Financial Times, Subs and Product Strategy 2021+

FT Product & Technology
Jan 25 · 5 min read

By John Kundert (Chief Product Officer)

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The four strategic pillars; Newsroom, Community, Enterprise and Intelligence

The turning of the calendar years always feels like a right moment to reflect on the past and define the future (as best we can). This has never felt more poignant given the huge distress and uncertainties of 2020 and real hope for 2021. Here is my pause for thought …

When I am asked why I work for the Financial Times, the answer is easy. It is because I believe in the importance of FT gold standard journalism. It has never felt more important to value expertise, truth and trustworthiness of the content we read. It is about understanding the world and continuing to hold power to account without fear or favour. A very close second to this, inside FT we continue to be a progressive organisation holding each other to account. Our values, our behaviours and our very real drive to build greater diversity and inclusion across all dimensions and intersectionality. It’s hugely demanding but it’s hugely rewarding too. For these reasons I work for FT.

When I was asked, as CTO at FT, what our job is, I would say our job as a technology team and as individuals, is to make the noble art of gold standard journalism profitable. That is our bit of the mission. It applied to everyone and everything, from infrastructure to end user computing, from cyber security to data governance, from internal tooling to building our customer facing products. It is a mission and purpose that has enabled FT technology to attract great talent, diverse talent, modernise our tech, build great products and have some fun along the way. A great proxy for our transformation is the milestone of entering 2021 with our highest subscription and engagement numbers and with our entire estate on the cloud. Not bad for an organisation that is over 130 years old.

I’ve now been CPO at the FT for one whole year and I can say with confidence that it has been the most difficult and disruptive year of my 52 years of life. I guess that is what a 2020 global pandemic does. But equally, I strongly believe we are starting 2021 with renewed optimism, real ambition and a sense that we can seize new opportunities. All of this is embedded in our FT product strategy to amplify the value created in our newsroom, alongside tapping into the know-how of our customers. We have translated this unique value into four strategic pillars; Newsroom, Community, Enterprise and Intelligence.

The Newsroom and Community pillars are about helping our customers understand the world through our award winning journalism. It is about forming connections with the content, with expertise and across our customers. It is about helping our subscribers belong to a group of professionals who help each other make sense of their industry and to be more successful.

Our Enterprise and Intelligence pillars are about helping professionals execute their jobs faster with the right business information tools to support better decisions to increase revenues or decrease risk. We believe this can be done by leveraging our knowledge, knowhow, the intelligence embedded in our journalism, in our expertise and through insights from our customers. To really extract this value our Product and Tech teams need to think innovatively and leverage internal and external ML and NLP technologies and expertise. The time is right now and it’s an awesome opportunity and an awesome challenge.

We strongly believe these four pillars, with their own strategies, represent a transformational opportunity for FT. The ambition is big. We have a great foundation with over one million subscribers, modern technology, a maturing set of internal tools, B2C and B2B data driven sales and marketing teams and, of course, the best newsroom in the world.

All that said, the opportunities can not be recognised without the very best talent across all types of roles and across all levels of seniority. As the ex-CTO and the current CPO, I know that means Product Management, Product Design, Customer Research, Business Analysts and critically, super talented and engaged engineers. It means building our ability to find incremental value through new products. It means high performing teams committed to finding monetizable value through our products. For that we need diversity, by all dimensions, with a deep commitment to inclusion.

Driving a culture of inclusion and belonging is at the heart of our diversity and inclusion strategy. At the FT, we aim for employees across all regions to have a voice so that diverse perspectives are heard and valued. We believe that a supportive workplace is one where employees feel they can be themselves at work and have the flexibility they need to meet their personal needs.

Across all of our offices and regions, FT employee networks play an integral role in connecting individuals and providing a sense of community and culture. Seven employee-run networks, including Proud FT (LGBTQ+), FT Embrace (BAME), FT Women, FT Families, FT Sustainability, FT Mental Health and FT Access (Disability), play an integral role in connecting individuals and providing a sense of community and culture. All senior management leaders have a personal objective to promote inclusion and increase the representation of under-represented groups in their teams. We have identified workforce goals to address areas of under-representation in the organisation.

A great proxy to demonstrate our real commitment is, for the first time, publishing our ethnicity pay gap with our gender pay gap. We have set ourselves the task of making the FT a more racially inclusive organisation, and we have committed to accelerate efforts to ensure minority ethnic employees are represented at all levels of the organisation and support career progression into leadership positions. This is just one of the measures by which we can hold ourselves to account.

To summarise, despite all the challenges and deep disruption of this global pandemic I see opportunity to build back better. We are now looking to find the very best talent to build a transformational and deeply commercial product team capable of generating incremental growth to accelerate future investment. D&I is central to these efforts and our success. And I warmly invite you to reach out to myself or contact our team if you would like to find out more about working with us at talent@ft.com.

If you are still reading, outside all of this, please remember to wear a facemask, stay safe and be kind.

FT Product & Technology

A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology…

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