Jane Fuller FCSI(Hon), co-director of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI), was awarded a CISI Honorary Fellowship in October 2020 in recognition of her contribution to the financial services sector
by Lora Benson MCIPR, CISI head of media
Jane’s career included 19 years at the Financial Times where she was involved in covering some of the key finance stories of the day, featuring big corporate brands, business personalities and accounting scandals. “As a UK companies reporter, I loved writing company comments and would often do two a day – my passion for analysing companies was taken to a new level on the Lex column. I got my first taste of questionable financial reporting at the fireworks maker Astra. Later, I covered accounting scandals at Shell and Parmalat, among others.”
Jane entered journalism in 1977 immediately after achieving a joint honours degree from Cambridge University in History and English. “In those days, it was common to go straight into journalism and to learn on the job – I got a byline on my first day at a weekly paper in south Wales. I was ‘indentured’ and received ‘block release’ training. For graduates, this amounted to one eight-week course, plus a few other days, before taking the Proficiency Test. Entry to journalism was, and to some extent still is, informal.”
Jane “landed a job at the FT” eight years later, starting as a sub-editor in the Features (now Opinion) department. As a specialist publication, the FT appealed to Jane because it “keeps journalists honest and motivated to acquire knowledge. Like Horse & Hound, where I had worked before, the readers know when you have made a mistake”.
"It should be fun but too many people are afraid of numbers”
“As a news editor, I took pride in ensuring that every reporter realised that our core audience was business people and investors, so it wouldn’t do just to write about politics and economics. I had a few run-ins with bureaux chiefs over this.”
While writing and editing at the FT, Jane also founded FTfm, the fund management supplement, in 2002. But the work Jane is most proud of is as a trainer and manager of journalists. “I worked with about 100 journalists in a dozen teams, always emphasising the three As: accuracy, authority, access. Training staff was part of my role, and it still is. The FT is my longest standing client.”
In 2005, when Jane left the FT, she said in an interview with The Guardian that she was interested in the government’s efforts to improve financial literacy. Sixteen years later, how does she feel about the progress in this area?
“I’m disappointed. It is not rocket science and so can be taught as part of maths, civic affairs or whatever. The key is to focus on the big numbers and the ones that are moving up or down. So, you only need to be able to add up, subtract and do percentages. It should be fun but too many people are afraid of numbers.”
CSFI and City University of LondonJane has been a part-time co-director of the CSFI for the past 13 years, helping to plan its programme of debates about changes in the sector. “I’ve written reports, such as The Death of Retirement (2015) and A Level Playing Field for Investment Research? (2017) and, as commissioning editor, led a series on finance for an ageing society, with Professor Les Mayhew.
“The CSFI has been a leader in debating ‘sustainable finance’ issues with its long-running Sustainability Review. ESG is now as much a feature of our events as fintech or the fate of the City of London post-Brexit. We have yet to see the full impact of Covid-related debt on many companies and individuals, and banks face reputational risk as they start to collect what is owed.”
Jane Fuller's CV
2008–present: Co-director, Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation
2007–present: Fellow FSIP, CFA Society of the UK
2018–present: Visiting professor, City, University of London
2014–2019: Member, Audit & Assurance Council, Financial Reporting Council
1986–2005: Financial Times, including financial editor and Lex writer
In Jane’s role as a visiting professor at City University of London, where she teaches on the Master’s in Financial Journalism course, she’s noticed some specific trends including the “very welcome” advent of data journalism. “It means that journalists are doing more original research and learning the importance of a sound evidence base.”
Another welcome development is the ease with which women can now not only enter the profession but also gain the most prestigious jobs. “In 2000, I was only the second woman to be appointed an assistant editor at the FT.” However, “ethnic diversity has lagged behind progress on gender, although the international intake at City University gives me hope.”
Jane feels her greatest achievement is helping journalists to understand the financial side of companies “and to be enthusiastic about this type of analysis”. She is also proud of (often voluntary) work representing the interests of users of accounts in submissions to government and regulators and on committees at the Financial Reporting Council and the International Accounting Standards Board.
For those looking to get ahead in financial services, Jane has some advice: “Focus on the customers, not on your own career. Take advantage of any training opportunities. Love the numbers; they always tell an important story. There is no such thing as a stupid question – if you don’t know or understand, ask. Live by the motto: ‘Without fear or favour’.
This article was originally published in the October 2021 edition of The Review.
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