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“One percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration” Our interview with IMA’s Annette Spencer

05 Jun 2014 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Tell us about the Investment Management Association.

The IMA is a trade association for fund managers operating in the UK.  Our main role is to promote the sector and shape and influence legislation and regulation that affects the industry. Our purpose is ultimately to help people build resilience to financial adversity and achieve their financial aspirations and a decent standard of living in old age.

What attracted you to the role of Director of Communications?

I was particularly attracted to the broad spectrum of interesting and stimulating issues that the role covers.  Many of these issues are complex, which gives me the chance to put my cerebral skills to the test.  The role has a wide scope of responsibilities, ranging from working on media relations, web management and public affairs programmes to training and educational activity.  It’s very fulfilling to work on things that have the potential to have a positive effect on people’s lives.  By encouraging people to save and think about long-term financial planning, the ultimate impact is very beneficial.

What does a typical day consist of?

I don’t think there is such a thing!  The kinds of things it might include are meetings with member companies, politicians, journalists and/or regulators; part of the day may be spent writing blogs and articles or PR plans and strategies for particular initiatives.  I might also answer queries from the media or public.  Recently a lot of my time has been spent working on a new name and brand in readiness for a merger with the Investment Affairs division of the ABI. 

Can you sum up what the biggest challenge in your role is?

For me, it’s three things:

The pace of change; the speed at which we have to work.
The breadth and volume of the different issues we manage.
Working on complex concepts to make them accessible and comprehensible for people.

Do you have any career tips for PRs?

A Chief Executive I worked for about a decade ago told me that time spent on planning is never wasted, and he was right. I firmly believe that it’s good to have a plan but you should also be prepared to be opportunistic, too.  Put these two together and you’ve got a winning combination!

What do you suggest PRs avoid?

It’s less about what to avoid and more about having clear priorities and knowing what your aspirations are.  I would say don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right.

You are the chair of the Corporate and Financial Group.  Tell us a little about it.

The Corporate and Financial Group of the CIPR has a broad spectrum of over 600 members from financial or business PR.  We hold about 15 events a year, which include monthly meetings at which a senior journalist is invited to speak.  We also run debates or panel discussions on areas relating to our work, such as the role of Social Media in the PR profession or the impact of peer to peer lending in the financial sector.

How do you manage to juggle both roles?

I am fortunate to have great teams supporting me in both roles.  The Corporate and Financial Group is led by a wonderful committee of volunteers, each with their own area of responsibility.  As chairman, my role is to ensure that everything is coordinated effectively and that everyone is clear in knowing what they need to do.  Of course, good organisational skills and time management help make things run smoothly in both roles.

Can you share three tips for effective networking?

Make time for it!  If you commit to attending a networking event on a regular basis, it will become a habit. 
Follow up with people who interest you or that you think will be useful to you or you to them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s help, time or knowledge.  A polite request usually elicits a positive response.

Looking back over your career path to date, what would you say were the key factors that have led to your success?

For me, it—once again—is three things:

The willingness to work hard.
The ability to recognise an opportunity when it comes along and the courage to grab it.
A diverse, wide and supportive network of colleagues, a couple of whom were instrumental in steering me towards my current venture, for example. 

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