Profile: Stewart Prosser, Guardian Royal Exchange - GRE’s man of many talents/Stewart Prosser is gearing up to guide GRE through a turbulent period

Fifteen years ago Stewart Prosser received a call from a man at record label Polydor asking him whether he would care to play trumpet with Paul Weller’s band the Style Council. A year and a half of touring and recording albums followed. Although eventually deciding to quit in favour of something ’a bit sensible’, he is still in touch with former members of the band, including Weller.

Fifteen years ago Stewart Prosser received a call from a man at

record label Polydor asking him whether he would care to play trumpet

with Paul Weller’s band the Style Council. A year and a half of touring

and recording albums followed. Although eventually deciding to quit in

favour of something ’a bit sensible’, he is still in touch with former

members of the band, including Weller.



Towards the end of last year Prosser took another call that was to lead

to a new job. This time it was from a headhunter, sounding him out as to

whether he might be interested in the top group corporate affairs job at

insurance giant Guardian Royal Exchange (GRE). He leapt at that chance

too.



’There aren’t many opportunities to step into a role where you are

running communications for a major listed plc,’ he says.



But although clearly relishing the job he started just before Christmas,

Prosser describes it as a ’baptism of fire’. The reason? GRE is amid a

strategic review of its future, with many possible outcomes ranging from

disposals to acquisitions or even a merger.



Prosser and his five-strong central team are engaged in preparing the

ground for what may come. Or as he puts it ’the issues for the different

alternatives’. Given that GRE has assets of pounds 22 billion, 17,500

employees and more than 7.5 million customers worldwide, the task is not

a small one.



There is also the role of policing GRE’s corporate identity to ensure

consistency of message, which involves liaison with the communications

staff at subsidiaries around the world. In addition, of course, there

are IR considerations such as the financial results, annual report and

AGM that need looking after.



This should be a piece of cake for a man who has just stood down as

chairman of the IPR’s City and Financial Group. It was a role in which

he thrived - he still remains involved, as deputy chairman - and he is

quick to defend the focus on regulatory matters which has come in for

criticism from some quarters. ’The group has done a very good job of

getting to grips with some of the regulatory issues. It’s not just a

group of people having a drink, it’s got teeth now.’



Barclays Bank director of communications Paul Barber says: ’Stewart’s

quietly determined. He gets things done but he’s one of the PR

industry’s nice guys. He’s achieved a good profile for himself and the

City and Financial Group. I’m always full of admiration for people who

can do their day job and a voluntary role well.’



Prosser began his working life in finance at car company Peugeot,

assiduously practising the trumpet in his spare time. After his sojourn

with the Style Council he became a financial analyst at Chase Manhattan

Bank, moving into PR after two years and finally rising to

vice-president corporate communications for Europe, the Middle East and

Africa.



’You can only do so much number crunching,’ he says, explaining his

career change. ’I knew the bank inside and out. What I didn’t know was

all this stuff like media relations and advertising. But you have to

learn pretty quickly when you work for an investment bank.’



Nine years at Chase led to four years at Royal Bank of Scotland,

telling the hitherto ’untold story’ of its fast-growing corporate and

institutional banking business. And from there, the move to GRE.



Dressed in conservative pinstripe in a rather stuffy meeting room within

GRE’s grand Royal Exchange headquarters building, Prosser could pass for

a career insurance man. But once he gets talking it becomes apparent

that he is not entirely comfortable in an environment where the

trappings of a long corporate history are fustily displayed in glass

cabinets.



One senses that this fan of Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis may bring a

breath of fresh air to communications for the institution.



HIGHLIGHTS

1984

Musician, the Style Council

1985

Financial Analyst, Chase Manhattan Bank

1992

Vice-president corporate communications, Chase Manhattan

1994

Head of PR, corporate and institutional banking, Royal Bank of Scotland

1998

Corporate affairs director, Guardian Royal Exchange



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