At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I am not a morning person, but I usually set my alarm for 06.45.
What is the first thing you do?
The first thing I do is re-check my calendar for the day and then check my e-mail. What I am really looking for is whether something in the news relating to Nets/Nexi is going to mess with my day and therefore I check the media overview e-mail and my industry related newsletters.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I am an addict for news. I check the main Danish news outlets, The Guardian, Financial Times, and I see if any Nets/Nexi relevant X hashtags have anything new.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I work from home 2 times a week. If I am going into the office I first have a 30 minute drive from my home to our HQ. I arrive there just before 09. If I work from home, I usually start around 08.30 after dropping my youngest son at school.
How many times a day do you check emails?
To be honest I check constantly unless I am leading meetings. This is something that I need to work on, as my attention and concentration can wander – this is especially true in meetings, and I am pretty sure this is annoying for the rest of the participants. Generally, I think everyone could benefit from having some reserved periods of concentration that is not interrupted by the ping of a new e-mail.
When is your first meeting?
I try and make sure I have no meetings before 09.00. However, depends on whether we have a public relations or public affairs crisis/hot topic.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I work in a large multinational with a number of legal entities and a multitude of locations across Europe. I have responsibility for Europe and the Nordics – this means that there are different working hours and cultures. In short, I have far too many meetings throughout the week at all times.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
This is my number one issue with my work. Our role is in essence, external and our real value is in interacting with external stakeholders. Obviously, we need internal meetings with experts and to align and form positions. However, too many weeks I spend a large majority of my time in internal meetings and too few in external meetings. This is constantly on my mind – too many internal meetings could have been e-mails.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I have turned news notifications off. But I do check between meetings. As stated, I am an addict.
How do you organize your calendar?
I try to organize my virtual meetings for the days I work from home. I also try and block my calendar when I need to produce material. Since COVID there has been an increase in physical meetings so business travel is increasing again. Since I cover the Nordics and Bruxelles, I block 3-4 days a month for meetings in Bruxelles/Nordics
How do you take notes?
I used to be an avid notebook writer. However, this has changed as I increasingly spent too long deciphering them. I type my notes in a word document.
What is your relationship to Excel?
Love/Hate. I appreciate a good excel overview, but I am not comfortable in Excel.
What is your favorite app & why?
I have two. The Teams app is a game changer for me, so that I can take meetings on the go. I also am very fond of political podcasts and industry related podcasts. I find this an extremely efficient way of gaining knowledge and keeping up to date.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Not that many. I think COVID legitimized the 30-minute meeting with stakeholders and to be honest a lunch is not an efficient use of my or their time.
Which time do you go to bed?
I am a night owl and usually go to be at midnight and then I force my self not to check my phone (doesn’t always go well.)
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I use LinkedIn a lot to see what other professionals are doing. And I always look at a piece of legislation, parliamentary question, news story and contemplate what my peers have done to reach the outcome.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
We have purposely shone the light on the payments industry with regulators. This has thankfully created interest and willingness to act on their part. However, this has also created counter measures from competitors who also have good Public Affairs people employed and their arguments are also being listened to. My challenge is to create sufficient interest from regulators/legislators but not too much. A fine balance.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
Public Affairs has always struggled to quantify our impact – especially in corporate environments. Sometime the absence of legislation is a huge win but very hard to quantify. I also strongly believe that a huge challenge is that all organisations/companies have to demonstrate their contribution to society at large and that all Public Affairs initiatives either have to explain the societal benefit or at least lean on a previous PA effort showcasing this.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
I have been blessed with working in many various sectors and countries within Public Affairs and have seen many talented people. On the top of my head, I would mention, Peter Goll Substantia, who combines corporate thinking with political experience and Martin Ruby, Meta for his political strategic thinking. And I have always been fascinated by the journey of Ulobby and Anders’ goal of making Public Affairs more accessible and transparent and in using technology to make our discipline evolve.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I do. Nets is owned by Nexi – based in Italy and they don’t go on holiday until August, so the overlapping nature of various regional differences in holidays means that I need to answer e-mails also on vacation.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I thought I understood the financial services industry, but payments is very specialized. So I have just finished “The Payoff” by Gottfried Liberbrandt. I still have a love for UK politics and am still used as an expert in Danish media on that, so I am also re-reading books on the Tony Blair years, as he has come in vogue again.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
Communication skills have always been important but I envisage an even greater merging of our discipline with communications in the coming years.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
In the Nordics we have two FTEs and in Bruxelles we have 1,5 FTE. The rest is based on agencies and depending on issues.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
It’s a group function under Group Corporate and External Affairs and ESG.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
I believe Public Affairs should be under Group Corporate and External Affairs. I believe it is essential to have Public Affairs knowledge and understanding in Executive management decision making. It is important to understand that societal demands for companies have evolved and this understanding needs to be in the room to qualify corporate decisions.
About Peter James Stark
- Head of Public Affairs Nets, Europe
- Political Science from Aarhus University