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Building a plural board career: how to network effectively, develop expertise spikes, overcome uncertainty and position yourself as a candidate, with Cathy Turner

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Cathy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

In recent years, Cathy has built a broad plural career at listed companies, with current NED positions at Lloyds Banking Group plc, Rentokil plc and Spectris plc. Tune in to her conversation with Nurole CEO Oliver Cummings to hear her thoughts on:

  • How did you get your first NED position? (1:50)
  • How did you turn that first position into a plural career? (7:55)
  • To what extent has your performance in current positions created more non-exec opportunities in the future? (11:28)
  • What have been the most challenging moments in building your non-exec career? (14:55)
  • Where do you go for support as a board member? (19:18)
  • Did you consciously develop a board expertise spike in remuneration? (21:30)
  • What are the different archetypes people can lean into to develop their board careers? (24:51)
  • ⚡The Lightning Round ⚡(28:55) and
  • (Audience question) How do you pitch yourself as a first-timer versus someone who has a portfolio of non-executive roles? (32:52

*This is an AI-generated transcript and contains inaccuracies*

Oliver Cummings: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to our first ever live recording of Enter the Boardroom with Neuroll, the business podcast that brings the boardroom to you. I'm your host, Oliver Cummings, CEO of Neuroll, the board search specialist and market leader, bringing science to the art of board hiring. I wanted to take a moment before we start to let you know about the Neuroll board community, Neuroll's new level of paid membership.

I'm often asked by people how to get their first board role and build a portfolio career. And that's why we started the community, which catalyzes your board career by giving you access to smart online networking, one to one career guidance with our headhunters, peer discussion threads, third party board roles, a finder mentor service, and Q and A's with senior board members.

We're running a limited offer of a two month free community trial for Enter the Boardroom listeners. Head to community. newroll. com and apply the code NBC to month. That's November [00:01:00] Bravo Charlie, numeric to Mike Oscar November Tango Hotel. Today I'm delighted to welcome Kathy Turner. Kathy is a non executive director at Lloyds Banking Group PLC.

Rent a Cool PLC and Spectrus PLC, and partner at Manchester Square Partners, a private partnership specializing in leadership, career management, and succession. She was formerly NED at Aldermore Group PLC, a challenger bank, Countrywide PLC, a property company, and Quilter PLC, a wealth manager. Before her plural career, Kathy held several executive committee level roles in banking over a 15 year period at Barclays PLC and Lloyds Banking Group PLC.

with particular specialism in HR, corporate affairs and government. Kathy, a huge welcome and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Cathy Turner: Thank you, Oliver. It's great to be here and with your listeners. 

Oliver Cummings: You took on your first non exec ball position at Countrywide PLC back in 2013, having left your role as Chief Administrative Officer at Lloyds [00:02:00] about six months before, having previously been the group HRD.

Now the first non executive role is usually the most difficult to get, so I'd be really interested to hear how you ended up taking on that first position at Countrywide. 

Cathy Turner: Okay, and thanks Oliver, and thanks for reminding me that that was back in 2013, and just how long I've been at this and how old I am now, but to your specific question, how did that come about, you're absolutely right.

It's probably the hardest to get that first position. Ned role. So, and I think you need a little bit of luck with it. So I got that one through classic headhunting. I got a phone call from a headhunter. Was I interested? Did I want to go for an interview? And because I haven't been a Ned and this was a live process, I said, of course I would.

I'd be lying if I said I thought deep and hard about whether I wanted. To participate in the estate agency sector and whether I had anything particular to offer to the estate agency, I'd be lying if I'd said that I'd stayed up at night dreaming of that. The reality [00:03:00] was it came in, it's an important sector, it's important in people's lives, and I went along for the interviews.

So it was a classic one. They just relisted countrywide had been public company. Uh, in 2008, it had been taken private by private equity for about four or five years and was just coming out and had just done an IPO. So my feeling was. Actually, if you're going to practice something, it's like most things in life, um, you want to, you want to do something that's small initially that you can get your arms around and you can almost practice in private and see if you're any good at the skills and hone them.

