Bloomberg’s Women Behind the News: Victoria Richards

January 15, 2013 — Bloomberg News Managing Editor Victoria Richards talks with corporate finance editor Sarah McDonald about managing Bloomberg First Word and the Speed Teams in Asia, and the thrill of typing out the fresh news that moves markets.

Victoria Richards remembers the jitters she felt when first hired in London to send out headlines for Bloomberg News. Eight years later, overseeing more than 500 missives a day written by almost 100 staff, she now just enjoys the pressure. “You’re at the forefront of everything — massive announcements — and there’s so much adrenalin that goes along with that,” she says.

Richards is Bloomberg’s managing editor for the Speed Team in Asia, which grabs news from hundreds of sources as fast as possible to send headlines to the Bloomberg wire. Based in Sydney since 2009, she’s helped build Bloomberg’s reputation with investors for speedy, accurate details on everything from scheduled Chinese economic indicators to breaking stories such as Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. She’s also in charge of First Word in the region, which produces quick stories on equities, fixed income and foreign exchange.

Richards, who grew up in Wales, graduated from Bath University with a degree in Europeans Studies, French and Italian. She worked in France and Japan as a teacher, and at an information technology consulting company in London before landing her first journalism job at Bloomberg.

She spoke with Sarah McDonald, a Sydney-based editor who works on stories about Asian and Australian credit markets. McDonald, a New Zealand native, holds a communication studies degree from Auckland University of Technology. She joined Bloomberg in Sydney in 2009.

McDonald: How did you end up in news?

Richards: My university education was a mix of literature, history, economics, current affairs and politics. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked studying. Then I lived in Paris for a year teaching English at a really rough school on the outskirts, which was great; and I went to Nagoya, in Japan, for a year. I wanted to go somewhere really different.

I decided I wanted to be involved in current affairs, but with no journalistic experience it was quite difficult. I found a vacancy at Bloomberg in London, on what is now called the speed desk, sending headlines.

I absolutely loved it. What’s really amazing is that you come in every day and have no clue what’s going to happen. It could be completely different from what you envisaged, and it really keeps you on your toes.

McDonald: Are there headlines that stand out in your memory?

Richards: The terrorist bombings in London on the tube and the bus in July 2005. That came out of nowhere. We’d had false alarms before, especially after 9/11. This time, it became increasingly apparent this was a big thing.

It was actually my birthday, and we worked late into the night to make sure everything was covered. The news was developing all the time. With that kind of event, you realize you’ve been working since 5:45 a.m. but you don’t really feel it.

Another was during the global financial crisis and the UK cut its interest rate to record lows. I had to send the rate decision headline. Even under normal circumstances I would have trouble sleeping for a week before I sent it, because it has such a massive impact. Everyone was expecting them to cut by a quarter or a half percentage point. They cut by 1.5 percentage points. It was such a shock.

I remember going through it in slow motion — seeing it, saying to the backreader ‘check it!’ then sending it. You could hear everyone in the newsroom shouting because it was such a huge shock, and that really sent home the message `Oh my God, this is huge.’ It took me about four hours to recover from having to send that headline.

McDonald: Do you get nervous sending headlines?

Richards: At first, I got really nervous, especially with people shouting ‘Send it! Where is it?’ It’s easy to forget now, when teaching someone else, how nerve-racking it is to send headlines, especially on something major. One thing I learned is to prepare as much as possible, because it settles your nerves.

McDonald: How would you explain the experience of moving to Asia?

Richards: I moved to Australia in 2009 as Asia speed-team leader. I had to start from scratch again — even learn the pronunciation of Chinese names, which I still get massively wrong.

We have China, the powerhouse that it is. I’ve had to understand how the economy works, and build a team that’s up to the task of handling such influential releases. Any government announcement there moves markets all around the world.

Europe is a little similar to Asia in that you have to operate across countries. You have the challenges of local language, culture, and vastly different ways of operating.

McDonald: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a manager?

Richards: We work in a massive company, and everyone wants resources and thinks their project is the most important. Let’s say for covering China — making sure we have local infrastructure, making sure we’re first on releases — we need resources for that and you have to build a case. That sometimes can take some time. The challenge is to make sure it’s prominent in the minds of people allocating the resources.

McDonald: What’s the biggest management lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Richards: When I was a really new manager, if there were difficult conversations to be had, I would skirt around telling someone. What ended up happening was that message wouldn’t get across. I’ve found it is much better to be absolutely direct. If someone’s good, you need to tell them their performance is good and why, but if you think they should have done something differently you also should be direct straight away. People can take that better. They may disagree but you can talk about it openly. That’s something I always try to tell new managers.

McDonald: Do men and women manage differently?

Richards: Definitely. I think most women feel — and this is a sweeping generalization — that men can get away a bit more with being loud, and that that’s seen as a bit of rough and tumble and everyone forgets about it. If you have a woman doing the same thing, they may be seen as over-emotional.

I think it’s a bit more difficult for women. We don’t have many role models, whereas men have role models everywhere.

McDonald: Do you have any other career advice that you’ve picked up along the way?

Richards: There are times where I’ve really believed in something and everyone else thought that we shouldn’t do it. I’ve forced it through and stuck with it, even though some people really weren’t fans. Some of my ideas — not all of them definitely — but some have turned out to be really successful. So, if you really think something is a great idea, have the faith to follow it through and give it your best shot.

Photos by: Lori Hoffman, Bloomberg

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