Inspirational Woman: Jane Geraghty | Global CEO, Landor & Fitch

Jane Geraghty

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m currently the Global CEO of Landor & Fitch, a role I massively enjoy and not one that I’d have predicted for myself when I started out.

I was an idealist at University, studying politics and believing I would change the world as a politician. On closer inspection of that world, I became rather disillusioned with that path as a career choice, and instead became fascinated by political advertising and the role that communications played in behaviour. That interest took me to London where I began a twenty-year career in advertising on both sides of the Atlantic; working at agencies like the original Saatchi & Saatchi (I’m old!), McCann Erickson, Ogilvy New York and Kirshenbaum & Bond. 

I returned to the UK in 2007 with two kids, a husband and a desire to try something new. The world of media was undergoing huge change at that time, and I was keen to witness that first-hand. I enjoyed a short spell at ITV before joining the incredibly talented team at Naked Communications to lead their London office. Both experiences greatly broadened my perspective and reinforced my determination to focus on working with talented people above all else. 

That took me to Landor, a company filled with incredible talent in a part of the industry that was in need of revitalization. Brand consultancy had been slow to embrace technology and data in its offer. My job was to broaden the company’s offer and inject agility and certainty into our work. From the London transformation, I moved into an EMEA role and onto the global role I’m in now. I’ve had an incredible team with me on the journey; we’ve brought motion into the offer with the acquisition of ManvsMachine, experience into the fold with the Fitch merger, and invested heavily in a rapidly growing insights and analytics group.  We’ve put sustainability and inclusive design at the heart of our work, continuing to grow and evolve in service of our mission to create a positive difference through extraordinary brands, by design. 

My role now is very much focused on the team – mentoring, guiding and configuring talent to be as successful as possible, both individually and collectively. As part of the WPP Executive Committee, I’m also very much focused on how we can help achieve our collective purpose to use creativity to build better futures for our people, planet, communities and clients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. But I have always believed that you must do things that you love – things that really interest you.  As a mother I tell that to my children. Success is much easier if you love you what you do.  

As my career progressed, I realised that not only did I want to do things that I love but I also want to work with talented people that I can learn from. And in recent years, I’ve also recognised the importance of choosing roles that suit my natural skills. Some CEOs are steady builders, some are more change focused.  I am much better at change – innovation gives me energy. So right now, I’m doing what I love with people that I respect and admire, delivering against a strategy of change and radical evolution. Best job in the world.

Have you faced challenges along the way?

Many! There would be no fun without challenge. One of the most notable challenges I faced on joining the company 10 years ago, beyond the offer or the capabilities, was the lack of diversity in our talent – a challenge faced by the whole segment at the time. 

We all know that creativity flourishes when different perspectives are brought together and as an industry, we’d been too reliant on hiring and promoting the familiar. I’m delighted that we are now gender equal all the way through our company. I’m very proud of that indeed. So many amazing women. More women are joining, and more of our women are succeeding. When women are in the talent pool, they need an environment where they can stay and I’m thrilled that we are doing something right in that respect.

We have more work to do to address racial diversity, most notably in the UK and the US, but are confident that the programmes we have in place are helping us move in the right direction. 

What has been your biggest (career) achievement to date?

I believe that we are home to the very best people in the business, and that makes me enormously proud. The team I started out with in London are still very much part of our story, working with me now at a global level. Mergers and acquisitions can result in the departure of significant talent, but I’m delighted to say that the best and brightest of ManvsMachine and Fitch are still with us, authoring a brighter future for our collective business. And we’ve brought in some exceptional additions to the team over the years to provide fresh perspective and broaden our view. Our team are recognised through industry awards and accolades on a regular basis (Recently two of our star designers, MB and Alasdair Lennox, were part of GDUSA’s Responsible Designers to Watch!). 

With some imaginative thinking and enormous support from WPP through the pandemic, we managed to keep the team together and thanks to mighty efforts from everyone, we paid back the senior salary sacrifice our leaders made when our business was most under pressure. I think that says a lot about the people we have here at Landor & Fitch and as CEO, I’m most proud that we’ve created an environment that attracts and retains the very best. 

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Passion. I love what I do and if I fall out of love, I know it means it’s time to try something new. If you don’t care passionately about your work, why should anyone else? 

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’d say self-awareness is as important as capability in a leader and mentoring is a critical part of truthfully exploring your own gifts and deficits. I’ve had the same magnificent mentor since I was 24. William Eccleshare has patiently helped me over decades to really understand my strengths and weaknesses. He’s also helped me identify the qualities I need in the team, beyond my own, to achieve any given task. So, I’m a big fan of mentoring and I do try to bring the same value to those that I currently mentor, to help offer some perspective – especially in times of self-doubt. 

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I don’t think there is a silver bullet here. If there was, surely we would have found it by now? 

Flexibility has been a major stumbling block, but if there were a silver lining from our pandemic experiences, I’d hope that this has been overcome and that we will all embrace the necessary flexibility to bring more mothers (and fathers!) back into work.  

A great deal of work has been and is being done about the portrayal of women in the media.  However, there is still more to be done. I’d love to see the lazy, standard questions – ‘Do you have imposter syndrome?’ Or ‘What is it like to be a female CEO?’ – stricken from every interview. 

But possibly the most important single step we could all make is to eliminate the pay gap.  Universally, emphatically and immediately. Stop the excuses, take the pain and take action. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I’m not a regretful person…if I screw something up, I learn from it. I do, however, regret not learning another language fluently. As a global leader, it really is a disgraceful arrogance and I wish I’d made more of an effort at school with languages.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My most immediate task is to really own the space of extraordinary brand transformation.  With our expanded offer, we are now competing much more broadly than before and are intent on carving out our own unique space.  We are unique in our ability to connect business strategy to brand strategy, and then express that through design and experience.  Being able to predict and quantify our impact in financial as well as brand equity terms only makes our offer more useful. So being famous for that is my most pressing challenge.

Beyond that, I want Landor & Fitch to top the table in best places to work. I want to use our talent to build better, sustainable and truly inclusive brands. I want to be able to say that when all is said and done, we are making a positive difference to our clients and the world around us through the amazing people we have inside our company.   

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