Jessica White - Board Director, ICRS and Corporate Responsibility Specialist, Financial Conduct Authority
Jess made the switch from media account management into CRS, and hasn't looked back. In this interview, she tells us how her previous experience has helped her in CR.
ICRS membership level: Member
How did you get into CRS, and why?
I worked for nine years as an account director at a media agency. It was hard work but great fun. Increasingly when pitching for new business, we were asked about our environmental credentials. I helped oversee the implementation of an environmental management system for the firm. That led to my lightbulb moment when I realised that I could do something like that for a living. Just a few weeks later I quit my media job, hoping to find a new job in CRS.
What do you need to do your job brilliantly?
Whilst I initally thought I had no relevant CR experience, the time I'd spent managing accounts and planning direct marketing campaigns set me up well. Stakeholder management, problem solving, understanding measurement processes, effectively presenting ideas, writing convincing communications and influencing upwards are skills that I use every day.
I attend ICRS and industry meetings to keep my sector knowledge up-to-date and to learn from others. I have a passion for CRS and a thick skin, which is handy because - sometimes - working in this sector can be lonely. However, my ICRS membership links me to a network of industry peers who provide support and encouragement when I need it.
Which professional project or achievement are you most proud of?
To date it’s Smart Futures, a paid work experience programme for young people from low socio-economic backgrounds, which I led while I was at EY. I expanded the programme from one to 13 locations, working with more young people and engaging more volunteers. The programme is a pipeline of talent into the firm and helps develop the employability skills of the young people who participate. I’m immensely proud of it, and follow its progress with interest. In my current role, I’m developing a flagship programme for the FCA, which is an incredibly exciting prospect.
What makes your sector unique?
Working in regulation is fascinating, and was a completely new area for me. There are challenges from a CRS perspective. Due to the way the organisation is funded we are unable to make donations to charities. Instead we have a charity committee who raise funds for their nominated charities. There is also a strong link between our regulatory responsibility and our corporate responsibility. Helping vulnerable consumers is a key aspect of our mission and forms part of our CR strategy.
What advice would you give to others on getting into CRS?
Do your research to establish which area is of interest to you, and connect with CRS professionals to gain a better understanding of their sector and how different organisations operate. There is a lot of commonality, but also many different ways in which CRS is managed and delivered. Be curious, ask questions, up-skill yourself. And finally, join ICRS to increase your network and gain access to materials that will help you develop your knowledge and skills.
Who or where do you look to for inspiration on CRS topics?
I am a member of several industry roundtables and regularly attend events to keep my subject matter knowledge up-to-date. There are some wonderful LinkedIn groups, sector mailing lists (I am a big fan of Good Business’ Friday Five) and organisations that I follow across CR more broadly. My current focus is on social mobility so I follow Education and Employers, the Social Mobility Foundation and the Bridge Group, to name a few.