How does it feel to be one of the few women CEOs in the FTSE100?
I was very proud to be offered the role of CEO. That’s a fantastic role to have.
There are hugely talented women in this industry and outside this industry that have all of the potential to be CEO. And so we need to create the environment that allows that to happen.
I think role models are really important. I think very early on in my career having mentors and sponsors who really supported and advocated for me and recognised that talent didn’t need to be reflected in their image was really important.
Have the pathways to CEO changed at NatWest as a result?
I think the way the world is moving, you’ve moved from a bit more of a product specialist growing up in a silo, maybe doing some international experience in different roles, but quite traditional thinking, to now, [where there is] much more agile thinking, an agile mindset, much more data, digital, tech driven. If you think about most organisations, particularly ours, we need to think about the skills of the future, we need to think about the right mindset. We need to think about the right sort of resilience in order to be successful. So there’s less [emphasis on] growing people in silos and actually creating much more agile teams that work together.
And this is where data is an imperative requirement as a skill set for everyone. As a senior manager, it is not about having a tech team over here and a general manager over here. These are the skills you will have to acquire: the importance of data, the importance of tech, the importance of digital as you transform your business to operate in a very competitive and fast-moving environment.
What is the outlook for senior women at NatWest?
We have targets to get to a 50 50 gender balance, those targets already exist. We’re on the path to that. We are already making really good progress and I think constantly making sure we’re challenging and hold to it. I’m a passionate believer in targets because if you don’t measure it, it doesn’t get done.
These are not HR targets. These are business strategic priority targets, not quotas.
We’ve set an ambition to be 50 50, but we also want to make sure the benefit of what we’re creating [is] a culture of inclusivity, which is of benefit for all protected groups. It’s about allowing talent to thrive: attract talent, develop talent, grow talent.
ESG is becoming an increasingly important consideration for many investors. Do you think the fund management industry has a similar desire to revisit their own pipeline?
The research is now incredibly compelling, that more diverse teams generate better profits and better results. And so, I think for most organisations, looking to get the best talent into their organisation is an imperative. I absolutely think this is on the agenda of pretty much every company that you look at, about attracting talent in and getting it through the pipeline and making sure it’s at the top of your organisation.
I never sense that I’m pushing on a closed door with these issues. I think what we need to do is to move a lot faster. If I think of my own career where I started, it’s so much better now than it was. There’s still a long way to go and we should be moving at pace. Otherwise, what happens is the best talent goes out of our industry. And that would be a terrible shame for what is a critically important sector.