Jason Chaffer - A Career in Financial Services

If his father had had his way, Jason Chaffer's career would have turned out rather differently. Instead of working for the past 20 years in the world of financial services, Jason might have spent much of that time, literally, at sea.

The idea of following his grandfather (a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during the war) into the navy via a Dartmouth scholarship did not greatly appeal to Jason, so after graduating from Durham University with a Combined Arts degree, he joined Citibank's account management training programme in the Financial Institutions Group.

A penchant for American banks

Wanting to work on the trading floor, Jason moved to Salomon Brothers and after four weeks he found himself in New York for the start of a six-month Wall Street training programme. Alongside 225 MBAs and a few other British graduates, Jason worked long days in preparation for weekly exams and in his spare moments spent time in the trading rooms.

After three months, he was recalled to London and invited to join the Fixed Income sales team, with responsibility for distributing a range of fixed income and complex structured products.

Despite surviving a major restructuring following the crash of October 1987, Jason decided to move on, pursuing his interest in American banks by joining Chase Manhattan to specialize in acquisition finance.

Two years later came the pivotal moment in Jason's career. He encouraged a friend to introduce him to a partner at the executive search firm Norman Broadbent. Weeks later he made the crucial decision to join and build the firm's Selection business with London-based financial service clients.

Working with some legendary names in the search business, he became one of the leading revenue generators in the firm, making its advertised selection business the dominant force for positions in the City.

From the City to headhunting

In 1991, he followed his boss to another partnership firm, Spencer Stuart from where he has not looked back. Jason joined a dynamic group of young headhunters brought in to run a new Selection business who are now among the senior partners in the UK firm.

Jason had found his metier and a firm with strong values, formidable growth prospects and truly international reach. Very early in his time at Spencer Stuart he was invited to help build a financial services practice and has been its global leader since 1996. As if this wasn't enough, he joined the Spencer Stuart main board in 2000 and was managing partner for the UK business for three years (he recently stepped down).

A revelation

One of his colleagues at Spencer Stuart had introduced Jason to a client called Fred Packard who, among his many interests, ran a fund management business called Foreign & Colonial Emerging Markets. 35 search assignments later, having recruited a number of cornerstone directors for the business, Jason met Fred for a celebratory lunch at the Savoy Grill.

Fred, chairman of the Rank Foundation, asked Jason about his background. He learned that Jason's father had been a teacher and latterly an educationalist, closely involved in UK curriculum development; his mother was an architect; and when Jason was about to leave his school, Radley College, because of pressure on family finances, an unknown benefactor stepped in to ensure he could complete his school career.

It so happened that this silent benefactor had been the Rank Foundation, via its School Leadership Award Scheme. Unknown to him or his parents, Jason had been one of the first recipients of the Award. Fred Packard confirmed this from the Rank records, and some years later he invited Jason to chair a Steering Committee of former recipients to create what is now known as the Rank Fellowship.

Jason accepted, relishing the opportunity to bring together other Fellows who, like himself, were given another chance to complete their schooling and who are committed to giving something back to society through voluntary activity.

Jason continues to lead the Spencer Stuart Global Financial Services Practice and sit on the firm's main board. He is married with three children and lives in Berkshire.

Profile by Alastair Rolfe