So I, I'd already decided having been in a great big PLC at Barclays that I really wanted to get close to private equity and get close to a smaller company where I could maybe make a bigger contribution and participation. So. So, um, I was really lucky. Went for an interview and, um, they gave me the job.

So that was the, uh, beginning of climbing the mountain of becoming an on exec director. 

Oliver Cummings: Funny enough, I remember back in my [00:04:00] investment days, CountryWide was one of the first businesses I looked at. So, uh, and it probably would have been not, not long before then. Was that the first board process you'd been involved with, or had you had sort of some experiences before that?

Cathy Turner: Yeah. And there's always a question. It can be a bit relentless, can't it? I see that when I, uh, work with clients at Manchester Square Partners, is that you try hard and just nothing comes round. It's a bit like the proverbial waiting for the buses. Um, and it is like the buses, so then nothing comes and then three of them arrive at once.

So, I, it was the first pro, formal process I went into. I dare say that I had failed to make many long lists. But of course you don't actually get any, um, you don't get any insight on that. So I'm sure I wasn't getting on lots of long lists at that stage, but I was lucky that once I did engage in a process, I managed to go, uh, uh, straight through to an appointment.

Um, and it is interesting, you learn, and I'm sure we'll come back to it, that the [00:05:00] interview process for NEDS, Ned roles is very different from exec and, and that's something to learn as well is, is what's the differences and how do you go about it? 

Oliver Cummings: Now talk, talk me through that. What do you remember of your experience going through that for the first time?

What were the things that jumped out at you? 

Cathy Turner: Well, I think what I hadn't worked out, um, Oliver, is that When you're an executive, and of course, many of us, when we go for our first NED role, our most recent experience, a lifelong experience, is actually doing interviews as an executive. And when you go in as an executive, you're, you're keen to demonstrate that you're competent, that you understand the issues, you've got tools, practices, insights, and experience to do them.

So when you go into a NED one, what I learned was you don't get in the room with the chair to have a conversation unless you've already been vetted. And therefore, you're not so much going in there because they're trying to work out can you do the role. You don't get in there unless they've [00:06:00] already largely established you can do the role.

What they're really interested in is how you might go about doing the role. And it sounds quite subtle, but it is a fundamental thing. difference in terms of how certainly I learned and thought about how to conduct myself during an interview. I don't even call it an interview, it's usually a discussion with a chair or a discussion with NEDs who are already on the board.

It's definitely wise to reflect on that if you're thinking about having a NED role and you're steeped in executive experience, more or less take all your executive experience of interviewing, park it, and then think afresh on what's going on in the boardroom and what chairs are looking for. 

Oliver Cummings: Let me just wind back a second to that headhunter gave you a call.

With that luck, had you prepared the ground fact, do you think, with the benefit of hindsight? How can someone listening to this maximise what I would call their luck surface area, the chances of them getting that call? 

Cathy Turner: Okay, you've obviously been a mathematician at some point [00:07:00] there to get your probabilities up.

So, there was an element of luck. And let me, for those that are maybe listeners that are out there and they're, they're trying at this and feeling a bit miserable about it, you do need to get a lucky break. So there was some luck, but what can you do that you can control that gets you probability up is develop a relationship With headhunters, make sure they know you, make sure they have your current CV, make sure that they know you're in the net market, make sure they can easily access what your particular spikes are, what would you bring to the table?

I didn't really spend long enough doing that if I'm, if I'm honest, but I was lucky because I'd been in some pretty big organizations. So by dint of those positions, I had some profile in the market. Not everybody's lucky enough to have that. So you do have to work and make sure you're on people's radars.

And I think that increases the probability game that you're talking about. 

Oliver Cummings: Interesting. I think you're essentially underselling yourself there. And I often think [00:08:00] people don't spend enough time on building that profile that really makes them stand out so that the headhunter comes to you rather than going to the headhunter.

If you're having to go to the headhunter and persuade them, it's a tall order. Whereas if they're coming to you, because you built up that profile, it's, I think, a much easier ask. So 10 years later, you've successfully built a portfolio of PLC Ned roles. Can you just talk me through the journey of how each of those roles came about?

