‘There aren't many people in this business that act like me,’ says Ian Rand, the boss of Barclays Business Banking.
This might sound like the kind of bravado you'd hear on The Apprentice but Rand makes the claim without a hint of arrogrance.
It's 8am and he's sitting in a corner meeting room on the 30th floor of Barclays' Churchill Street HQ. In between conversations about leadership, the future of business banking and diversity, the 48-year-old talks about his experiences racing, breaking and repairing high-performance sailing dinghies near his north Norfolk home.
‘I think there's a perception of what a London-based, head-office banker looks and sounds like,' he says. 'I'm white, male and middle-aged, but I try not conform to some of the other assumptions.'
Rand describes his background as 'very unusual'. He studied engineering at Bristol University but, midway through his first year, he realised that he’d made a 'horrible mistake'. In search of something completely different, he decided to joined the army. After graduating from Sandhurst in 1989, he served with the British Army for 11 'fantastic' years, which included returning to university to complete a course in information systems.
He then decided to pivot into banking. Having spoken to friends who had made a similar transition, he put some feelers out and started interviewing, eventually joining JP Morgan in 2000, shortly before the merger with Chase Bank. Rand says the timing was fortunate as it allowed him to completely immerse himself in his new career. ‘When two big organisations merge like that there's a lot of change and you can effectively reinvent yourself.’
He left JP Morgan in 2008, although he insists it had nothing to do with the financial crisis. ‘It was the most gloriously timed gardening leave ever,’ he jokes.
Rand says he was guided to Barclays by the prospect of being able to work in the interests of UK businesses, and joined the corporate bank as COO for coverage in 2008. He then became the COO for corporate banking in 2014, before being promoted to business banking CEO in 2016.
The Agent of Change
Rand is commited to improving diversity and inclusion in banking, chairing Barclays' diversity and inclusion council and sponsoring leadership learning pods - moves that led to him being named a 2018 Agent of Change.
‘When I first moved to banking, I regarded myself as a good leader but I fundamentally didn't have the right tools to deal with some of the situations I found myself in,’ he admits.
During his first few months as a manager at JP Morgan, for example, a male colleague came to ask for his advice on coming out at work. ‘I didn't know what he meant. I certainly didn't know what I was supposed to do.’
A similar situation arose when a female colleague came to tell him that she needed to organise maternity leave.
‘I’d spent nearly 12 years in a white, straight, male environment. The military spends a lot of time talking to you about leadership, but it doesn't teach you about leadership in diversity - certainly not in my day.’
‘I had to learn how to have those conversations,’ continues Rand. ‘I quickly realised that there were a lot of white, middle-aged, straight managers who were also on that journey. They were scared to talk about it. But I wasn't.’
Barclays UK has a gap of 14.2% for median hourly pay, and men are paid nearly 50% more than women when it comes to bonuses.
Rand says an over-focus on the gender pay gap can be negative. He points to the thousands of Barclays employees that work within the so-called 'lower positions' - within high-street branches and call centres, for example - in successful, stable careers that fit flexibly around their family lives.
‘We've got to be careful not to make it sound like there is something wrong with what we've done there,’ says Rand. ‘So while I desperately want to close that gender pay gap, I don't want to make it sound like we've got too many women at the bottom. The problem is having too few women at the top.’
In Rand's shoes
So what's it like being in Rand's shoes? ‘It can feel slightly schizophrenic,' he says, talking about how he has to ‘change modes’ several times a day, switching from a meeting with regulators one hour to meeting clients the next. ‘I’m sure that's true for many senior leaders. But when I took on this role, that's the thing I noticed the most.’
It's a full-on job but Rand takes it in his stride. ‘If your job gets you to the point where, come the weekend, you've really got to decompress, you should think about how you're doing your job.’
He is unfazed by new open banking regulations will see the ‘bigger’ banks lose their advantage of having sole access to customers' financial data. 'It's really exciting for me that I'm going to be able to lend money to customers of other banks.’
He's equally relaxed about the rise of alternative finance, claiming that Barclays is 'way ahead’ of fintech lenders. 'Clients need more than just instant access to funds. If they want to call us, or walk into a branch, there will be somebody there who can talk to them and provide the guidance,' he says.
'We don't want to reduce banking to just clicking, accessing money and making payments.'
Getting advice: Leadership is hard but we don't often admit that or say it enough. You can watch all the YouTube videos you like, but the best thing is when someone comes up to you and says 'that was good' or 'that could be better'. Go and find somebody that is the exact opposite of you and get them to give you feedback on your leadership style.
Developing a style: Over the past 16 years in banking, I've stood behind - and to the right - of leaders of every shape, size and style. I've learned what works and what doesn't work.
Creating an open culture: I might have had the best day at work but if one of my colleagues isn't happy to walk up to their manager and say, 'I need to take tomorrow afternoon off because my mum is sick', then I haven't done a damn thing.
Image credits: Barclays