Words .....that work

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Bankers Headline Need For Diverse Boards/City Women Gather

Posted on July 1, 2012 at 10:40 PM

It's going to be quite a week ahead around bankers. When I read the editorial comment in the thinking press, I get deluded into thinking moral indignation multiplied will mean change but- bankers don't read it, or if they do, they don't care. This is such an ingrown world it is hard to come to grips with it from outside.

At a delightful summer party in Kent last night they popped up again. A bond trader at Credit Agricole - despite knowing what I do for a living - was at pains to tell me that Barclays was setting the LIBOR rate in a way that did not benefit the bank....it was all the fault of Paul Tucker at the Bank of England, who was going to have to go....Bob 'won't go' Diamond was going to see to that...by bringing out the "BIG BAZOOKAS" next week. I was actually speechless (quite rare). All I can say now is - in the same ghastly language - Bring It On.

The traders being quoted in the emails from the regulator sound so very strange to the average person on the street that we assume they are anomalies - a minority in their sector. Everyone in that sector knows they are not. These are people who have changed language to fit morality : being "ruthless" is desirable, and might even aspire to look like Bruce Willis.

Moving on.......to women and boards. We clearly need better boards in the banking sector and more diversity on them, and that almost certainly means more women. So I take my hat off to the City Women's Network, which is doing a good job in bringing intelligent women together to empower them in their quest for recognition. (Let's face it, no matter how many 'voluntary codes' the headhunters sign to suck up to the government, they are not going to do it for you unless their clients make them do it).

So, last week at Bird and Bird LLP in Fetter Lane off Fleet Street in London, there was a buzz. The panel was well selected, clever, and diverse in experience. Margaret Young, an ex-investment banker, chaired the event but declined to talk about the "nightmarish aspects of being a non-executive director (NED" in which she is well-versed, having survived the financial debacle of Cattles plc. 

Dr Carol Bell, Noreen Doyle and Angie Risley as panellists shared anecdotes and insights - of which a few memorable ones here, mixed up among contributors (and with apologies to CWN and Bird & Bird for brevity/simplification)

If you want to be a NED - ideally you should have executive experience first. But also:

* make sure you go to conferences, chair panels, speak out, raise your profile

*you never know which of your experiences is going to come into play when the opportunity arises so NETWORK

*men tend to have sponsors, women have mentors - in large bureaucratic organisations you need both

*try and get the chairman of a plc as your sponsor

*avoid being on a Remco like the plague - and don't even think about it without financial literacy and a whole lot of homework, remembering you will never be compensated for all the hours you put in to do the job right

*it is very important to turn things down if the role doesn't feel right - don't get overexcited about being offered it (what we really don't need- this is my view - is for women to jump in where men won't tread out of some sort of gratitude, only to land flat on our faces because it's the job from hell in the plc with a multitude of problems...and i can think of at least two examples offhand)

*remember that every time someone comes onto a board it changes the dynamic, regardless of gender - a board is (or should be) a living moving thing

*on every board you are on you need at least one person you can call in a moment of need

*from the Chair of the event: it really is ok to ask the chairman how much time he spends on his job, before you accept one

*when you get there - make sure everything you ask and everything you say is well documented so that if the FSA comes calling, you have it all in black and white......not grey.

Still want to be a non-executive director ? Take a look at the City Women's Network. I have resisted joining any networks so far to maintain independence since launching this blog. But for what it's worth, I am both impressed and tempted.

Categories: Behaviour, Appointments, Representation