60 Seconds with James Gatoff, Lombard International

James Gatoff was appointed group marketing and communications director at Lombard International Assurance in October 2016. As he settles into the newly-created role, Gatoff speaks to Gorkana about the challenges of international communications.

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James Gatoff

What most excites you about your new role at Lombard International?

The challenge and excitement of building a global brand and working in a truly entrepreneurial environment. Lombard International has huge ambitions to grow its footprint in the US, Europe, Asia and Latin Americaand, as a consequence, we’re continually thinking about new initiatives and solutions that will help to develop the business with new and existing partners.

The myriad of touchpoints and stakeholders right across the business is interesting and the breadth of my role as group marketing and communications director brings with it a wide range of responsibilities. 

In the few months since my arrival the role has already seen us launch a new and innovative digital proposition to our distribution partners; working with our executive chairman in helping to finalise our 2017 strategic roadmap, as well as getting out and about on the road meeting partners and clients.

Who are your key stakeholders?

Reporting to the executive chairman and European CEO, my internal stakeholders include the CEOs of our key global regions, the senior sales management team and, from an internal communications perspective, all of our colleagues across the business worldwide.

Externally, the media for sure, as well as other key market influencers including our distribution partners and clients.

What are the opportunities associated with working on a global or international scale?

The diversity in working with a very talented team from across the world. I start my day early chatting to colleagues in Hong Kong or Singapore, then spend the bulk of my day crisscrossing Europe (metaphorically speaking) and conclude by working early evening with my colleagues in the US.

So, the opportunities to learn and further develop a global perspective on geopolitical trends are enormous. I like being the glue across the business to help share best practice, ideas and new approaches to help grow the business.

What challenges do you anticipate in delivering your message?

Crafting messages that are not ‘lost in translation’! We provide solutions and services across more than 20 global jurisdictions and have a physical presence in over nine different countries. Being British, it’s easy to default to using idioms and colloquialisms which don’t necessarily translate well into Mandarin, Spanish, French, German, Finnish or even American, for example.

This certainly focuses the mind on ensuring our narrative is crisp, easy to articulate and easy to understand.

What will be your primary focus in 2017?

 Ensuring the marketing and communications teams play their role in delivering the business plan. I’m a great believer that marketing and comms functions need to be commercially astute and truly understanding of the business needs including the opportunities, the stresses and strains. Only then, can we materially add value to the business.

Working for an entrepreneurial founder and executive chairman as well as a CEO who’s ex Goldman Sachs, brings a certain dynamic to the day job. They’re constantly challenging the status quo, striving to be the best of the best and wanting to bring all the positive traits that a disruptor like us can bring to a market sector which has, historically, been relatively sleepy. My challenge is to help shape the strategy and articulate the vision.

Do you have any tips for fellow communicators working in the financial sector?

However complex a product or service your business manufactures or sells, make sure your messages are easy to understand and are engaging. At the end of the day, we’re a people business and we all have clients and customers who want to be able to understand what we do, why we do it and what benefit it brings them.

It’s a great privilege being at the heart of the business, knowing what’s going on, a role which also commands a high degree of responsibility. Not only are we comms directors, diplomats, sounding boards, chief storytellers, the bearer of bad news, we’re also the glue behind the scenes.

We need to champion the cause, to be the conscience of the business and to balance and articulate the good news with the stories or challenges which may be more difficult to tell. Remaining calm and pragmatic in a crisis and being modest and creative in times of triumph, I think are good traits to adopt.

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