James Ashton is a financial writer and commentator. He is also a popular event host, conference facilitator, panel curator and moderator. A former senior newspaper editor, James has written extensively on the UK economy, business, leadership and technology. As a result he has interviewed hundreds of company leaders in a 20-year career. He also presents a regular podcast called “Leading with James Ashton.”
ExpertiseAuthor, Facilitator, Host, Moderator, Presenter, Speaker
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James is familiar with all the recent and biggest economic and corporate stories. This is because he was City Editor and Executive Editor at the Evening Standard and Independent titles. Prior to this, he was City Editor at the Sunday Times. These days he writes regular columns and in-depth interviews for the Telegraph, Times and Mail on Sunday. His interviews feature many Blue Chip company leaders. They work for the Bank of England, Barclays, Tesco, Virgin, General Electric, Nestlé, Huawei, Anglo American and WeWork.
His talks offer revealing insights about disruptive technologies, banking crises and multibillion-pound takeover battles. He also highlights the personalities that shape global business. This is because he knows what makes business leaders tick.
As a result, he is considered by many to be one of the most informed business speakers and hosts in the UK. As a conference facilitator, James is highly skilled. He knows immediately how to get the best from panel speakers, ensuring a topical, pacey discussion.
In his speeches James speaks expertly on current situations and the future. These include the impact of ageing customers and workforce, and how companies treat their workforce and customer base. He also discusses what the gig economy means for career development and the impact of increased shareholder activism.
James was born and raised near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. He fell in love with newspapers after entering a school competition. He attended the University of St Andrews where he studied English. There he edited the student newspaper, The Chronicle there. At City University in London he took a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism. Consequently his first work experience placement was with the Yorkshire Post. He then went on to the Herald in Glasgow and the South Wales Echo. Awarded a scholarship to the Daily Iowan in the United States, his first job was at Reuters. It was there he covered the advertising and media industries as the dotcom bubble prepared to burst.
Part of the launch team for Business AM, Scotland’s first financial newspaper, James has worked in London and Edinburgh. Subsequently gaining broader experience at the Scotsman and the Daily Mail as Chief City Correspondent.
At the Sunday Times, James wrote the closely-followed Inside the City column, regularly broke stories on companies including Vodafone, HSBC and EMI and interviewed the brains behind LinkedIn, Skype and Facebook.
Appointed City Editor of the Evening Standard, James merged business desks with the Independent, Independent on Sunday and i newspaper. As a result he led the team filing across four newspapers and associated websites. Specialising in writing about London’s key industries James is well informed in finance, professional services and technology. He is also very familiar with the capital’s relationship with the rest of the UK well. As Executive Editor, he edited The Progress 1000, the Evening Standard’s compilation of London’s top influencers.
James has spoken at and hosted for many organisations around the world. These include the World Retail Congress (Madrid), Global Peter Drucker Forum (Vienna) CBI annual conference and the IOD annual convention. He has also been involved with campaign launches for Sopra Steria, EY, ABP/Royal Albert Dock, New West End Company.
Married with one daughter James lives in south London. In his spare time he enjoys running and swimming. James and his wife Viveka lost their son in 2012. As a result they set up Oscar’s Book Prize (oscarsbookprize.co.uk) in his memory. This is a nationwide pre-school book award. The prize champions the best in early years reading. It remind parents of the importance of sharing books with their young children. Supporters include Amazon, the Evening Standard and the National Literacy Trust. The prize’s Royal patron is HRH Princess Beatrice. James speaks about the UK’s literacy challenge. Because one in three children leave primary school at the age of 11 without having reached the expected reading level.
The changing media landscape: how the drive to digital has redrawn newsrooms, monetisation and the stories that get told today.
A macroeconomic overview: what is happening in the world right now?
Leadership, technology and disruption: what chief executives fear most, the cult of the changemaker and why public markets fail to incentivise risk taking.
Tomorrow’s cities: how corporations and municipal authorities must come together to capture talent and investment and tackle transport and housing challenges.
“The session proved to be very popular with our audience and some fantastic insights came out of James’s interviews. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and media coverage was also excellent.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General
“When we were planning one of our key main stage interview sessions, we had no hesitation in inviting James to lead this. He brought reassurance to the interviewee’s team because they knew James and he then ensured that the fireside chat on the mainstage was engaging, informative and well-received by our delegates.”
Ian McGarrigle, Chairman, World Retail Congress
“James was a professional and engaging chair of a quite diverse panel who needed to be well managed. I was delighted with his efforts and we would definitely use him again.”
Caroline Artis, Senior London Partner, EY