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Frances Coppola started her banking career in 1986 when she joined Midland Bank’s Overseas Systems Support department as an analyst/programmer. Working across both retail and investment banking, and with a strong international slant, she designed systems, developed processes and managed projects for Midland Bank both before and after its merger with HSBC. During her time at Midland Bank, Frances did an MBA at Cass Business School with a specialism in financial risk management. She left HSBC in 1993 and then worked as an independent consultant and project manager for a number of banks including Nat West, RBS, SBC Warburg (now UBS) and CAF.
Although she spent 17 years working for banks at increasingly senior levels, “banker” is a bad description of Frances. She has never made a loan or done a trade in her life. But she designed systems that enable bankers to lend, traders to trade, and back office, finance and risk management functions to deal with the messes they create. When she says “loan accounting works like this”, she does so because she designed systems that do loan accounting. This sometimes gets her into hot water with economists who have a different view of how loan accounting works. She is relieved to discover that the Bank of England now agrees with her view.
Frances left banking in 2002 after completing her final project, design and delivery of a consolidated financial reporting system for the enlarged RBS group, a system that RBS still uses to this day. She describes it as her “legacy”, and is moderately proud of the fact that in 2009 RBS used this system to report the largest loss in UK corporate history.
After leaving banking, Frances returned to the music that was her first love, and spent the next ten years singing professionally and teaching. She originally trained as a musician, studying singing and piano at the Royal College of Music where she gained a London B.Mus degree and an Associateship in singing performance. She still sings and teaches part-time.
But in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Frances found herself drawn back into the industry she thought she had left behind, not as practitioner but as commentator. She started the Coppola Comment blog in 2011, initially writing about how banks actually work because, as she says, “there was so much rubbish being talked at that time”. Later that year, as the Eurocrisis developed, she started writing about European banks and macroeconomics. She came to the attention of the BBC in 2011 when she was invited to contribute to BBC Scotland’s documentary on the fall of RBS. She is now a frequent commentator for the BBC and other media on banking and economics.
After a two-year stint as Associate Editor at the online magazine Pieria, Frances is now a freelance writer and speaker. She is a contributor to Forbes and the Financial Times, and writes for a range of industry publications.She is a senior writer for American Express’s FX and international payments division, and a Managing Editor at Contently.com. She has spoken on monetary policy, finance and economics at conferences in both the UK and Europe, and moderated at FT Alphaville conferences. Future plans include writing a book on the Greek crisis.
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