PR Pro Dominik Von Arx chats with us about how he made it in the industry
Role: Head of Corporate Communications Organisation: UBS Investment Bank Dominik Von Arx was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Janie Emmerson, MD of Communications at Hanson Search, interviewed Dominik to find out how he made it in the industry. Why did you get into communications? It was a little bit of a coincidence to be honest. I started off in 1995, working with UBS on the business side of things. By 1999, I was looking for a new challenge and an opportunity came up in investor relations. I did two and a half years and really enjoyed it. From there I decided I wanted to move into communications, but stay within UBS. And my time in IR made for a good fit. In 2005 my boss at that time asked me if I wanted to take over the media team in London. The prospect of a new challenge interested me because, up to that point in my career, I didn’t have much media experience, and I definitely didn’t know the London market. At that time I was based in Zurich, so it seemed a very good opportunity. I really enjoyed it; it’s not that dissimilar to IR, just a different audience. Since then, I’ve stayed in that area. The role changed and, over time, I also became responsible for the internal communications side. I’ve found it rewarding and very interesting. What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career? I think you should do something you enjoy. That has definitely helped me succeed. If you have a demanding job which takes a lot of your time, it is important that you like what you’re doing and that you like the people around you. I’m also good at building teams. A good team can bring you a long, long way. You can shine and they can shine. That is very important too. What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome? From a communications perspective, I would say that my biggest challenge was when we had our unauthorized trading incident. That really affected the whole business, and communications around it were a huge challenge. But in hindsight, it was one of the most interesting experiences I have had. You learn an incredible amount if you are in a time-sensitive crisis. The pace is relentless, and there’s no manual. The other challenge is – and it’s a rewarding one – building a good team. As I mentioned, you’re only as good as your people and it is a challenge to find the right people who you can work with. But once you do, and you’ve created a good environment in which people can really perform, it’s great. Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with? I have to say from a communications perspective, I have had many bosses and all of them were brilliant. I had a Head of IR who was phenomenal; when I worked with him I learned a lot. The same goes for my bosses in media. What's important, and where I’ve been lucky, is that I have been able to learn from them all in different ways; I couldn’t pick one out. What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given? It’s not advice per se, but it’s about having the support and the encouragement of the people around you. When I moved to London, I didn’t have a lot of experience, and my boss told me at the time “Look, we will support you”, so I think it’s about gathering people around you who can support you in a wider sense. I can’t think of a particular time when somebody has said “Do X” and I’ve always thought back to it being good advice. It’s more the overall support, encouragement, the exchange with people, the openness and honesty that I remember. I was blessed that I had good people around me, and bosses who were open and honest, and gave advice and guidance in times when it was needed. It’s that feeling that you’re valued, supported and encouraged to think outside the box and to take risks. This is not an easy thing because our work is very visible; whatever you do might end up in the papers the next day for everyone to see. To have that backing and support is the best thing. In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry? In the financial industry, it is astonishing that unlike other industries the whole digitisation and social media push hasn’t really had that much impact yet. If I worked in the consumer sector, a team like mine would have one or two people concentrating on social media, but in investment banking this simply isn’t the case. There are several reasons for that, the main one being regulation. It’s much more difficult to have social media channels because the regulators and our own compliance departments wouldn’t allow it. I do think that in the next 5-10 years social media will become important in this industry. It’s going to be more immediate, interactive, faster, and with more use of video. The social impact and what channels we use are definitely going to change quite a bit. I'd say that, as an industry, we are somewhat behind the curve. There are very few forums about banking, very few bloggers focussing on investment banks. There’s a little more in retail, but even there, the people who write about banking are the same people who would write about banking in the mainstream press. Probably the most influential bloggers are those who write for the FT. It’s a little different in retail [banking] or personal finance, where you have a whole host of price comparative sites. But in our sphere, we've only scratched the surface. But it will catch up. We will see a lot of changes over the next 10 years, but it probably will take another few years because of all the regulatory hurdles. What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator? Open. Informed. Collaborative. Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications? It’s funny, but I’m actually quite happy with what I’m doing. Could there be a role which integrates all of the background experience I have even better? Perhaps. My dream role is doing communications linked to a challenging and evolving industry, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. It could be interesting to move to another industry but my strength is in strategy and finance, although I do think that that finance is relevant in all communications roles. Ultimately, my dream role would need to be something that challenges me and where I can work with inspiring people.