Playing FTSE: Shazanna Safdar-Karim, FTSE Group

Shazanna Safdar-Karim is rapidly climbing the ranks at FTSE Group. Tom Phillips reports

It is an acronym that has barely moved off the front pages over the past year.

When the world of stock markets became the number one story, FTSE and its various leagues of stocks and bonds became the number one measurement of the economic crash.

Jointly owned by The Financial Times and the London Stock Exchange, the FTSE indices are used extensively by investors and consultants in financial services who track and scour the numbers for indications of the value of equities, bonds and alternative assets.

Not that there has been much joy to be had from the figures recently. The FTSE100 and FTSE250 have been shaken almost beyond recognition, but almost all coverage of the world’s financial markets, in the UK at least, makes mention of the FTSE.

FTSE calculates more than 120,000 indices, which can be combined and compared in hundreds of thousands of ways. The illegal use of data – where users mix FTSE indices to create their own index to sell to users – is a constant problem for Shazanna Safdar-Karim, head of legal, ­giving her a permanent seat at the executive table.

“IP is at the heart of the business so people tend to listen,” says Safdar-Karim, who likens data to toothpaste: “Once it’s out of the tube it’s hard to get back in.”

The legal team has to monitor who is using the data so it can stop unlicensed users from cannibalising figures researched and created by FTSE.

“This is a competitive industry. ­People take the data from us and mix it with their own to create a financial product,” says the ex-IP lawyer who is working on the takeover of MIB, an Italian index, which Safdar-Karim says is an example of the company’s transition from a small to a medium-sized business over the past 10 years.

“Within two years the work of the legal team has almost doubled, ­mostly due to the way people are using our data,” she says.

During Safdar-Karim’s time, the company has created a range of indices and formed partnerships with many others, including most of the world’s stock exchanges.

Other interesting indices have been created, including FTSE4Good, which measures the performance of companies that have “globally recognised corporate responsibility ­standards”, avoiding companies that invest in tobacco, weapons and ­heavily polluting industries.

It was FTSE’s charity work that attracted Safdar-Karim to the post. After working with charity Reprieve on America’s death row at the start of her legal career, something she calls “inspirational”, Safdar-Karim now acts as ambassador to the FTSE’s sponsorship campaign, working with Unicef to protect children from the threat of HIV and Aids.

Last year, Safdar-Karim went to Mozambique to see the projects for herself and bring news back to the company’s offices in Canary Wharf. The trip left a lasting impression on the lawyer, who finds it difficult to reconcile the abject poverty of Africa with the money-driven attitude of the City.

“It’s challenging on a personal level to have that balance. I’m not sure I have a 100 per cent altruistic personality that would see me working full time for Reprieve, for example. But it’s a way of balancing the corporate world with that side of my life,” she says.

Safdar-Karim presents a fairly unusual mixture of personalities, from thriving corporate and ambitious London lawyer on one hand (she only joined FTSE Group two years ago from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) to charity ambassador.

“I always knew I’d be a lawyer and that I’d go in-house. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly but the opportunity presented itself and was too good to turn down. But everyone needs something outside their day-to-day work,” she adds.

Name: Shazanna Safdar-Karim
Organisation: FTSE Group
Industry: Financial services
Position: Head of legal
Reporting to: CFO Nick Teunon
Company turnover: £57m
Number of employees: 259
Legal capacity: Three
Main external law firms: Dechert, K&L Gates, Kemp Little
Legal spend: £50,000

Shazanna Safdar-Karim’s CV

1997- 2001: Cambridge University
2002-03: BPP Law School
Work history:
2002: Pro bono intern, Louisiana Crisis Assistance Centre
2002-03: Analyst, Accenture
2003-06: Trainee and associate, ­Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
2006-present: Legal counsel, senior counsel and head of legal, FTSE Group