Advocacy requires strategic thinking

// Christian Boergen

Rosa Armesto, Deputy Director General of the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE), explains how to influence public policy in a democratic manner.

Rosa Armesto is Deputy Director General of the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE). She is responsible for coordinating regulatory policy campains and strengthening FESE’s positioning on the key issues and priorities. Before she was Member of the Management Committee of Insurance Europe, in charge of the interest representation, Head of Regulatory Affairs of FESE and with Eurostat in Luxembourg. Since 2007, the Spanish national, with master’s degree in Economics from University of Groningen and bachelor in Statistics from University of Zaragoza is working in Brussels. Photo: FESE/David Plas

CIM:  How much advocacy is part of your task as Deputy Director General of the FESE in Brussels?

Rosa Armesto: The Federation of European Securities Exchanges is a European industry association that represents operators of European exchanges and other market segments, encompassing stock exchanges, financial derivatives, energy and commodity exchanges. With 19 full members, FESE represents close to 36 exchanges from 30 different countries within the EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
In my capacity as Deputy Director General, I coordinate regulatory policy campaigns and strengthen FESE’s work on the key issues and priorities. My job mostly consists of promoting the value of exchanges in the real economy, by implementing best public policies and practices through interlocution with the European legislators and regulators. I manage all affairs of the association as well as drive the strategy and direction, so a big portion of this is advocacy.

How can regular lobbying be improved to advocacy? What makes the difference?

Lobbying and advocacy are complimentary, while both are often intellectual focused on a representation group. Advocacy is a public activity, while lobbying is a more targeted/bilateral activity. Advocacy can be seen more general – raising awareness on an issue which deserves attention – while lobbying is more specific to the needs: speaking to a policy maker on a specific issue of a piece of legislation.

What are the chances of modern advocacy, what is mandatory to succeed?

We live in a digital and networked age, as well as a more and more transparent system. The European Parliament and European Commission have now a transparency register to which most lobbyists comply with. Advocacy requires strategic thinking, technical understanding of the issues, political knowledge, coordination, good communication techniques and appropriate outreach. Facts supported by evidence data are needed in order to be successful.

Could you point out best practices?

In this job it is very important to be technically sound and base facts on data. Speed is also crucial in order to meet the political agenda and provide timely information. Most of the proposals are made in public consultations, so to be fully aware of the political agendas and needs, will help achieve results. Last, it is advisable to keep honesty in the horizon to be a reliable and trustworthy partner.

What is good storytelling on digital media or other advocacy channels? Which mistakes should be avoided?

Explaining the issue in a digestible manner with accurate facts is key. Ti­ming and selecting the right channels are also crucial. They need to be political, since policy makers mostly have to deal with several workstreams at the same time under tight deadlines. The best thing is to facilitate their work with sound proof. It is advisable to avoid being imprecise, vague, or too aggressive.

What is the secret of targeting for advocacy purposes?

Targeting the audience is key to be effective. When an issue arises, it is worth to identify the right target groups (e.g. general public, legislators, supervisors, at EU/national level etc) and adapting your information to them. If we want to raise awareness of a general issue, we should use accessible ways to promote it. While if we wish to leverage a technical issue, we should use more data sound facts.

How can a good database be generated in compliance with EU‘s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

GDPR allows for legitimate activities, so in my experience a good database of contacts must be established. Under the new rules of GDPR, we must ask for consent to include individuals in our databases, so extra work is required to keep a sound sample.

You regularly attend meetings and conferences. What is your impression of the meetings industry’s state of proficiency in advocacy for itself?

We are in a digital era where information gets channelled through the Internet. However, the benefits of networking can be facilitated through industry meetings. This is a must for advocacy and lobbying, but also for coordinating positions. Conferences on a specific topic help inform views and connect people. In Brussels, there are plenty of activities of this kind, and the dynamics are broadly very professional. So in my opinion they meet the rules of advocacy.

Which opportunities can advocacy in operation generate for the meetings industry? What is your recommendation?

Advocacy bridges the gap between business realities and political decisions. EU and/or national trade associations are the most effective channels to do so. I would recommend that business and civil society, as well as the meetings industry, should seek to be represented and use the channels allowed by the European Commission to have their say.

Thank you, Ms. Armesto.