Cathy Turner: Yeah, I will do. And I'll keep this brief because it's, there's nothing more boring than somebody telling you their life story, is it? And I think the, the critical message was in your first sentence there, Oliver, is 10 years later. My key message is don't embark on a poor career if you're not in it for the medium to long term because it is a field.

It doesn't, it doesn't matter how brilliant you are. Um, and I'm certainly not brilliant, but even if you're brilliant, it's not going to happen immediately. And it's good to get experience and just build gradually. So to your specifics, [00:09:00] I mean, we talked about countrywide, but Aldermore, That, that was a really interesting one.

And there was a lesson for me there is as well as getting, being known by the headhunters, make sure you get out and about in what I call the Ned village. People who knock about in the village where Ned appointments are happening and get out to some of the dinners. A lot of us don't like networking. I know a lot of my clients at MSP don't like networking.

You know, going, standing around with a glass of champagne, talking to people that you don't know, isn't very exciting for most of us. But actually a lot of organizations host small dinners that have really interesting topics and they're good for your own intellectual development, but they're brilliant for getting yourself on radar.

So Alderwall, I went along to one of the big headhunters to one of their dinners. And I think it was on digital activity in the government, which I think I nearly decided not to go and learned the government were a hell of a lot of civil service were a hell of a lot further [00:10:00] forward than some of the commercial organizations.

But there was a guy there who became my chair at Aldermore, a guy called Glyn Joe. I have to say, and Glyn wouldn't mind if he was listening and he's probably got better things to do than listen to me, is I didn't really chat to him or notice him. And then I got a call saying, um, from this headhunter saying, Oh, Glyn had just like to have a chat with you.

And I had a chat with him and he said, Oh, would you be interested to talk about joining the Aldermore board, which at that time was private equity owned and was getting ready to list. And of course I'd come in on the back end of the IPO with Countrywide. So that was a really good lesson to me is even those things that you do that you think, Oh, it's going to be tedious.

It's a dinner. I don't want to go. You never know who's in the audience. People are always watching you and you get opportunities that way. So good old Glynn then left Aldermore at one point and took on Quilter, um, as chair. And rang me up and said, oh, Kathy, yeah, you've done a fair bit in asset management.

You know, would you like to come over? And [00:11:00] all mutual's breaking up PLC and Pils going to IPO. Quite an interesting IPO outta all mutual, you know, would you come in? And I was like, oh, I've done enough of asset management, don't really want see that. He said, come and see the CEO, have a chat with the CEO. So anyway, I did and Glen gave me another opportunity, which which is good again, what you take away.

relationships and sponsorship, which is, is really important. And then, um, also 

Oliver Cummings: doing a really good job on that first board with him played a big role there as well, I suppose would be my other assumption. 

Cathy Turner: I'd like to think so. And it is, I mean, we'll probably talk about it all a bit later on, but brand and reputation is what carries you getting in is a bit of luck and doing the hard work that we talked about.

But once you're in the community. Everybody talks about everybody. Is anybody any good? That's why they know whether if you get in for an interview, they've already worked out that you can do the job. They know that [00:12:00] because they've spoken to people who work with you. So don't be naive about how, how this all works, irrespective of the tangible skills that you've developed over your career.

Everybody talks about everybody. So it's very important how you perform and having the self awareness. So yeah, I got on with Glyn and I'd like to think he thought I'd done a good job at and that was one of the reasons he wanted me around the table. But I had a quite difficult at the beginning of being an Ed because I really wanted to do a little bit outside financial services, even though my executive career in financial services.

I've done a lot in other sectors because I was 15 years in consultancy before taking a corporate job. And I came out into it on the, off the back of the financial crisis. So I went into the NED market in a period where chairs of non financial services companies weren't really very interested in people who had a banking experience because the brand of bankers was, was really bad.

So I [00:13:00] think you've got to be a realist is the other message I'd give listeners. I've worked out that even though I thought I might be able to contribute something to a non banking or FS board, actually chairs of those, why would they take the risk on somebody who'd been, you know, spent a significant bit of their executive career actually navigating the financial crisis?

So I think being a realist about what you can do and a realist about what might be the implications of your sector is good to think about. So all my first. Had largely been in financial services, but then I got another break, which I think comes from having you start to build a reputation up is I got a call from a headhunter classic route saying, would I speak to the chair of Spectres?

