But after mild pleading, the London Stock Exchange director of corporate comms and public policy agrees to ‘endure’ a more imaginative shoot.
Kafka – who says he is still learning the ropes at the LSE four months after joining from fund manager Fidelity Investments – is guarded by LSE head of media relations John Wallace, who takes notes and interjects with a gentle ‘careful’ when our conversation strays near the hot topic of the day: takeover approaches from Deutsche Boerse and Euronext.
All Kafka will say to the prospect of a transfer to Paris or Frankfurt, or even his possible redundancy, is that he has ‘lived in all sorts of places’. Kafka, 48, responds to more run of the mill questions with similar coolness, but the drawback of this trait is a frequent lack of enthusiasm, which discolours even his descriptions of his own career.
As executive director of corporate comms at Fidelity, Kafka worked with outspoken fund manager and activist shareholder Anthony Bolton. And as Nomura International comms chief, he rubbed shoulders with maverick banker Guy Hands. When batting away questions about the potential comms clashes around working with these figures, Kafka’s self-assuredness borders on arrogance.
‘I have never known a situation where someone has fundamentally disagreed with what I thought was the right course of action. Maybe that is to do with my ability to work with people but I have always been able to find an appropriate way to deal with the challenges that I face,’ Kafka says.
Supported by his English mother and Czech father, Kafka dropped out of his original career as a barrister after two years, joining Lloyds Bank’s investment banking arm in Wall Street in 1980 as an executive trainee ‘to earn a decent salary’ and ‘see the world’.
Kafka says he was talked into entering financial PR by City stalwart and Dewe Rogerson co-founder Roddy Dewe. He made his subsequent move to investment bank Security Pacific Hoare Govett to be ‘at the heart of things’ and ‘take a holistic view of an organisation and contribute to its strategic development’.
Dewe, now retired, says he was unsurprised by Kafka’s move in-house, believing he was more temperamentally suited to the work. ‘He is probably much happier working for the institutions than he was for the consultancies’, says Dewe. ‘He is thorough, meticulous and professional – more so than at the other creative end.’
But Barclays Capital corporate comms and marketing chief Loretta Murphy – an ex-treasurer of the IPR’s corporate and financial group’s committee, which Kafka chaired in the 1990s – disagrees. ‘[Paul’s] meticulousness comes from his legal training, which has given him the ability to get under the skin of the issues,’ she says. ‘On the committee we had to be creative because we were all volunteers.’
In 1991 Kafka oversaw comms around Security Pacific Corporation’s sale of Hoare Govett and the subsequent job losses, including his own. That upheaval marked his first and only move out of the City, to Manchester-based power firm Norweb, where he was head of corporate affairs for just seven months.
He says he ‘hated’ the post because ‘as an international person with a strong City and financial background it did not play to my strengths’. Kafka returned to the City and has been at the heart of the UK’s financial centre ever since.
Negotiations with Deutsche Boerse and Euronext could continue for several weeks. In light of which, Kafka’s reeling off of his past financial PR positions could be interpreted as a sales pitch to potential employers should he become a casualty of a merger.
Whatever happens, Kafka is unlikely to feel comfortable anywhere other than in the thick of the City’s financial machinations.