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Banking wisdom: flexibility is important in a fast-changing world

24 May 2016

The article at a glance

Senior roles at Citigroup, the Bank of England and now Standard Chartered Bank has taught Chris Daniels the importance of an open …

Senior roles at Citigroup, the Bank of England and now Standard Chartered Bank has taught Chris Daniels the importance of an open mind.

the fast-paced City of London and Bank of England

Chris Daniels
Chris Daniels

It’s really important to be flexible. I initially studied medicine, then became a lawyer and then went into banking, and I’m glad I had all those experiences. When the financial crisis hit in 2007-2008, the banking business shrank and changed dramatically. I had always believed in very little regulation, and with the financial crisis my whole world changed, and I realised I had been naïve. It’s important to be able to change your mind. Before the crisis, private-sector institutions were not making the right decisions on their own – and that was partially due to financial incentives encouraging short-termism. Yet we’re possibly now getting to the stage where regulation has gone so far in the other direction that I’m concerned the whole system is getting clogged up.

An important aspect of building a team is to give people the room to grow. There are many ongoing pressures in the workplace around budgets and workflow, but it’s also important to step back and think of individual career development within a team. Often, managers want to keep really good people close to them and part of the organisation, which may or may not be the best decision for the individual.

The key to motivation is making sure that people believe they’re doing something for the right reason. It’s really important that people believe that their work actually counts and they understand the reasons for doing something.

Recent graduates should take the opportunity to work across sectors. Once a person settles into work they tend to narrow down to a specific sector or duties with little cross-fertilisation, but when you get out of school it’s different so it’s the right time to try various things.

The private and public sectors really are different. When I was at the Bank of England, the Bank had recently gained the power to deal with failing banks, which is a very sensitive area. It opened my eyes to the fact that in the private sector the goals are very clear, but often much less clear in the public sector.

My advice for balancing work and private life is to do something where it’s impossible to think about work. I ride horses, including cross-country in which you approach jumps at literally breakneck speed – so that’s not exactly the time to be worrying about issues like regulatory capital requirements. It’s great in that situation not to be able to think about work at all.

The right way to challenge authority is to say: “I’m on your side, but…” It’s important to show fundamental support of the person and the system, and to show that you’re offering help in order to do something in a better way. Generally the wrong way of doing it is very publicly – at a meeting attended by many people, by email with a lot of people “cc”d, or in the press.

Messaging needs to be very clear in a globalised culture. Standard Chartered has over 80,000 people in 1,700 offices in 80 countries, and for many people English is not their first language. So I’ve learned that you can never over-communicate, and to make messages easily understood across cultures.

Chris Daniels is Global Head of Capital Management in the Group Treasury department of Standard Chartered Bank, a global banking group listed on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges. He was previously Senior Manager in the Special Resolution Unit at the Bank of England, and Director, UK Investment Banking at Citigroup in London and Hong Kong. He spoke to a dinner for Cambridge Judge Business School Executive MBA students held on 6 May at Downing College, Cambridge. Learn more about the Cambridge Executive MBA


banking Chris Daniels Executive MBA finance leadership Standard Chartered Bank