists want to hear what managers are doing right now, not what they potentially plan to do in the future, and when they speak on this, they must provide clear evidence and data to back this up.

“The debate has moved on, now is the time for action”, one journalist outlined as part of the audit. This certainty appears true, and managers that do not adhere to this as part of their ESG communications run the risk of being alienated and left behind.

For more information or to discuss the findings of JPES’ ESG Media Audit 2021, please contact