Brainfood: John Windeler - If I had to start again...

If I wasn't involved in business, I'd like to have worked in education, as a teacher or administrator, helping to improve the education system.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I feel very strongly about the power of education to solve political and social problems. It's the only basis for equality.

I've really enjoyed everything I've done in finance. I started out working for a New York bank as a foreign-exchange trader. It was really exciting and invigorating - the sharp end of banking - but in 1981 they asked me to run the UK operation. The offer came out of the blue. It was a big decision, but my wife and I were delighted. I've been here ever since and have never regretted the move.

You have to take those risks. I spent 10 years in trading, taking hundreds of risks every day. There's risk in every important strategic decision, like deciding to focus on direct banking at Alliance & Leicester. But I enjoy risk and I enjoy managing through the challenge. You have to embrace it if you want to make an impact. In business, you're either a participant or a spectator. Some people are content with the spectator role. I'm not.

I thrive on the decision, the risk and the responsibility of making it work.

Business taught me to think hard about what you want to do and to avoid getting caught up in trends. I would strongly recommend others to follow their instincts, to do what really satisfies them, not what others do.

A 40-year marriage and several long-term careers tell me I'm right.

I've been on the board at Alliance & Leicester for 10 years, and moving on is a big decision, but an easy one. I'm not sure what I'll do, but it was time for something different. I've done far more than I'd ever hoped to do in banking, and at 62 I've still got enough time to do something else in another industry. It's a good time to make the change.

John Windeler recently stepped down as chairman of Alliance & Leicester.

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