Each week we ask the City’s movers and shakers to delve into the memory bank – and this week, it’s the former journalist and now Hargreaves Lansdown’s Head of Money and Markets Susannah Streeter in the hotseat
What was your first job?
My first job was as a silver service waiter for functions at the Lansdown Grove hotel in Bath, when I was 14. I pretty much filled in every role in the hotel over the next seven years on weekends and holidays from washer-up to receptionist and bar manager. This gave me the financial breathing space to do unpaid work in radio, TV and newspapers through school and university while still managing to have a social life.
And your first job in the world of business journalism?
I became a business reporter and presenter at BBC Breakfast in 2005, after being part of the launch team for BBC Three News. This entailed getting up at the crack of dawn and going on pursuit of breaking consumer and corporate news. It took me everywhere from Glasgow and Paris to Newquay and Bangor – with stints presenting live from the London Stock Exchange. I covered everything from the pitfalls of buying property abroad, to the business of fake tans, all overtaken of course by the Great Financial Crisis and its repercussions.
What’s your memory of your first week?
On my first day, I was reporting live on Tesco making its first £2 billion annual profit, outside the store on the A4 in Kensington, at 6am. Later that week, I helped Stuart Rose manoeuvre a coat rail full of garments into the Stock Exchange Studio for a backdrop, before interviewing him on the challenges M&S faced from fast fashion rivals. A particular white suit kept falling off its hanger.
What’s been your most memorable lunch?
My most memorable lunch was a long way from the City of London. With my RAF Reserves beret held firmly on, I landed in a Chinook helicopter on HMS Illustrious which was in the Gulf, in the run up to the invasion of Afghanistan. We’d spent three weeks in a hot tent in the Omani desert, so drinking tea from a china cup in the state room of the aircraft carrier was a surreal moment.
What’s one moment from your career you’ll never forget?
Interviewing Adam Applegarth, the then chief executive of Northern Rock live on BBC Breakfast as queues were building up outside the bank in 2007. It was a very awkward interview as he was less than forthcoming when I asked him about the extent of the withdrawals, the bank’s business model and its over-reliance on wholesale funding. It serves as a salient reminder to check the money in your accounts are fully covered by the Financial Services Compensation scheme.
One thing you love about the City of London…
The inter-connectedness of the business eco-system, from the shoe shine stalls to the trading desks, the coffee shops to the legal chambers, with a whiff of history at every turn. I particularly love ducking down the narrow alleyways imagining generations past rushing by in their quest to turn a shilling and help London thrive.
…and one thing you’d change?
The perception that it’s all men in suits and only for the wealthy few. Capital markets will work much more effectively, and the population as a whole will build financial resilience if more opportunities are open to ordinary investors. This means cutting out the jargon, changing perceptions and helping people understand why it’s so important to start investing early.
Who is the business figure you most admire?
There are so many, but I am going to single out Merryn Somerset Webb and Anne Boden. Merryn who is the former editor of Money Week and now Bloomberg columnist was always a delight to interview at the BBC, and was one of my first guests at the London Stock Exchange. Her witty and wise commentary has helped make investing fun, knowledgeable and accessible. While Starling Bank’s Anne Boden has disrupted the traditional banking system, overcoming huge set-backs along the way.
We’re going for lunch in London and you’re picking – where are we going?
Greenberry Café, on Regents Park road. It’s a little haven in the capital, and only 14 minutes from Bank station to Chalk Farm on the Northern Line. You can sample Welsh wine, beautiful food and then stroll to catch a marvellous glimpse of the city from Primrose Hill.
And for drinks after work?
Café Kick, Exmouth Market has the best negronis in the City… possibly the world, the freshest oysters and is always a lot of laughs. You never know who you will meet, but you know you will have a great time.
Are you optimistic for British business in the months to come?
I am a glass half full person and the resilience of British businesses keeps being under-estimated. It’s still going to be tough going but the pandemic has made companies so much more adaptable, flexible and ready for change ahead.
If you could change one thing to make Brit business more competitive, what would it be?
Eliminate the mountain of new paperwork which companies trading with Europe now have to fill in, which is a hugely unnecessary burden. It’s crucial that trading relations with Europe are improved, with estimates from the OBR that leaving the EU will reduce long-term output by about 4%.
Where’s home during the week?
Mainly Bristol but I stay in Primrose Hill quite a bit.
Where would we find you at the weekend?
Ideally swimming somewhere, anywhere in lidos, lakes or the sea.
And when you’ve got a well-deserved two weeks off, where are you going and with who?
To Hourtin, on the French Atlantic coast, to surf with my children and drink Medoc wine with my husband and good friends.