Is it possible to combine an executive and non-executive director (NED) role?

15th October 2018

By Pascale Gara

This was one of a number of questions which sparked debate among financial services executives at an industry dinner hosted by HW Global Talent Partner recently in London.

The informal networking event was held last month to offer advice to financial services executives looking to launch and develop their NED careers.

Guest speaker David Stewart told delegates how he has built a non-conflicting NED portfolio, predominantly in financial services. The former Chief Executive of Coventry Building Society is now Chairman of Enra Group, Chair of the Audit and Risk Committees of M&S Bank and HSBC Private Bank (UK), and Audit Chair at LSL Property Services PLC.

For executives considering taking on their first non-executive directorship, one of the key considerations is whether they can continue in their full time executive position and still fulfil both roles effectively, or retire from executive life before concentrating on developing their NED portfolio.

One argument put forward round the table at the Mayfair dinner was that some CEOs would rather have their executive team fully committed to their business. But others felt companies would benefit from their executives gaining NED experience, bringing an external perspective and additional insight into boardroom dynamics. This is especially true if the NED role is in a complementary or affiliated sector.

For the executive, combining their full-time position with a first NED role will also help the transition from day to day management of a business to life as a non-executive director, meaning they are well prepared for the next phase of their careers and are not stepping into the unknown.

Andrew Merrick, CFO & Regional Managing Partner at Irwin Mitchell LLP in Leeds and a non-executive director at Market Harborough Building Society, who attended the dinner, said: “Whilst I have found the time commitment of an NED role alongside a full on day job challenging, I do think it brings benefits to the day job if you are prepared to put the extra (weekend and evening) time in.

“Taking the time out of the day job to think about things from a non-executive perspective across a broad range of issues can cause you to think a little differently about your executive role. I also think the conscious recognition of the need to switch out of executive mode is useful in easing your way into a non-executive position.”

Bryce Glover, Executive Director at Echo Financial Services Ltd and also a non-executive director at Newcastle Building Society and Cygnet Properties & Leisure PLC, also believes the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

He said: “I have been fortunate in that one of my NED roles and my executive responsibilities are both in the financial services sector and I have found these two roles complementary. They provide a wider perspective on industry issues and, hopefully, allow me to make a tangible contribution for both employers.

“Of course, there are times when some flexibility is required but juggling priorities is something we all live with day to day and, for me, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. I am always learning and being allowed to run both roles in parallel is fulfilling and enjoyable. I wished I had taken the opportunity earlier in my career.”

Adrian Coles, former Director-General of the Building Societies Association, also attended the dinner. Now a non-executive director on the boards of the Financial Services Commission (of Gibraltar), Housing Securities Ltd, Progressive Building Society, Reclaim Fund Ltd and BSA Pension Trustees Ltd, and Chair of the Consumer Advisory Board at Fairer Finance, he said: “I was lucky enough to have a number of NED roles while a chief executive.

“There were two main benefits – it helped hugely in understanding how the NEDs in my own organisation saw their role, and what issues they faced as an NED. Secondly, the way I was given management information as an NED at other organisations gave me ideas on how I could improve the information flow to my own NEDs.

“Transparency is important; I required the explicit permission of my Chair to take any external appointment, and all appointments, and any fees earned, were fully itemised in my firm’s annual report.”

Other topics discussed at the dinner included the pros and cons of having a diverse NED portfolio and what makes a good headhunter.

Non-executive roles can range from sitting on a PLC board where board packs are refined and provide a quick dashboard view, to being an NED on a private equity backed or growth business where you need to ask more questions because all the required information isn’t always supplied.

Another consideration is that a non-executive position at a PLC can be remote, with a heavy governance focus, whereas NEDs may feel they can have a more open discussion and are making a greater contribution in a smaller business.

Adrian added: “I’ve served on the boards of a building society, co-operative societies, a housing association, charities, trade associations, regulators and ombudsmen, schools in both the private and public sectors, and private limited companies.

“I’ve come to realise that there is no perfect form of corporate governance; each has their advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, there are some common issues and cross pollination of ideas can be very helpful.”