That was a breakthrough for me four or five years ago to actually get a call, which was about would you come on a board that isn't financial services? So I spoke to Mark Williamson, who is, is my chair there, and um, that gave me my first break into, [00:14:00] into non FS. Um, and that was all I think about reputation and getting known in the market.

And then it's quite exponential. Your comment about probability is it's hard to get into this pool, then you start to build your reputation. It's all about reputation. And then if it's working, it goes exponential. So the moving to Rentokil, that was another call. And then ultimately adding in after Renta Kill Lloyd's Banking Group in the last 12 months, um, was another one I think of reputation and sort of brings me back around to having a big bank in, in the portfolio.

I did say I've not, I wasn't planning on doing any more banking after I'd finished my nine years at Almore, so we'll probably talk about the persuasiveness of chairs. How's the Robin Hudenberg convinced me of actually on values and, and how important a chair is, but I, I, I surprised myself to be back in big banking if I'm absolutely honest, Oliver.

Oliver Cummings: What have been your most challenging moments in that portfolio journey? [00:15:00] 

Cathy Turner: If I think back to 2013, having nothing up front. So coming out of executive life to having nothing is pretty challenging because it doesn't matter how confident you are as an individual, you do ask yourself, usually at three o'clock in the morning, will anybody Ever employ me again, will anybody ever want me?

And I'm sure some of your listeners will have gone through that before their career took off and those that are anticipating, uh, taking on plural careers, you probably will have those moments. I I'm living proof that you get through them and. Somebody wants you. Uh, and you can do some things that can make you more attractive, but it is going to happen, but it can take six months.

It can take 12 months. So I think that coming out and having nothing, and there is a bit of a tip about what can people do to mitigate that risk. And we'll probably, maybe that's of interest, come back to it. And then probably the other challenging bit I've already touched on was, you know, [00:16:00] Financial services being so out of favor and, and it feels a very unfair world because I came out when Barclays had been seen to have had a good crisis.

We weren't, uh, we didn't need state money. We weren't nationalized, but it was before the Libor scandal hit. So when I came out, he said, you were at Barclays and you were a hero. You weren't, but you were said that, and then live war broke, and you were the devil, and actually you're neither a hero nor a devil, and that applies to most of us, so it can feel quite unfair because you get judged, you can be judged on a basis, it's nothing to do with yourself, it's to do with what's going on in the sector or public opinion, especially if you're a consumer brand and it gets lots of the press.

So that's quite challenging because that's a frustration. I was keen to do something non FS and there was no way I could fulfil against that. 


Oliver Cummings: you feel you've made any mistakes in the way that you've built your portfolio? 

Cathy Turner: That's a really good question. Of [00:17:00] course, I've made mistakes, but I don't think I've made mistakes in the way I've built the portfolio, because I'm very much a person of everything you do is an experience, whether it's good or bad.

So don't spend hours wringing your hands over, I could have done this, I could have done that. So my portfolio, I've loved every single Ned role I've had previously, and I've got at the moment. In my eyes, there is not a perfect portfolio. I like diversity. I like intellectual stimulation, so it's good to work across sectors.

So I don't think, and it sounds a bit arrogant, I apologize. I don't think I've made mistakes in building portfolios. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, and I haven't got some aspiration in my mind, which maybe says something about me having no ambition or whatever. Um, have I made mistakes in terms of, as you learn to become an Ed, Uh, not the big ones, but you know, have I, have I learned along the way on the basis of coming out of some board meetings with my head in my hands going, what the hell was I thinking when I contributed in that way, I've made loads of those [00:18:00] and I've given 

Oliver Cummings: me one, give me, give me the worst.


Cathy Turner: Oh, that's you're pushing me now. So I tell you what I learned up front. This was way, way back in countrywide is I have quite a strong view about one of our businesses. And that it shouldn't fit in the portfolio, quite a strong view. And I was quite vocal about it. And I think in technical terms, I was right.

I was proven to be right. But what happened is because I declared my position. I was marginalized in the sense that if anything came up about this business, it was all in a way, you're a bit Cathy. And I sort of got ignored. So I learned pretty, pretty quickly that your success is your ability to engage in discussion and influence where it's relevant.

