Shomik founded Inline Policy in 2013 to meet a gap in the market for a political consultancy that could provide in-depth policy and regulatory analysis to fast-moving innovative businesses. He leads Inline’s Brussels office advising global organisations on UK and EU policy and lobbying. Shomik began his career within major financial institutions, including as Vice-President of Government Relations for JPMorgan, where he was responsible for representing the company in front of EU policymakers. Shomik has a BSc in Economic History from LSE, an MA in Political Science from Columbia University, and an MBA from INSEAD. He is available to assist with political and regulatory advisory services to those that need to understand and want to shape the regulatory environment that they operate in.
Shomik, you work between UK and Europe. What does your working week look like?
I have clients from across the world, but I advise predominantly on EU and UK political and regulatory issues. I spend a few days a week in Brussels with politicians and policy makers to understand the EU institutions and what they are planning, so that I know how they intend to move forward and so that I can advise my clients on how to engage accordingly. In the UK it is much the same although I work at all levels of government – in Westminster, and also with the devolved institutions and sometimes with city authorities.
How did you get into such an interesting area of work?
I started out in Asset Management as a graduate and then switched to a policy role within investment banking. I became one of two in-house policy people for JP Morgan in Europe, working between Brussels and London, scanning European policies and how they would impact the business – and then trying to influence them from JP Morgan’s point of view.
After the financial crisis, bankers were all very much in the spotlight, watched from all angles and I was constantly fire-fighting! I carried on for years, learning all the tricks of policy analysis and strategic lobbying, until I eventually needed a change. I saw a gap in the market for regulation consultancies for tech companies. Google and Facebook were already massive, but this was the start of the tech revolution and I could see regulatory barriers were about to erected. Young companies in a new industry needed help, so I launched Inline Policy in 2013. We are now retained by quite a few established big tech companies and lots of smaller ones as well.
Do you have a certain approach to what you do? Is there a style that you would say is unique to you?
Compared to the rest of the public affairs market, which historically thrived on networks and partnerships, we strive for deep tech and market knowledge. All of our staff have a depth of understanding of our clients products and the markets in which they operate. This means that we tend to look at regulatory developments with a lawyer’s eye which, combined with our political insight, hopefully gives us an edge when it comes to the competition.
We are also very commercially focussed in our objectives. We advise companies to be proactive with their policy work and to shape regulatory frameworks in a way that will give them a competitive edge.
What have some of your highlights been so far?
Starting my own business is something tangible. We were also instrumental in changing the Airbnb regulations that were introduced in in London in 2015. Working with companies in that sector and starting with a blank sheet of paper was exciting– new technologies were coming in, so after doing our homework we went and presented what we thought a good regulatory framework would be to the Government. Starting from raising awareness of the issue with the policy team in Ten Downing Street and the relevant Civil Servants we went and lobbied all the way through the legislative process in both Houses of Parliament to get the correct framework in place. We saw it through from start to finish. The end result was that the law was passed, creating one of the more progressive set ups in the world; allowing the sector to really grow in the UK.
What are the challenges currently facing your sector? Have these changed during your career?
The challenges facing the tech sector currently are huge. Since the advent of the internet and the platform economy, there has been a real change in consumer behaviour and regulators are trying to catch up. The rules that are in place need updating to protect consumers and to restrict anti-competitive behaviours. Businesses must take responsibility by stepping into regulatory voids and proactively protecting their users. Unless they do this, they too will be beaten by regulation and we could see a very different tech sector in the future to the one that has flourished in recent times. We are constantly designing new frameworks that allow these companies to grow and innovate.
Lots of business owners try and do everything themselves to start out with, they feel like they don’t need any outside help and they often fail. What advice would you give to them?
Results and outcomes are always best when you focus, so business owners should really empower other people to do what they can do well. If business owners focus on what they do well and get specialists to help them in areas where they lack expertise, this should be beneficial for both sides.
If you could work with absolutely anyone, who would it be?
I obviously meet politicians quite regularly but I have never worked on election winning strategies. I am fascinated by how political elections are won and lost. So one day if I could work on a campaign with Alastair Campbell, David Axelrod, Lynton Crosby, or their modern day equivalents, that would be an eye-opener that I would not turn down.
Some say there is a trend towards people, particularly young people setting up their own businesses. What is your general view on this and entrepreneurship as a whole?
It can be massively rewarding when it is done the right way, however I think young people need to understand that it can be complicated and it is unlikely to be lucrative immediately. I would not suggest it is for everyone, as there are lots of hidden stresses. So never do it on a whim, make sure that you have thoroughly thought about up both the pros and cons, but it can be incredibly liberating and exhilarating if you have the right support.
For anyone just leaving university now, or leaving school and looking to start a career like yours, what advice would you give?
I think the best thing you can do when you first start out is get as wide a portfolio of experience as you can. I think my path, working for a large organisation to begin with and understanding what drives them, was hugely beneficial to my understanding of how they should ultimately be serviced. If you are a consultant that is imparting advice to others, having a wide range of relevant experience to call upon and some experience of what clients really need is very important.
What do you think your industry will look like in ten years’ time?
I work in a growth industry and I believe it will continue to grow. Mine is a relatively new industry, but all organisations should have public affairs practitioners that represent the company externally and seek to engage and influence lawmakers on the policy environment. All organisations are affected by the regulatory environment to some degree, but many are unaware of how they can shape it. We are also at a very exciting point in the political cycle – there is a huge amount of political uncertainty internationally at the moment, and I expect this will continue for at least the next decade or so. This should mean that the demand for services like ours will continue to grow and that more competitors will emerge making the political consulting industry more competitive and fragmented than it is today.
What do you do when you are not working?
My four year old boy takes up most of my time, and he is great fun. I recently also got back into long distance running, which is a fantastic head clearer. Other than that I am a sports fanatic – I watch everything and I have a particular weakness for live events. All my spare money goes on tickets! I am lucky that politics is not just a job, but also a hobby for me; so I read and watch the news way too much.
What’s next for you?
The next five or ten years look set to be really exciting, we are in the most incredible and uncertain political time, so much is happening. Things are changing, which makes it very interesting, but also brings in lots of new business. This huge growth in the tech industry reminds me of the finance industry just before the financial crisis, no one really knows exactly what will happen, but there is a sense of déjà vu – it could all play out again in this industry, what remains to be seen is just to what extent and whether the consequences will be much different this time around.