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30 years of FD: Playing favourites

Andrew Sawers, editor, September 1997-September 2009
Favourite issue: April 1998

Cover of the April 1998 edition of Financial DirectorApril 1998 was my most memorable issue, one that we dedicated almost entirely to the single European currency, then just nine months away. Extraordinarily, the euro was not a board-level agenda item for about half our readers, despite the potentially huge impact on everything from cash handling to supply chain and competitiveness. It didn’t help that companies were also dealing with the Y2K problem. Economics columnist Gerard Lyons gave a brilliant warning about all the problems the euro might face – and indeed, the Greek crisis a couple of years ago proved just how far-sighted he was. Our back page revealed that, while I was chairing a seminar about the EMU, I was personally attacked, Parkinson-style, by Rod Hull – and emu. The euro hasn’t been such fun since then. Finally, almost 17 years on, I vividly remember the creative arguments we had while designing the cover: a ‘Welcome to Euroland’ sign with the 12 stars of the EU flag turned into 11 euro symbols, and a gap where sterling should have been – and fortunately wasn’t.

 

Richard Young, acting editor, April 2000-October 2000
Favourite issue: October 2000

Cover of the October 2000 edition of Financial DirectorTwo years as deputy editor to the inimitable Andy Sawers was a great preparation for taking the helm when Andy was whisked away to edit an online news portal that our parent company had bought at the height of the dotcom boom. A glance at the number of market crash stories I wrote during my six-issue tenure from the spring of 2000 shows why, despite Andy’s huge brain, the thing never got anywhere.

My favourite edition? Probably my last, October 2000. It had been a tough summer running the mag with only the support of the editorial assistant (one Kevin Reed), especially as – amazing as it seems now – the display ad market was hugely buoyant and we kept having to add pages to issues.

October, though, saw the coming together of several elements I’d wanted to get into FD. We extended the beat to the public sector – a decent chunk of the readership. We had an interview with an FD, Geoff Bicknell at Northgate Information Solutions, who told us a horror story and then explained how he helped fix it. 

In the 14 years since then, so much has changed. The dot-com bust stories have been followed by a second dot-com boom. Display advertising has declined. But the role of the FD certainly hasn’t. Strategic, disciplined, plain-speaking – these are more prized today than ever. Happily, they’re also great watchwords for people editing magazines

 

Melanie Stern, editor, October 2009-May 2011
Favourite issue: March 2010

Cover of the March 2010 edition of Financial DirectorMy aim in each issue was to demonstrate ways in which FDs had transcended the old ‘beancounter’ cliché and were as dynamic and engaged as their CEOs.

One issue that stands out is March 2010, carrying an in-depth piece on charity FDs sending backpacks stuffed with cash to earthquake-devastated Haiti and other disaster zones – how those FDs had to think and act outside their comfort zone.

The January 2011 issue argued that FDs could and did find a return on investment in social media platforms which hitherto had been the preserve of media types. We were the first to acknowledge that FDs are plugged in to that world; at that time we had seen an incredible response to our own new Financial Director LinkedIn group.

 

Gavin Hinks, editor, June 2011-January 2012
Favourite issue: September 2011

Cover of the September 2011 edition of Financial DirectorIf there was one story during my time at Financial Director that left its mark, it was the ongoing hacking scandal at News of the World. It was clear to Financial Director that hacking raised serious questions about corporate culture at News International, and more broadly.

So we made the issue our cover story under the headline: “Crash course in governance”. Illustrated with Jonathan Cusick’s excellent caricature of Rupert Murdoch losing control of his corporate governance vehicle, deputy editor Richard Crump’s piece insisted the episode posed big questions about the expectations of chairmen and CEOs to know what is happening in their companies, and how leaders set tone from the top. Because of the strategic risks involved, these are questions that should be front of mind for all board members. 

 

Kevin Reed, editor, February 2012 – present
Favourite issue: December 2013

Cover of the December 2013 edition of Financial DirectorI’m a sucker for a good cover, so our ‘Lego Britain’ effort and then-RBS FD Bruce van Saun depicted as Atlas holding the bank’s logo both make me smile. But my favourite issue is December 2013, which came together as I’d like every one to – quite simply, with a broad spread of excellent articles.

Our cover story looked at the management challenges facing the Royal Mail post-privatisation. A range of FDs, including David Bauernfeind of Xchanging and Mind Candy’s Divinia Knowles, gave great insight into their thoughts on the year ahead for their business. The FD profile interviews also pointed to the future, with Nick Lally of taxi app producer Hailo and Dylan Smith, CFO of cloud storage firm Box, giving a youthful feel to the middle of the magazine. The issues facing Royal Mail, a 500-year-old institution, and those tech start-ups juxtapose nicely and show the spectrum of challenges that an FD or CFO in 2014 could, and does, face. ?

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