Carlyle Executive Interview Series – Graeme Jones, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Graeme Jones, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise
Graeme Jones, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise

The Scottish Financial Enterprise Annual Dinner will be held in Glasgow on Thursday 25th October, where the winners of the Scottish Financial Services Award and the Rising Star Award will be announced. The dinner is a key date in the Scottish business calendar attracting 600 senior figures from across the industry, associated business services and government. Read about the finalists on sfe.org.uk

As part of Carlyle’s series of Executive Interviews and Industry Spotlights, Duggie Carlyle (Partner, Carlyle) met with Graeme Jones (Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise) to discuss the role of SFE in the industry, the evolution of Fintech, and the future outlook for Financial Services in Scotland.

What do you consider SFE’s role to be in the industry?

“SFE’s role has always been to provide an authoritative and respected voice for Financial Services in Scotland. We also play a lead role in driving strategic initiatives aimed at the promotion and growth of the industry, as well as positively influencing government, regulators and policymakers in Scotland, Westminster and Brussels to ensure an internationally competitive business environment for our members.

We’ve been supporting Scottish Financial Services for 32 years and our work is all about linking industry with the right partners to enable it to thrive, whether that be academia, government or out-of-sector organisations.

As the representative body for Scottish Financial Services, we consider ourselves output focussed and business driven. We are here to serve the best interests of our members on both a national and international stage.”

You took up the post of Chief Executive of SFE in 2016; how would you reflect on your time in the role and what progress would you highlight?

“I’ve been in the industry for over 43 years and was delighted to join SFE as Chief Executive. It’s a fantastic role that is highly diverse and my favourite part of the job is that no two days are the same. Over the last couple of years, SFE has played a lead role in delivering some major strategic initiatives for the sector. Some I would particularly highlight include: the development and rollout of a new five-year strategy for Scottish Financial Services; the creation of Fintech Scotland, which was established in conjunction with Scottish Government, the University of Edinburgh and SFE members; and the upcoming launch of our new initiative to promote our industry to the world. We have collaborated with Scottish Enterprise / Scottish Development International to showcase Scotland’s expertise in Financial Services alongside our quality of life, ground-breaking innovation and access to skills and talent. The result is a dynamic document that brings our story to life and has the backing of SFE members and both Governments.

We also ran our first Scottish Universities Business Challenge – Spotlight on Financial Services – at the University of Edinburgh Business School this April, which saw over 40 students from 10 universities come together and work with SFE members and SFE Young Professionals to create solutions to real-world industry challenges in just one day. This event was a huge success and something we are excited to repeat.

Finally, SFE Young Professionals are going from strength to strength and now has over 300 members. The network’s inaugural Annual Reception at the Scottish Parliament this year was a highlight, with over 100 young professionals, the First Minister, Ministers, MSPs and industry leaders attending. The network also held a successful Summer Series focused on Business Exchange, which saw young professionals share their own career journeys and experiences.

SFE was one of the key drivers in the creation of Fintech Scotland. Can you tell us how this came about and what you consider to be the future of Fintech in Scotland?

“In 2015, the question was raised by the Financial Services Advisory Board, which is co-chaired by the First Minister and the SFE Chairman and attended by senior leaders from the industry, as to whether Scotland was doing enough to maximise the opportunity posed by Fintech. When Louise Smith [Head of Digitisation, Personal and Business Banking, RBS and an HMT Fintech Envoy for Scotland] and I really dug down into this question, the answer was “no”. We were sitting on a treasure trove of potential and there were some incredibly innovative fintech companies based here in Scotland, but there was a lack of knowledge, understanding and collaboration across the wider sector. We found ourselves in a situation where some members didn’t even know we had a fintech community, including some of the people in it, and we knew we had to do something to change this.

We set up a FinTech Steering Group made up of SFE members, universities and other key stakeholders to investigate how we could maximise our fintech potential. Eventually, the work we were doing gained such momentum that it needed dedicated, full-time resource, and thus FinTech Scotland was created. Stephen Ingledew was appointed CEO in January this year and the team have got off to a fantastic start with a strategic plan to put Scotland on the map and secure a top five ranking in the Global Fintech Hub Federation by 2020.

Scotland has the ecosystem, ability and desire to be a global fintech hub; not only do we have incredibly innovative start-up and scaling businesses, we also have huge success stories in companies such as FNZ and Nucleus, as well as an increasing number of big corporates such as J.P.Morganand Royal Bank of Scotland basing their technology and innovation centres here in Scotland.

One of Fintech Scotland’s roles is to ensure we are effectively marketing Scotland as an attractive base for fintech companies from across the world. And it’s working – with inquiries coming in from California, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. We have a lot to shout about and we should be proudly promoting Scotland as a place to live, work and invest.

Talent is one of the key topics currently being discussed across the sector. How do you think we can attract and retain talent within Financial Services and within Scotland as a whole?

Scotland has globally acclaimed universities and a highly-skilled workforce; it’s one of the reasons we are so attractive to a wide variety of organisations, from established international players to scaling SMEs. We’re also blessed to have world-class businesses headquartered and based across Scotland and a 300-year legacy as a global centre of excellence for Financial Services. There is huge demand for talent at all levels, especially in emerging skill sets, in order to keep driving the sector forward. We were delighted to see job growth outpacing London last year, with 10,000 new jobs taking the total number of people working in Financial and Professional related services to 161,000 across Scotland. This is great for our industry and Scotland as a whole.

As more international businesses such as Barclays and HSBC establish significant presence in Scotland, we are approaching a critical mass of excellence and innovation across our ecosystem. If you look at leadership for example, as an industry we’re benefiting both from our own talent choosing to stay and develop their careers in Scotland and from talent migration from across the world. This diversity of skills and experience improves leadership capability across the sector, and terrific leaders pull everyone up with them. The opportunity for career progression and development is huge.

