‘I’m a bit of a risk junkie,’ admits Christopher Joll, Focus
Communications’ new head of investor relations, in his first week back
at the heart of the Square Mile.
This could be one reason why Joll has worked for seven leading
organisations in the past decade, most recently the Victoria-based The
Communication Group, where he ran the financial and corporate division.
Joll (47) is both a smooth talker and dresser. But despite his
regulation dark suit and striped city shirt, his colourful tie and slip-
on loafers hint at his well known flamboyance.
This is a man who lives life to the full. His flat next to the Royal
Albert Hall harbours a gym and a collection of fine art, although he did
close his own antiques shop in 1987 due to work pressure. Joll’s love of
opera has also led to his current position as a director of British
Youth Opera. Is it fair to refer to him as a bon viveur? ‘No, not
really, but I rarely sit down in front of the box. I admire achievers
and despise slobs.’
One former colleague describes him as ‘a man of the 1980s and a
caricature of the financial PR.’ Indeed Joll’s route into the business
is not atypical.
He began adult life in the army, before reading law at Oxford and
entering the City with investment bank Lazard Brothers.But it was at
United Scientific Holdings that Joll took on his first senior PR role as
head of group corporate affairs. Having built a high profile in the
City, he joined Paragon in 1987 to set up its City division. After the
company’s flotation, Joll fell out with chief executive Michael Hingston
and moved to Charles Barker City, which he describes as a ‘roller
coaster ride of corporate upheaval’.
In 1991, Joll rose from the ashes of the company’s Corporate
Communications period as head of Georgeson UK. Two years later he joined
Kleinwort Benson Securities to set up a corporate broking division but,
by last summer the marriage was coming to an end and he asked for an
internal transfer. Instead a lucrative redundancy followed.
‘At this point I reviewed my life,’ says Joll, ‘I had set up my own
company but I didn’t want to take too many risks as I’d also become the
sole investor in The Room - a Knightsbridge shop selling UK-designed
jewellery and glassware.’
When headhunted by The Communication Group, Joll says his initial
reaction was to turn the job down. However an arrangement was reached
whereby Joll sold TCG ‘the majority of my company’s time’. The
relationship ended in May 1996 with an ongoing legal dispute.
At Focus Joll is tasked with developing new business and managing
existing clients. ‘I’ve already had a pitch and there’s two more in the
pipeline,’ he enthuses.
Andrew Dowler director of Financial Dynamics, and a colleague of Joll
during his Paragon stint, says of him: ‘He’s one of the most energetic
people I’ve ever worked with.’
But another former colleague questions his ability to focus: ‘He has
undoubtedly strong presentation skills but needs very clear guidance and
objectives to be set.’
‘That’s fair comment,’ says Joll. ‘When there’s nothing to do I tend to
do nothing. I need deadlines.’
What moulds his philosophy of life? Joll suddenly becomes serious: ‘I
lost a close friend who had the world in his hands. This taught me that
life isn’t a rehearsal. My worst fear is not getting enough out of it,
but you’ve also got to put enough in.’
Joll’s professional ambition is now job satisfaction: ‘Eventually I’d
like to be a part-time consultant, but what gets me up in the morning
now is coming into an office of like-minded people and dealing with
senior clients on an equal footing.’
He says the appeal of Focus is that it’s a young company in both senses.
‘City PR is not a game for the elderly and I’ll do it while I still have
the energy - another five years at least.’
1986 Head of corporate affairs, United Scientific Holdings
1988 Managing director, Charles Barker City
1991 Chief executive, Georgeson UK
1993 Director of corporate finance, Kleinwort Benson Securities
1995 Director, The Communication Group
1996 Head of IR, Focus Communications