Profile: Geoffrey Ellerton, London Transport - A new station underground/After 21 years in the banking sector, Geoffrey Ellerton tackles transport

Geoff Ellerton’s small office is hidden somewhere in the art deco warren above St James’s Park station that is London Transport’s nerve centre. LT’s first head of marketing communications, now in his fourth week at the job, seems composed despite the fierce political debate raging outside over the Conservative Party’s recent decision to make London Underground its next big privatisation.

Geoff Ellerton’s small office is hidden somewhere in the art deco

warren above St James’s Park station that is London Transport’s nerve

centre. LT’s first head of marketing communications, now in his fourth

week at the job, seems composed despite the fierce political debate

raging outside over the Conservative Party’s recent decision to make

London Underground its next big privatisation.



’I didn’t expect to be plunged straight into this debate. It’s been a

torrid introduction,’ he says. But far from being daunted, Ellerton says

the political element ’adds spice’ to the job.



Of course it’s still early days. Ellerton is just getting to grips with

his new role and the pounds 10 million marketing budget at his

disposal.



Some were surprised at LT’s decision to bring in an ’outsider’ for the

position, which had been vacant since the sudden departure last summer

of Ivor Godfrey-Davis and Jean Harris - respectively the former head of

public affairs and head of advertising and publicity.



Ellerton combines both roles in a similar remit to the one he enjoyed as

head of marketing at Midland Bank, which he left in 1996. Until then

Ellerton described himself as a ’peripatetic banker’, having performed

many roles at NatWest and First National Bank of Boston.



His 13 years at Midland didn’t see him gain marketing responsibility

until the 1990s. As personal banking director and then planning director

he was faced with rebuilding the bank’s reputation following the merger

with HSBC and financial problems in the late 1980s.



Then, as general manager for marketing, Ellerton integrated Midland’s

marketing communications strategy, launched the current advertising

theme and developed its first sponsorship strategy.



He says he left because of dwindling opportunities and for a change of

scene after 21 years in banking, although one former colleague believes

his outspoken style won him few friends in the HSBC hierarchy.



Ellerton believes LT was looking for someone who had demonstrated an

ability to make things happen and to manage change. Once again he sees

his role as integrating advertising, marketing and media relations to

rebuild a ’strong brand that has fallen into disrepair’. He is quick to

dismiss his lack of PR experience: ’I have been involved in the public

affairs arena and I’ve got a good team.’



Duncan Baker, currently group brand manager at Cable and Wireless, and

formerly head of public affairs at Midland alongside Ellerton, says of

him: ’Geoff has strong views on what he wants to achieve and you need a

very good case to convince him of your view.’



Ellerton admits to being single-minded, but not myopic. ’My strength is

that I’m strategic but also very focused on implementation,’ he

explains, ’I’m fortunate that the people I’ve worked with have realised

that my views come from the heart.’



Ellerton gives you all the right answers. Doesn’t anything make him

really passionate or angry? ’Yes, what really enrages me is poor

service,’ he responds. Another good answer, but only time will tell if

his new organisation can change public perceptions in this crucial area.

One certainly questions whether Midland ever really achieved this.



He denies any fears about the new position. ’The headhunter says he

thought I was looking for a bit of fun and he’s not totally wrong. In my

time between Midland and LT, I missed the buzz of corporate life.’



One might be tempted to put such a laid back attitude down to a

lucrative career as big corporations man and a house in Woking, the

epitome of middle England affluence. However appearances could be

misleading.



A former colleague says: ’Geoff is an astute guy, he’s got a slightly

relaxed look, but in reality he’s razor sharp.’



Perhaps his biggest challenge will be getting home to Surrey each day on

a combination of London Underground and South West Trains.



HIGHLIGHTS

1976

Corporate finance manager NatWest bank

1983

Group country manager, Singapore, Midland Bank

1992

Planning director, Midland Bank

1993

General manager, marketing, Midland Bank

1997

Head of marketing communications, London Transport



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