Getting that first NED role can be difficult; this is where your relationship with a trusted executive search firm specialising in non-executive director recruitment will pay dividends.

Adrian outlined what he thought made a good headhunter: “Someone who has taken the trouble to meet you outside of the process of recruitment for a particular role, and therefore knows your strengths and weaknesses before putting you forward.

“Someone who is able to advise you on those strengths and weaknesses, and knows – better than you perhaps – what you might be suited to. Someone who stays in touch after you’ve been rejected for a role, and gives honest feedback. And someone from whom you can take broader advice on your executive and NED career development, rather than just piecemeal advice as particular roles come up.”

HW Global Talent Partner recruits Chair and NED positions for a number of leading financial services providers, as well as firms in the consumer, retail, technology, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy industries.

If you would like to discuss NED opportunities please contact Pascale Gara, who heads our Chair/NED Practice, at pascaleg@hwglobalpartner.com or +44 (0) 113 2432004.

 

How are FMCG leaders preparing for Brexit?

25th September 2018

By Stuart Richards

With difficulty is the simple answer. Because the only thing that appears certain at the moment about Brexit is that it is causing a great deal of uncertainty…across all industry sectors.

Speaking regularly as I do with commercial leaders in FMCG, it is the subject that is unsurprisingly raised every time we meet.

The actual Brexit deal (or no deal) the UK will end up with remains unclear with just six months to go. But key concerns about the impact on the bottom line centre on how restrictions on freedom of movement of both people and goods will affect supply chains, and how new import duties will alter the share of wallet.

Short term impact will include losses from currency fluctuation, and increased costs from arranging work visas (or whatever system replaces free movement of people) and changing packaging and labelling.

Longer term effects include delays in new product development and investment in UK factories, as companies wait for clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Industry areas such as farm to fork are already suffering negative effects. A survey published by the Food & Drink Federation found nearly a third of the EU workforce had left the UK within a year of the referendum while 47% of the remainder were considering joining them.

Earlier this month, in response to the impending staffing crisis, the Government announced a post-Brexit migrant farm workers’ visa scheme for up to 2,500 EU nationals for 2019 and 2020.

There is an expectation that the post-Brexit import duties could radically change consumer spending habits, with many likely to reduce expenditure on premium items which will become more expensive, as UK wage restraint continues.

These are not only restricted to ranges like high end skincare products; a recent report by the LSE found that food shortages and price rises could mean even dairy products we import from the EU like butter and speciality cheeses could become occasional luxuries, with milk products attracting tariffs of up to 74%.

In response, increased investment is being made in data analytics to make sure the right product is available to the right consumer at the right time. An example is the personalised online targeting of luxury items to those less likely to be impacted by price increases.

At the same time discussions are underway with retail partners about product placement on the shop floor, simplifying ranges and doubling down on the everyday essentials for the average consumer.

Unlocking further value from the supply chain is another key area being explored, with import duties and potential restrictions on the movement of goods leading firms to seek new UK based suppliers where feasible.

An executive at a global FMCG firm told me: “Brexit, like political turmoil, is not new for multinational FMCG giants as they face similar changes every year across the globe. However, the UK economy has always been a lucrative market for higher value per capita sales and Brexit will undoubtedly throw more caution in the spending power of the shopper.

“We need clarity on overall government policy and other rules to trade across the European region. For the UK to continue being the spearhead for business investment, any dynamic FMCG firm needs immediate clarity and stability on future government policy.”

With just over two months until the last European Council of 2018 – widely seen as the last possible date for an Article 50 divorce deal to be agreed – the clock is ticking. FMCG leaders needing certainty to plan a path to steady growth in a new post-Brexit economy wait in hope.

Stuart Richards is a Senior Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at stuartr@hwglobalpartner.com or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.

Former treasury executive encourages others considering an interim career to ‘go for it’

22nd June 2018

Growing numbers of executives are leaving permanent roles and moving into the fast growing professional interim management market.