Scotland also has an environment that is incredibly supportive of talent growth. Historically, we have very high levels of retention within the industry. We are also extremely resilient and absorb shock well, which provides stability and opportunity for both businesses and individuals. Quality of life is also a major factor: commutes between our key cities are comparatively short compared to the rest of the UK; the cost of living and housing is more competitive; and we have access to excellent educational establishments. When you consider all of these aspects together, we have a very attractive proposition for living and working in Scotland.

What other challenges do you think that the industry faces and how can organisations tackle these? Are there any opportunities we should be capitalising on?

The big issue we’re all facing across the economy is Brexit, so that is something we are devoting significant resource into understanding in terms of the potential impact on our members. We are in regular consultation with both the UK and Scottish Governments in order to ensure we’re providing the best possible guidance for organisations in our network.

Financial Services is intrinsically international, and the ability to retain and attract talent is a primary concern for Financial Services companies of all sizes in Scotland. A pipeline of talent from both home and abroad is essential to support the current high-growth period, which is being driven by inward investment and strong organic growth. We need to think about how we continue to encourage talented people and businesses to base themselves here. We also need to consider how we best retain the talent that we already have in the industry.

We are also looking at the potential effects of Brexit on other industries and on the wider economy, all of which will impact Financial Services. As a country we need a strong economy which is growing, so the question is how do we as an industry help the wider business ecosystem in Scotland?

Finally, what are SFE’s ambitions for the sector over the next three to five years and how can the industry contribute to ensuring the continued success of Scottish Financial Services on a global stage?

“First of all, we have to deliver our five-year strategy. We’ve had quite significant growth in our membership to reflect a more diverse cross-section of Financial Services in Scotland and other associated organisations across the UK. So now, alongside more traditional banks and Financial Services providers such as Insurance and Asset Management firms, we also have large data providers, fintechs, international banks and other significant organisations such as the City of London Corporation as members. As a result, we need to evolve and to look at what forums, event programmes and strategic initiatives we should be leading in order to best serve the interests of this broader membership. Our aim is to act as a true partner to industry. To achieve this, we’ve got to keep an open mind in how we develop our services and, most importantly, we have to continue being highly visible and accessible to our members so we have a constant flow of conversation and debate.  

One of our biggest strengths is that our members are highly mobilised and engaged: this enables us to act as a powerful voice for the industry. We have a fantastic ecosystem in Scotland and people genuinely want to be involved in collaborating for success. I believe this is one the key reasons we are really starting to see the investment that Scotland has made in promoting and investing in its Financial Services sector paying off, and this is what we want to see continue and accelerate.”

A Carlyle Perspective

The Financial Services sector is an essential part of the Scottish business ecosystem: Scotland has a distinguished history as a leading centre for Pensions, Investment, Banking, Asset Management and Professional Services. Alongside the success of our national brands, the continued positive growth in the scale of Fintech businesses, combined with the increasing number of global organisations choosing to establish significant operations in Scotland, is indicative of the prominence of Scotland as an internationally recognised Financial Services hub.

As a result of this growth, the talent requirements of the sector are evolving rapidly. As one example, we are seeing a substantial rise in the demand for senior interim executives who can quickly enter a business and make a tangible impact, whether that be in large scale change / transformation projects or through helping fintechs architect effective structures and processes. Financial Services organisations are also increasingly looking out of sector for the skill sets and innovative mindsets required to adapt and succeed. This has meant a more diverse flow of talent, permanent and interim, into Financial Services, especially from Gambling, Utilities, and other sectors known for technological and consumer innovation.

These changing requirements, and the opportunities inherent within them, further emphasise the fact that part of our focus as wider business community should be on promoting Scotland as a place to invest, work and live. Collaboration is a central component for our future success in this regard. In a global market which is shifting at unprecedented speed, effectively harnessing the high levels of collaboration within this country will be essential for ensuring that we continue to lead the way in the evolution of Financial Services on an international stage.

About Graeme Jones MA ACII – SFE Chief Executive

Graeme Jones was appointed as Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) in January 2016.

Graeme’s role focuses strongly on working across the SFE membership to understand the industry’s diverse needs and external influences which shape the choices of its customers.  Working with the membership, other industry bodies and partners, Graeme represents the needs and views of the industry to governments and regulators in Scotland, London and Brussels.

Before joining SFE, Graeme held a number of senior posts in some of the UK’s largest Financial Services organisations. His most recent post was Senior Partner – Banking and Financial Services at Experian and prior to this he has held the posts of; Head of Distribution for Aviva, Head of Regulated Sales at RBS Group and Manager of Strategy and Operations at Standard Life.

Graeme is a graduate of Aberdeen University, an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute and a Chartered Insurer.

About Carlyle

Carlyle is an advisory Search firm which undertakes executive and non-executive mandates across the UK. In addition to permanent Search, Carlyle operate dedicated Interim and Board & Advisory practices, which focus on identifying and attracting the best non-permanent talent for senior, Board and advisory roles.

Carlyle’s heritage is based in delivering Board and senior mandates within Financial Services organisations, from international banking institutions to fast growth technology start-ups and SMEs. We have worked extensively within Retail Banks, Challenger Banks, Life & Pensions and Investment / Wealth Management on a broad range of senior permanent and interim assignments, including Chair, CISO. CFO, CMO, Risk, Audit, Product and Digital & Technology.

About SFE

Scottish Financial Enterprise is the representative body for Scotland's Financial Services industry, with members ranging from global companies headquartered in Scotland to small, locally-based support businesses.

For more information on SFE go to sfe.org.uk, follow the SFE LinkedIn page and Twitter @ScotFinEnt.


This post is supported by Carlyle.