What skills do you bring to the board that might not otherwise be there?
There are three key aspects of the role of the board. The first one is in selecting a CEO. The second is around the strategy of the organisation and providing checks and challenges. The third aspect is setting a tone for the organisation.
I have a PhD in Economics so a lot of the strategic issues we talk about on whether and how Barclays should be investing in different geographies or businesses are areas where I can bring the most value. By nature I’m inquisitive, so I love to have debates and discussions and puzzles, which is why I love being on the Barclays board - it has been the gift that keeps on giving. We’re always being thrown issues and challenges and decisions that we have to make with the best judgements that we can for the future of the organisation.
Perhaps it’s no accident that the first role of the board is to select the CEO. It’s critically important for the organisation to have leadership, not just at the highest levels but in the everyday interaction we have with our colleagues. It sets the tone for the organisation and the direction of the institution in terms of the business we do.
You’re a marathon runner. What do you gain from that?
I do love marathon running, as crazy as that may seem. I hate the training but I love the day of the marathon. It’s incredibly painful but I have learned that it’s totally about teamwork. You can’t effectively run a marathon without full engagement – I think people initially misunderstand it as being something you do by yourself, but the training is so gruelling that you really do need to have other networks and people. I learned a lot in terms of how businesses should organise: it just underscores the point about teamwork being critically important.
How important is the work/life balance?
The work/life balance is absolutely critical and I think it’s really important for us all to take it seriously. Of course we all care about return on equity and our shareholders expect us to deliver great business outcomes and our stakeholders expect us to perform, but I do think that we need to be able to self-manage better. This is not something I claim to be perfect at, but I think we should enjoy the time we have with our friends and family, and that requires us being very disciplined – as disciplined as we are at work.
I’m reminded of a comment that a senior woman at Barclays made to me: that we should treat our friends and families the way we treat our clients. I thought that was a very good point because too often we bark at our friends and family and yet speak very kindly and decently to our clients, and that’s something that I’ve taken to heart.