And I had put myself in a position that I wasn't able to influence. So it didn't matter whether I was right or wrong, I'd marginalized myself. So that was. That was one [00:19:00] where, you know, you think you're passionate and eager to just sort of show that you've got some input, but actually that was, that was one example of sort of the wrong call and the wrong way.

So my thoughts and contribution sort of never got to the table and maybe they would have been useful. So that's one example. 

Oliver Cummings: We recently launched this online community for our members, which part of it is about that networking that you talked about. So we have these structured conversations where people can come and learn, but also connect and build their network, which is important for getting those roles as well as being able to add value as a board member.

The other thing that we've seen coming about is that, and this is what happens more in the mastermind events we do, is there's a massive support channel where lots of non execs. early in their portfolio, late in their portfolio, are wrestling with really difficult challenges. Where, where do you go to for your support channels as a board member?

Cathy Turner: Yeah, so multiple is a simple answer, uh, Oliver. So don't [00:20:00] ever forget if you're privileged enough to be on a board that you've got lots of capable people, your fellow board members. participate in lots of different environments and are, in my experience, is, is really good upstanding people that want to do the best.

So close to home, you've got a support channel of either on a bilateral or multilateral basis, speaking with, with the people around the table. I'm also looking at, you mentioned, kindly mentioned that my partner at Manchester Square Partners, me and my fellow partners, work with senior people, noodling and working through how they navigate their complex careers.

So I have the gift of my fellow MSD partners who can help me and I can talk to them. So that's a huge support. You also have advisors. So depending what you're trying to work on, you've got the formal advisors, whether it's the bank, you know, the bankers, the brokers, the IR advisors, the PR advisors. So it's obviously a limited set of issues if you reach out to them, but they're there to [00:21:00] help you on some areas that board directors need to work on.

And then closer to home, the person who's been my, both in executive career and, and NED career is my husband at home. And he's actually called Oliver. So, I have a huge bias to people called Oliver and my husband is absolutely one of those who I know cares about me enough to just tell me when I'm way, way off course.

So, so he's a valuable part of it as well. Excellent. Delighted to hear that. 

Oliver Cummings: A previous podcast guest, Shelly Yashinbo, talked about the importance of picking areas and skills to develop into a USP, and her board skill was audit. It looks to me like one of yours is remuneration committees, um, having been sort of chair at the Remco, at Countrywide, Spectris, Aldermore Quilter, and Rentakill.

Was this a conscious strategy? Absolutely. 

Cathy Turner: Yeah, it makes me a bit boring really, isn't it? So is Kathy Turner, Chair of Renco. I wouldn't say it was so much [00:22:00] conscious, it was the obvious strategy. And that's helpful, I think, in terms of certainly when I'm advising clients and they're thinking about a NED career, I always say you're probably brilliant at lots of things.

Because you're a good rounded commercial person, but what you really need to do is work out how you're going to be useful to the chair and the board. And there's two avenues of that. One is look at the sector, the industry and the particular business and what issues they face. Look at the composition of the board today and see what emphasis of skills and capabilities they've got.

Are there any gaps? And then work out what you can offer the chair, whether he or she can articulate to them, your board seems to be short of, or you seem to want X, Y, and Z. This is what I bring. And it's very helpful if you've got a spike in something that a chair needs to fulfill around his or her board.

There's a lot of just stuff that has to get done. [00:23:00] around boards and a chair needs to have people who can give him or her the right coverage. So my background having touched remuneration, actually when I was back in consultancy I was an advisor in remuneration and then I've always typically touched remuneration in my exec life, whether it's in HR or when I was head of investor relations, so I know how investors respond to remuneration.

I was a natural shoo in for remuneration. Not many people want to be the chair of remuneration committee. So it's a game, I'm an economist by heart, so it's demand and supply. If I've got a skill set and there isn't much supply, I've increased the probability that I might be vaguely useful to, to that chair.

So it was, it was conscious and it was obvious. And I love remuneration, so I quite like the fact that I can either be on the committee or chair the committee on each board. 

