Frances Dickens, Astus Group
Frances Dickens is CEO and co-founder of the UK’s biggest media barter specialist, Astus Group. She launched her business in 2003 to enable brands to “barter” their products for media space, to the tune of £200 million annually.
From a young age, Frances has had a great enthusiasm for sports like rugby and horse riding, which contributed to her leaving school at 16 with few formal qualifications. After a stint as a pension clerk in her hometown of Carshalton, Surrey, Frances quickly found her way into the advertising industry, initially joining billboard company More O’Ferrall. Never one to shy from hard work, Frances worked her way up and later joined the board at Meridian Outdoor where she is credited with leading Meridian Outdoor from a struggling start-up to a thriving multi-million pound global outfit.
Acquiring specialist skills throughout her career, Frances branched off into the media barter sector and joined a US-owned media barter company in 1999. She spent four years trying to convince the owners of the business that their model should be drastically improved. Ultimately, Frances and her colleague, Astus co-founder Paul Jackson, decided to set up their own media barter business introducing a new delivery-first business model whereby advertisers got the media they required before being asked to pay for it. The new ethical model was adopted by other barter companies and the reputation of media barter in the UK improved.
With clients including Jaguar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and StudioCanal, Frances works with some of the world’s most recognised brands and has been integral to media barter being seen as a smart business process.
Frances has combined her international business success with raising a family and extensive charity work. A passionate rugby fan and clay pigeon shooter, she is a tireless fundraiser and Founding Trustee of tetraplegic England prop Matt Hampson’s Foundation, which Matt set up following a life-changing accident in 2005. Frances also has strong views on how the business world can be improved, particularly for women. She has written for publications including the Huffington Post and Guardian Women in Leadership to inspire fellow businesswomen and use her status as the female CEO of a successful business to champion change on issues including under-representation of women on boards.