Magazine article Management Today

Peter Job

Magazine article Management Today

Peter Job

Article excerpt

Reuters' chief executive has escaped the kind of publicity the organization subjects others to. Hashi Syedain supplies some data for its Textline service

Enter the name Peter job into the Reuters Textline database and you will come up with a string of articles full of, frankly, peripheral references. It's one of those delightful little ironies that the chief executive of the world's largest electronic information company has never himself been fully |written up' -- and that, as a result, Reuters Textline, one of the world's largest on-line databases of past press articles, contains next to no information about the chief executive of the company which owns it.

The irony is not lost on Job himself. |How funny,' he chuckles wryly, while later confirming the fact on the Reuters terminal that sits on his own desk. It is not, he adds, out of any active desire to maintain a low profile, or to escape the glare of publicity which an organisation like Reuters constantly turns on to others, but simply because no one ever asked him before. |We're rather a collective leadership here. We act with a common purpose. People who run the company have been here a long time. The ship doesn't sway about too much and that tends to be non-newsworthy,' he proffers.

But despite the low profile of its top executives, plenty has been written about the company itself. Reuters, after all, is a household name around the world and a public company with a 1992 turnover of nearly 1.6 billion[pounds]. Job (pronounced like the Biblical character) became chief executive two and a half years ago at what was a difficult time for the company. Its latest generation of dealing-room systems, the 2000/2 series, had been delayed again and Reuters' share price was in the doldrums. But Job has presided over a period of extraordinary growth in turnover and profits -- July '93 interim results showed both up by over 19% -- despite the world recession.

Moreover, the company has just taken the unusual step of returning 350 million[pounds] of its vast cash pile to shareholders in the form of a buy-back of shares. It was a somewhat difficult decision to make, says job, because there's almost a stigma attached to giving back money. There were two elements to consider, he explains. |The first was a management decision -- do you spend money because you have it or do you just spend as much as you see a reason to spend? We're a highly integrated company and own 100% of virtually everything we do. The prospect of sailing out into a new area was not an idea we wanted to pursue.'

But having come to that conclusion, he continues, the second part was conveying the message. |You look a bit flat-footed or think you might look flat-footed or unmacho if you don't spend all you have. Actually it's completely illusory. Our investors would have been much more worried if we had spent it on something we had no competence in. But you have to get people used to the idea that your image is not affected. It may sound trivial but faulty handling of image can have an important effect.'

Concern about issues of presentation and image is not something for which Reuters is historically well known. In fact, the organisation traditionally had a reputation for introspection combined with a lumbering and excessive bureaucracy. Its top executives have always been picked from within and, like job himself, are frequently men who have been with the company all their working lives.

|From the point of view of business experience it might have been useful to have worked for more than one organisation,' Job concedes. |But personally speaking I've been to so many countries and had so many odd experiences that life couldn't have been fuller. Whenever I got itchy feet, Reuters came up with something else.'

It was a desire to travel that first attracted job to the company when he left Oxford in 1963. With a degree in French and German, he took a trainee journalist's job at Reuters as |the price for travel'. …

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