Profile: Jane Ageros, Merrill Lynch - A classic route to the top in PR/Former teacher Jane Ageros has done her homework on Merrill Lynch

One thing Jane Ageros won’t be doing too much of at Merrill Lynch is staring out of the office window. The investment bank’s soon-to-be director of marketing and communications is as much a hands on operator as a strategic thinker.

One thing Jane Ageros won’t be doing too much of at Merrill Lynch

is staring out of the office window. The investment bank’s soon-to-be

director of marketing and communications is as much a hands on operator

as a strategic thinker.



’I’m not one of those PR people who spends so much time blue skying that

they don’t actually get their hands dirty,’ she says. ’I think that’s a

waste of resource. I will certainly set the strategy and the

positioning, but I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves. PR people who think

they can just sit in a darkened room devising creative strategies and

not actually doing any work are living in dreamland. There’s nothing

worse than someone flitting around with their head in the clouds when

there are 40 phones ringing.’



Such a no-nonsense approach to work has won Ageros the respect and

affection of colleagues and journalists alike during her eight years at

Abbey National.



’She has a clear view of the world and isn’t intimidated like a lot of

PR people are by their management,’ says Kirstie Hamilton, City editor

at the Daily Express.



’She can see what needs to be done and will do it,’ comments Paul

Barber, Inchcape’s director of corporate affairs and a former public and

media relations manager at Abbey National. He remembers Ageros’ ability

to grapple complex issues and translate them into plain English. Others

cite her disarming honesty, personal spontaneity and loyalty to

staff.



Ageros’ success in running PR for a pounds 103 billion company and

managing a department of 70 can, she says, be put down at least in part

to her experience as a teacher of Latin and ancient Greek. After

graduating in classics from Cambridge University in 1985, she took up a

job at Dauntsey’s mixed boarding school in Wiltshire. ’Trying to get a

class of thirty 15-year-olds interested in Latin and Greek is quite an

interesting experience and a good management role,’ she says. ’If you

can PR Latin and Greek you can PR anything.’



After a brief spell as an accountant, Ageros took the accidental route

to PR and, through a friend of a friend, landed a job at Broad Street

Associates. Almost immediately she was put to work on the Abbey National

flotation. ’In 1989 that was big news because it was the first building

society to float and it was smashing the mutuality ethos,’ she

recalls.



’I helped write all the brochures because you had all these new

shareholders who didn’t know what shareholding was about. To be honest I

didn’t really know either so it was quite easy to write them in plain

English.’ Evidently impressed by her work, Abbey poached her and finally

made her head of corporate communications in 1993.



’I really should have gone into PR straight away because it was so right

for me,’ says Ageros. ’When you were at university in those days people

didn’t mention it. But for someone who likes communicating, writing and

managing it’s an ideal background. PR is now also far more

respected.



When I joined it still had this hairband and champagne image, but now

it’s seen as a pretty serious discipline. What the newspapers report and

what the City feels about your strategy and how that reflects on your

share price is now far more important.’



She is quick to refute the suggestion that the switch to Merrill Lynch

after so many years at Abbey National will be a shock to the system. For

a start, Merrill is Abbey’s in-house broker, so it’s not like moving to

a hostile rival.



The culture, she adds, is also similar: ’Everyone who has been at

Merrill Lynch seems to stay a long time. It’s not hire and fire - once

people get there they stay there. Sure, it’s going to be a pressurised

environment, but Abbey National is no sleepy backwater and I wouldn’t be

moving anywhere where I wasn’t comfortable.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1986 Classics teacher, Dauntsey’s School

1989 Account executive, Broad Street Associates

1993 Head of corporate communications, Abbey National

1997 Director of marketing and communications, Merrill Lynch



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