Business Leader of the Year

Business Leader of the Year

Winner: Finola McDonnell, chief communications and marketing officer, Financial Times

After the Financial Times reached its long-term goal of one million paying subscribers in 2019, it was time for a rethink. Finola McDonnell was the woman to do it. Working with creative agency The Brooklyn Brothers, McDonnell established The New Agenda, positioning the FT on the side of responsible business. A bold opening statement, "Capitalism. Time for a reset", prompted a global debate about the rights and wrongs of the pursuit of shareholder value above all else.

McDonnell personally sold the proposition to other FT divisions, and their buy-in was vital to its success. It guides the commercial team’s approach to working with advertisers and agency partners and forms the bedrock of employee engagement initiatives, while the editorial team uses it to challenge corporate leaders.

As part of the launch, the FT lowered its website paywall for 36 hours, encouraging new and engaged audiences to sample its journalism, and it coverwrapped its newspaper with an eye-grabbing yellow ad, boosting retail sales by 9% The campaign, which also included paid media, stormed through its targets and delivered 12% more subscriptions than expected.

Judges praised McDonnell for "inspiring others to speak out and all of us to question the morality of business decisions".


Uwern Jong and Martin Perry, publishing director and creative director, OutThere Publishing