By Ian Stokes, Managing Director, Corporate Markets EMEA
At Link Group, to show our pride in our people, we are shining a Spotlight on our team members each month. To celebrate their contributions, we are amplifying their views and placing their stories centre stage to discover what makes them special and how they contribute to the success of our business.
In our first Spotlight, we have Managing Director of Corporate Markets EMEA, Ian Stokes. Prior to joining Link Group in 2019, Ian held a range of positions across relationship management, sales, marketing, and P&L leadership. A keen football supporter, he made his debut at the company leading our registry, share plan and AGM businesses in Germany, Dubai, and South Africa before being appointed as European Managing Director in May 2021. He is now responsible for leading the growth and service excellence of our entire European corporate markets business covering registry, share plans, governance, treasury and investor relations solutions.
Join us as we explore Ian’s highlights in and outside of work, his top leadership tips, and his thoughts on areas within our industry that still have room for improvement.
Can you describe a defining moment that made you want to pursue a leadership role?
“Some years ago in my career, I led a small team of Relationship Managers overseeing a portfolio of large FTSE 100 clients in the share registration industry. The size of our team made it easy for me to spend time with each colleague individually. I also organised get-togethers on a half-yearly basis to focus on business matters while getting to know each other and having fun.
Soon enough, out of the four relationship management teams, it was proudly my team that quickly began to excel and produce the strongest client engagement scores in the organisation. This experience showed me the value of teamwork and nurturing interpersonal relationships as a leader. The increased standard of our performance was driven by my team connecting on a social and more personal level, and I realised this was something I was good at facilitating, but most importantly, that I enjoy!”
What is your top leadership tip for people pursuing a career in management?
“Opportunities are not going to come to you, so you must seek them out, which means you may need to look in unconventional places. For example, if I was considering ways to improve our client’s experience, there are people in a range of positions and departments who can help me rather than just the obvious choices.
A diverse selection of feedback promotes innovation and allows us to perform better as a business. I would encourage anyone who has an ambition to develop in their career to seek wider input on important organisational matters and your performance and contribution to them. Remember, you’re the driving force in your career.”
What is the most pressing change you think needs to be made within our industry, and how do you see yourself being involved in that change being made?
“Digitisation and the subsequent dematerialisation of share certificates is to be one of the most pressing challenges the UK financial services industry is facing currently. Link Group was pleased to engage our customers on the recent UK digitisation taskforce and provide a response to the consultation in September.
During these next steps, it’s vital to ensure that the outcome works for issuers and participants and offers full visibility, transparency, and most importantly engagement with share ownership throughout the UK. I see myself being involved in implementing this change by continuing to work alongside my peers across the business and industry globally. Jurisdictions we operate in overseas have experienced different models of dematerialisation and I intend to take my learnings from those countries back over to the UK. I am however, pleased that Ireland’s market is already part way through the dematerialisation process and our Irish business can support the UK in these endeavours.”
What is your favourite recreational passion/activity outside of work?
“I always thoroughly enjoy mountain biking. It’s a great opportunity for me to spend time with my friends in the outdoors doing something I love, almost as much as I love spending all day with my son travelling the UK watching football matches together. Mountain biking provides plenty of travel opportunities. I had a great time visiting Morzine’s cycling resort in Southern France last summer, and I spent a weekend in November on a cycling trip to Wales with a group of old friends.
Of course, as an avid Birmingham City supporter, it wouldn’t be right not to follow the club around the UK to support them, and there’s no other companion I’d rather have on these football road trips than my son!”
Finally, what was your highlight of 2023 at Link Group and what are you excited about in 2024?
“If I had to choose one, it’d have to be the results of the 2023 Capital Analytics survey. I had absolute faith in our people and service across the registry business that we would perform exceptionally. However, seeing that our ratings improved in every single area compared to the previous year, and came out as the market leader in many critical areas, was such a validating cause for celebration. 2023’s results show how much we’ve adapted and evolved as a business and accurately reflect all our hard work going above and beyond to support our clients and their shareholders.
2024 is going to see us raise the bar in our service offering through the further introduction of market leading technology. Our objective is to simplify, digitise and drive engagement for investors, as well as to streamline and integrate solutions across investor relations, registration and share plans for issuers. I’m very excited to roll out our corporate portal ‘miraqle’ to our client base of over 1000 listed companies.”
Connecting you with our people is as important to us as connecting people with their assets. To keep up to date on insights and learnings from the people that make our business what it is, follow us on LinkedIn. You can also join our Ahead community for corporate governance professionals and receive information about upcoming events, along with regulatory updates and current industry news, including information about when the next edition of our Spotlight series will be released.