Jeremy Nicholds
Business, 1984

Robert Humphreys

Jeremy Nicholds’ career in marketing has taken him from the very early days of the internet to the cutting edge of mobile payment technology, via a spell working for London’s answer to the Wolf of Wall Street. A keen charity fundraiser, he is looking to scale new heights this autumn by climbing Kilimanjaro. 

When Jeremy Nicholds came to the Polytechnic of the South Bank, he had no clear idea of where he was going – but he knew where he wanted to be. ‘I thought a business degree would give me lots of options, and I loved the idea of living in London. For me, it was a crash course in real-life. I came from Sevenoaks in leafy Kent, and suddenly I was plunged into this vibrant urban environment.’

By his final year – following a stint in industry working for a research and publishing company – though, his future direction was starting to become clear. He decided to specialise in marketing, and wrote his thesis on challenges in the marketing of data. ‘On reflection I was possibly ahead of my time!’ he says.

Post-graduation, his first job was in media sales, for News International. ‘Initially I saw it as a way of getting into advertising, which was where I wanted to be. But I learned so much from operating in that kind of sink-or-swim environment.’ From there, Jeremy moved to the City ‘for the glamour and the money’, but the aggressive style and borderline unscrupulous working practices was not for him. ‘It was a bit like the Wolf of Wall Street!’ he says. ‘It just wasn’t me. Doing right for customers mattered more to me than taking the money. But it did remind me of where I really wanted to be.’

The experience also stood Jeremy in good stead for his first ‘proper’ marketing role, at Prudential. ‘I had a pretty fast rise, and I think that was because of the focus and drive I’d learned in those previous roles.’ It was an exciting time, with financial services adopting consumer marketing techniques and recruiting marketers with FMCG backgrounds. After seven years Jeremy moved to Reuters, to work on their new online information business, before coming back to financial services.

He worked at NatWest, first as National Marketing Manager and then as Head of Personal Cards, before moving to MasterCard Europe as CMO and now as Executive Director, Mobile at Visa Europe, where he has been since 2006. ‘I really got into card payments,’ he says. ‘It’s the most tangible financial product a bank has, and that really appealed to me. You can see the impact of what we do every day – billions of payments between millions of cardholders and retailers and service providers. It’s connecting the planet.’

It’s clear that Jeremy gets a real kick from working in such a fast-moving area. ‘Soon, the physical wallet will be redundant,’ he says. ‘You won’t be using plastic cards or cash, you’ll just use your phone. Mobile is going to transform so many of the things we do every day – sending money to each other, shopping online, even using an ATM. There are over 300,000 contactless terminals already in place in the UK.  The infrastructure is there to allow us to find new ways to take the friction out of the retail experience.’

Jeremy believes that each stage of his career has played an important part in helping him develop the skills and expertise he needs to stay ahead in this dynamic and competitive environment. ‘My experience in the City showed me what I didn’t want to do!’ he says. ‘But it was a good wake-up call, and it taught me to work hard and fast. Reuters in pre-internet days showed me how quickly technology was changing. At NatWest, I learned how to run marketing campaigns on a huge scale. Then with both MasterCard and Visa I’ve had the opportunity to work all over the world.’

Outside work, Jeremy is a keen charity fundraiser. He has cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and is now planning to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. He believes that making a difference outside the workplace as well as inside it is a sign of a person destined for success. ‘Times are tough for students now, there’s no doubt about that,’ he says. ‘My advice would be to grab every opportunity to develop yourself, work hard for sure but play hard too – and bring energy, enthusiasm and rigour to everything you do.’

© London South Bank University 2018