Growing up, my family was not from a professional background, so ambitions tended not to be career based. I wanted to play football for Manchester United, become the first British astronaut (I was a child of the 1960s), or run in the 1,500 metres Olympic final. Sadly, all three were thwarted by a lack of talent.
FIRST SENIOR ROLE
As audit manager at Unilever, I gained experience in planning and executing audits but, above all, I learned how to train and develop other team members. Helping them in day-to-day audits, honing their presentations, praising them where due and intervening where necessary was a great first step in management.
As learning curves go, the steepest was being made CFO of the manufacturing sector of RBS. Suddenly I was FD of a division with 27,000 staff and more than £3bn of annual spend, with a cost saving target of almost £500m. When I left, my team had the highest staff and customer satisfaction scores of any finance department in RBS.
What motivates me is doing my best. If we have one purpose at work, it is to achieve and improve ourselves, our teams, and our results. I tried going through the motions once, but I only lasted a week and it nearly killed me. Work is what I spend a lot of my waking hours doing. If it’s worth doing, do it well. If it’s not worth doing well, change it to something that is worth doing well.
I’m proud (and possibly a bit defensive) of the people I work with in the finance team at Standard Life. It is truly humbling to see what they do in addition to their day jobs, whether it’s counselling families scarred by cancer or chairing Mary’s Meals, a charity that feeds 35,000 children a day in Africa. I am privileged to be here.