Finance high flier makes a joke of the City


From the boardroom to stand-up comedy, Julia Streets is turning City jargon on its head

Stand-up comedy and the City don’t quite go hand in hand. Think comics, and you probably conjure up images of slightly dishevelled bearded men – not suited businesswomen like Julia Streets.

After 20 years climbing the ranks of the City, where she advises executives from the world’s stock exchanges, Streets has been swapping the boardroom for the spotlight and turned her real-life corporate experiences into comedy sketches.

“Too many people said to me, ‘Have you thought about doing some stand-up comedy?’” explains Streets when I meet her for coffee in Limehouse, where she lives within handy commuting distance from Canary Wharf.

“So I wrote a show, produced it, and took it to Edinburgh. It was a bit like ripping up £50 notes.”

Streets describes the show as a presentation of her musings and observations of corporate life. In the opening lines of her act she tells the audience that “no clients were harmed in the making of this show”, before going on to recount comically toe-curling incidents that all office workers would empathise with.

Her act is musical too. She deplores jargon, so much so that she’s written a song called Bullshit Bingo:

Expressions we are haemorrhaging
Like liaising and leveraging
Ballparks and touching base
Out of boxes we are thinking
As we’re nudging and a-winking
Let’s cut to the chase

So what does the City make of her? “It’s very funny watching them twitch,” says Streets. “But I don’t think I’ve ever offended anybody.”

Which is a good job too, because although she may draw comparisons with Victoria Wood and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, she’s still very much a businesswoman.

Streets started her career at PR firm Hill & Knowlton in 1992. She specialised in financial services, advising Banque Nationale de Paris, Alfa Bank and GE Capital.

A succession of career moves and promotions led to her appointment as global head of corporate communications for what was then Atos Euronext Market Solutions, now NYSE Technologies.

“Afterwards people came up to me and said ‘you know what, I’m a trader, I trade millions in a day, but I could never do that’

In 2006 she took the plunge to go freelance and set up her own consultancy firm, Streets Consultancy. “I love my business and I’d be mad to give that up,” she says emphatically. “Plus I don’t make any money from the comedy. I donate it to Children in Crisis, a charity I’m involved with.”

It was a charity gala event held to raise funds for the charity, attended by 250 people, that really put Streets to the test.

“I’d kept my stand-up comedy quiet for a while, but then word got around and people were asking, ‘When can we see your stuff?’ So I decided to do a night in front of the City, for Children in Crisis.

“There were chief executives from almost all of the stock exchanges there, traders. I completely put my life on the line.

“Afterwards people came up to me and said ‘you know what, I’m a trader, I trade millions in a day, but I could never do that’. If you do it well, with credibility, with empathy, without arrogance, you gain a lot of favour with the audience.”

Streets regularly gets booked by companies to run off-site functions. There she mixes her two worlds entirely. “At the end of the day I’ll gently go into a comedy set, get my guitar out, and sing a song about everybody in the room.”

As for the more traditional comedy outlets such as Edinburgh Fringe Festival, there she also draws upon her corporate world experience.

“If you ever want to learn how to sell, take a show to Edinburgh. Because there are so many shows for people to choose from, it’s all about the amount of time you put into it. The more time you put into it, the more bums on seats you get.”

Streets believes her successes in both the comedy world and that of business is down to her non-arrogant, light approach. She applies this temperate attitude to both parts of her life, which she sees as inextricably linked.

“This is how my world is: it’s weird, it mashes up everywhere. I’m completely mashed up.”