The drive for digital transformation and customer experience programmes across the consumer, retail and financial services sectors is creating huge demand for interims to help steer companies both large and small through organisational change.

The sudden departure of a senior director or need for a highly specialised skill set which a business may not have in-house are also major driving forces for this burgeoning market.

For the client seeking the interim manager, their appointment is an effective way to achieve key business objectives and obtain highly specialised leadership skills at a crucial time.

For the interim candidate, attractions include the flexibility, remuneration and variety of roles they can add to their CV.

We spoke to highly experienced treasury and financial consultant Goi Ashmore, who has recently moved into interim management after a long and successful career in corporate risk and treasury in financial services, to find out what attracted him to consultancy.

 

Q. Tell us about your career to date

A. I’ve had quite a varied career function wise, starting off as an economist analysing country and corporate sector risk, before moving on to heading up risk management in the insurance world, covering the full spectrum from pricing to reserving and capital.

After a quick spell in front office, I was back in risk for Barclays retail bank, covering non-credit financial risks and their hedging and credit risk transfer. The last piece took me into treasury in Barclays, in the capital management area, before I became European Treasurer, covering the run-off European retail businesses, the wealth management business and corporate owned branches.

My last role there was helping out on Brexit arrangements. I’ve developed some charity and other third sector interests that I’m closely involved with and enjoy enormously. I sit on the board of Cadarn Housing Group and chair their Audit and Risk Committee and I’m a trustee of Shelter and chair their Audit Risk and Finance Committee.

 

Q. When did you move into interim – and why?

A. I’ve very recently moved into interim as a result of the year end restructure at Barclays and this is my first interim role, working within the Group Finance area of a financial services client with colleagues in the Treasury and FP&A space.

I’m looking at it on a ‘testing the waters’ basis to see if it could work for me longer term, but so far I am enjoying it. I find working in a new organisation and on a specific and important project very refreshing and invigorating. Personally I like being dropped in at the deep end and being able to get on with things and making an impact quickly.

 

Q. What do you particularly enjoy about life as an interim compared with a permanent role?

A. It is a bit early to say and I’m still grappling with complexities of running as a contracting business. I think it is going to vary, assignment to assignment, because of the differences in organisation.

But I would say being able to work in a style that suits me and being able to cut through hierarchies much more quickly can really reduce the frustration which I think is common in larger organisations.

Also because the interim is clearly a scarce resource, there is a much greater willingness of people to engage and to help with what needs to be done, so you feel your effectiveness can really ramp up.

 

Q. What advice you would give an executive considering moving into interim?

A. I would say if you are considering it, then go for it. Initially I found I was nervous about how it would work out, but if someone has asked for an interim there is a genuine organisational need for it and people are more helpful than I’d imagined.

I would also say, get your company set up in advance, because it’s so difficult getting a company phone. I’m serious! Setting up a company was really quick, a bank account a little more difficult, but a phone or transferring a phone…well, I still haven’t got one eight weeks in!

 

Are you thinking about moving into interim management?

HW Interim provides experienced and talented interim and change management executives to PLCs, private companies, SMEs and private equity backed organisations both in the UK and overseas.

The key sectors we work in include Retail, Consumer and Financial Services, and the wide range of recent assignments we have completed have included interim CFO, FD, CTO, CMO, Supply Chain/Ops Director and Head of Risk.

Working alongside our executive search business with a team of dedicated and experienced researchers, we can turn round a shortlist of professional interim managers for a client within three working days who can typically be placed within two weeks. Completion rates are well over 90 per cent.

But given such client demand we are always looking for new talented candidates. If you have board level director experience in financial services or private equity in finance, transformation or treasury, and are mobile, flexible, and are looking for varied roles – get in touch.

We are holding an advice workshop in July in Leeds for both existing interim managers and executives considering moving into interim – contact us to book your place if you would like to attend.

If you would like to discuss interim opportunities contact John Wakeford, MD of HW Interim, via his LinkedIn page, by emailing johnw@hwglobalpartner.com or by calling him on +44 (0) 113 243 2004 for an informal discussion.