Being a NED in Financial Services | February 10, 2015

I am delighted to announce our next WACL NED event that is happening on Tuesday the 10th of February 2015 at 12:15 until 14:00 and will held at the Deloitte Academy that is located on  Stonecutter Court, 1 Stonecutter Street, London, EC4A 4TR (closest Tube station is Chancery Lane).

The Theme of the talk will be ‘ To be a NED in Financial Service’ ( but not coming from a Financial Services Background)

The speakers for this event will be our very own Margaret Johnson OBE and Penny Hughes CBE.

Speaker Biographies

Margaret Johnson OBE

Group CEO Leagas Delaney

Margaret Johnson is the Group CEO of the international advertising agency Leagas Delaney. She has been with the agency for the past 12 years starting her career as the Head of Strategic Planning.

The agency provides advertising, digital and design services in London, Hamburg, Milan and Prague and counts among its global clients InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Patek Philippe luxury watches, and Timberland clothing and footwear.

Margaret was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Admiral Group, a FTS100 car insurance company, in 2006. She sits on the Audit and Remuneration Committees

Penny Hughes CBE

Penny Hughes joined The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc Board as a Non-executive Director in January 2010. In June 2014, Penny became Chair of the Sustainable Banking Committee, having previously been the Chair of the Group Performance and Remuneration Committee. She is also a Non-executive Director of WM Morrisons Supermarkets plc and a Trustee of the British Museum.

She received a CBE for services to the media in the Queens Birthday Honours list in June 2011.

Penny’s former non-executive directorships include Cable & Wireless Worldwide plc, Home Retail Group plc, Gap Inc, Vodafone plc, Reuters plc, and Skandinavixka Enskilda Banken AB (“SEB”). She is also former president of the Advertising Association.

Penny spent the majority of her executive career at Coca-Cola where she held a number of leadership positions during the merger of Coca-Cola and Schweppes in the UK. In 1992 she was appointed as President, Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

Key insights from this session

Penny’s Perspective

  • If you are from a marketing background you are always a marketer, eyes from the outside, seeing through the eyes of the customer, same skills applied in different ways in the boardroom. Customer voice very important, it isn’t that well represented at the board.
  • Twenty years ago they (NEDS) were nothing like as professional as they are now. Got her first roles because of people she knew through business e.g. Anita Roddick and David Montgomery at Trinity Mirror who was a big client. Early on it was whom you know, over time the role has changed and developed.
  • There is change around the way NEDs are recruited, what skills can we offer the exec how to complement the other skills, the chair asks ‘what kind of experience do we want?’
  • Many industries, not just FS, are regulated important to get above and beyond compliance. Regulator was asleep now over active it’s the world we live in.
  • FS one of the most important markets but the one that is undifferentiated commoditised, skills we marketers bring add value because of this.
  • Do the basics: prepare yourself to be a NED – the CV, the network, the courses.
  • Be patient and make it fit you are signing up to 6-9 years of your life
  • It is serious work thousands of people rely on decisions taken at the board table these shape the company. Committee work becomes more important as time goes by.


  • Is from a planning background and is a NED on a FTSE 100 company hopes this inspires others fro similar background to see its possible.
  • Naivety and serendipity helped didn’t really even know what a NED did when approached re Admiral. She spoke with other NEDs who explained what they did and why they enjoyed it.
  • She didn’t want to go to interview because she didn’t like their advertising and thought wanted to see what it’s like to interview.
  • Spent quite a bit of time to get to know the board had dinner with Chairman and NEDS. Wanted to know about the culture
  • When she joined it was not in FTSE 100, maverick under the radar to the governance etc. that being in FTSE 100 brings so great experience in the change as it moved into FTSE 100.
  • She had no financial background and being fearless when asked which committee to join she said audit. Of the sixteen people seen none else asked for audit. For Margaret she thought being in audit would be where to learn how a company works.
  • Her confidence first year was completely thrown, typical response “they’ll find me out, I know nothing” prepare for that, work through it.

FSA Exams, fear of these and other regulation issues specific to the financial services market:

Views expressed were…

  • If you don’t have any FS experience don’t think that this is the sector to take your first one, even bar is high in FS, lots don’t want to do it because of regulatory risks etc.
  • You need some FS experience to take it as your first.
  • If you really don’t like finance then there are probably other ones.
  • Be confident enough to read numbers and what they mean. For technical aspects e.g. tax treatment you don’t need nor are expected to know these however you can ask ‘show me the tax transparency’ ask quite basic questions if they can’t satisfy me then can’t make sense in the board report.

Relationships with Chair and the rest of the board:

  • You need enough of a relationship so that from the moment you see each other you can talk plain language, can’t be all getting to know each other preamble, start with the issues to maximise the time.
  • The board should support the exec until they fail, if they fail its too late so board environment needs to be challenging.
  • Camaraderie naturally builds up say through committees so you find out more about each other there.
  • Never set out to socialise with my Chairman, directors etc. they are on the Xmas card list but you are there to be independent.
  • Really understand the culture, the annual report tells you a lot in terms of tone of voice.
  • Not more meetings but have more reasons to get to know each other.

Time around the board table discussing marketing led issues? :

  • Always been involved in recruitment of any marketing director, becomes your executive buddy.
  • In some ways when marketing issues being discussed that’s my moment to be the quiet Independent Director – The friend in the boardroom, so you sit there quietly let the rest of the board engage
  • 80% energy around marketing away from the board, it really doesn’t come up at the board.
  • Use the right language, the right behaviours to support great consumer outcomes, use the board language to talk about customers
  • A credible non-executive, someone her who knows her stuff and speaks knowledgeably. First thing we need are good directors then we can call on them for other things.

Remuneration Committee

  • People and culture piece so fundamental for business that is what remuneration is about. Implant strategy what do you need to have in place in terms of the culture and the team, quant and quality. Its about strategy rather than pay.

Other thoughts:

  • Aim role is quite different you are more of a stakeholder.
  • Ask yourself for the time and effort does this satisfy my intellectual and financial needs?
  • Advisor to the board can be better than being a NED in smaller companies.
  • Be picky, can go on to lots of charity board many of which are badly run. For charity have one or two
  • Ask yourself five years from now what kinds of experience do you want to have had, what breadth of experience, FTSE 250?

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