Lord Davies: Some chairmen are prehistoric monsters

You live and you learn: Lord Davies, city grandee and diversity champion, on encountering stubborn chairmen, making the move into politics and why the UK should stay in the EU.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

When I started the review into women on boards, some of the chairmen I met were prehistoric monsters. When you're five foot five from Abersoch and bald, you're not necessarily going to make the biggest impact. But there has been a transformation within companies. Two years ago, 20% of the FTSE 100 had never had a woman executive; now we're at 5%. The challenge is to get more women into the pipeline.

Becoming a trade minister was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I was out of my comfort zone, but I loved it. Living in Singapore and Hong Kong was also one of the best things I've done. In fact, I wish I'd gone straight from university. Asia has great opportunities.

Welsh was my first language - I never used to speak much English. I came from a very close family with strong values. My father was a banker and my mother was an entrepreneur. We were a seafaring family so it was no surprise that many years later I went overseas.

I love working. I've tried to do lots of different things. I was CEO and later chairman of Standard Chartered. I also ran the Asian youth orchestra, I was on the board of Spurs football club and I'm now the vice-chairman of Corsair Capital and chair the Royal Academy.

The mood of politicians is increasingly anti-business. That's got to stop. The UK needs to support business because that's how you create jobs. We need more people with business experience in the Government - many politicians have never run a company.

Horrendous mistakes have been made by banks. But we should never forget that the crisis started in America. It's very important that we draw a line under it, as we need a thriving financial services sector. We also must stay in Europe, which accounts for more than 50% of our trade.

I'm 60 years old and I expect to work for another 15 years. I wouldn't want to become a chairman of a big company again because so many boards now focus on governance and caution. That's not me. I've taken enormous risks in my career - you need to speculate to accumulate.

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