Director, Global Head of Product Marketing @ FTSE Russell
“Change is normally a good thing and should be embraced rather than feared.”
The financial industry was not the first choice of Simon’s career. FTSE Russell’s Global Head of Product Marketing on how the dearth of Indiana Jones-style archaeology jobs brought him to the ETF industry. Read his thoughts on London Stock Exchange Group/FTSE Russell’s culture and how important helping financially-literate young generation grow into confident investors is.
JE: Please tell us about yourself and your experience. How did you become the Director, Global Head of Product Marketing for FTSE Russell?
Simon: I left University with a degree in Classics, and the dearth of Indiana Jones-style archaeology jobs meant I had to look elsewhere for my career. I had done some events management for societies at University and so got started at a small company that ran events and did some publishing and research around alternative investing- back then ETFs were not well known in Europe and considered ‘alternative’ – this was my first exposure to ETFs. I left that company to spend a short period running marketing at a fund of funds that used ETFs for asset allocation before moving to a marketing role at a division of CME Group that provided technology and data on the OTC credit markets. I then came over to FTSE and ran European marketing and as FTSE grew, and became FTSE Russell, my role evolved into a global position.
JE: Was there a time during your career where you were unsure about where you were going? How did you combat the uncertainties?
Simon: No one has a crystal ball and no one really knows for sure what surprises and opportunities the future will hold for them. I try to identify what aspects of work I most enjoy, what aspects I want to change and where I have experience and then go for roles that fit with these ideas. I have found that change is normally a good thing and should be embraced rather than feared.
JE: What would you say is FTSE Russell’s overall strategy in terms of ETFs?
Simon: We want to be the best index partner that ETF issuers can have in terms of new index concepts, support and service.
JE: How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organisation? How are ideas shared and implemented within your organisation?
Simon: One of the great things about LSEG/FTSE Russell is a culture that supports creativity – everyone is encouraged to have ideas and speak up, whether a small procedural improvement or a big ‘moon-shot’ idea. We have a variety of regular forums, workshops and platforms to ideate and share concepts where all levels of seniority are represented. Ideas are considered, filtered and then teams are assigned to explore in more detail and implement if they look promising. More importantly is the informal aspect – an open door policy among senior management means that you can always chat about your ideas and get a quick reaction.
JE: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Simon: The first time you go to a market open ceremony is always memorable, but the real highlight has been the people I have had the chance to work with – exceptionally talented people with great values – both internally and from the partners we are lucky to have.
JE: If you can give advice to those who are just starting in the industry, what will it be?
Simon: Be open minded about what you want to do, where you want to do it and who you want to do it for. This industry is growing and changing so quickly that it’s so hard to predict what it will look like in five or ten years time.
JE: What would you say are the most significant changes in the ETF space in the past few years?
Simon: The growth of retail investment in ETFs and the explosive growth of smart beta would have to be top of my list.
JE: Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?
Simon: In Europe I believe that we need to do more to address market fragmentation. Globally I would point to two related things: Firstly, I think the industry needs to work collaboratively and speak with one voice to educate new types of investors about how ETFs can work for them. Secondly, (and this goes beyond ETFs to broader financial services, politicians and educators) we should be doing more to develop financially-literate children and young people who can grow into confident investors. As it stands, there is a tremendous lack of even basic financial education in most school curriculums and improving this would be of benefit to everyone.
JE: What do you think is the “next big thing” – or what should we all keep an eye out for?
Simon: A number of trends are interesting: Fixed Income and ESG ETFs have a great deal of room for growth and I would not be surprised to see more offerings in this space, particularly smart beta for fixed income. Asia, currently relatively small in terms of overall ETF assets is also a huge opportunity for the industry as a whole to grow and serve new clients. Automated advice or ROBO advisors are also getting a lot of hype at the moment and some have been very successful in the US. In Europe this falls into the ‘one to watch’ category for me but it will be fascinating to see how technology re-shapes our business and the way we can serve clients in future.