Oliver Cummings: That's interesting, I've always thought of Remco as a seat of power that people like to be part of. Okay, 

Cathy Turner: doesn't everybody think when they're on the outside that these [00:24:00] positions are ones of power?

I think, uh, I think they're more the other positions of pain most of the time. And certainly the Remco, because you're dealing with deeply personal matters that are very public, certainly for CEOs and CFOs, because it's in the public domain in a listed company, you know, this is about their life, it's about their Personal pay, if you're chair of Remco, you're between the chair and the CEO in terms of what's going to be paid and I'd like to think that you can set things up such that everybody's expectations are met and the business is performing well and there's good bonuses all around, but I'm afraid real world doesn't quite work like that.

So generally when you chat, people tend to say the seat I don't want to sit in is the Remco chair. It used to be the Audit chair, it's now the Remco chair. So, um, yeah, I've chosen, I'm a good economist, I've chosen something where there's scarcity of supply. 

Oliver Cummings: Reminds me of when I was a kid, I played goalkeeper because that was the position no one else wanted to play.

That's how I got into the top team. You must have seen lots [00:25:00] of different, I suppose, ways that people have gone about building their portfolio career. They're talked about, you know, specializing as an audit person. You've done it as a REMCO. When I tend to talk to people, I encourage them to think in terms of archetypes.

What sort of board member archetype are they? So you have, in my mind, you've got the CEO whisperer, someone who's been a CEO who can relate directly to the CEO. It's always helpful to have one or two of those on a board. You often have functional experts, someone who has deep expertise and talent or digital or, um.

Finance or investment, depending on the board's particular needs. You might have situational experts, sector experts, and often people will bridge across these different archetypes. What are the different archetypes that you've seen work well for people? That someone listening to this thinking about, OK, how, what sort of archetype am I going to fit into?

If I'm not going to go down your route of becoming the Remco chair or Shelley's route of becoming the audit chair, what other paths are there available to me that you've seen others successfully navigate? 

Cathy Turner: Okay, good. So one thing is [00:26:00] we're talking now about the spike. What is it specifically that you can, a chair can put a tick by and go, I don't need to worry about that.

But actually more important than that, ask yourself, how do you explain in a short narrative and confirm that you're a highly commercial broad based business person? So the spikes are good for doing tasks, but actually, You want a chair to feel that he or she has got somebody who can turn their hand across the full spectrum of business, because most of the time, unless you're in your subcommittees, you're not deep in audit or you're not deep in remuneration.

You're actually on across the broad thread of issues that face the business. So first and foremost, I'm saying that just so that any of your listeners. before they get into those functional or delivery spikes, they understand that having a conversation with the chair that convinces him or her that their broad base is number one.

And that's all about [00:27:00] how you have a conversation and how you interrogate and how much you know about the broader world. Then if you can say to a chair, actually, I've got real experience. I mean, you can't say I could be a chair of audit if you've never been. A practitioner in the finance area. So, so some of the, to be a risk chair, an audit chair, a Renco chair, it's hard.

If you've not got a background in it, it's huge risk for you and it's huge risk for the chair and these days there's a lot of specialists, but there are, there are, um, there are areas such as business responsibility. So CSR ethics, business responsibility, where those territories. They're not necessarily the experts that have grown up in those functions that are dominating them.

And a lot of boards now have a dedicated subcommittee to business responsibility. So those are areas where I think you can interrogate your own experience and passions and interests and say, Could I actually offer to chair one of those committees? And then you get [00:28:00] into, you've touched on it already, although somebody who's been a CEO is incredibly valuable on a board.

They've got the broad based experience, they know what the seat feels like. It's harder on tech and digital, particularly, I call it the D word, we all want the D word, but actually it's quite hard because tech moves so fast. If that's your spike, then I would be saying to somebody, how can we make sure so that you stay current, that you, you're not there just for a moment in time tech, because actually if the company, if the board's looking for moment in time tech, you might as well buy it in through advisory rather than, giving up a board space because the chair doesn't have many seats to cover all the things that he or she have to do.

So it's quite, it's quite tough for them to do that. But definitely for your listeners narrowing down, what can I specifically can I do? But most importantly on a broad base, can I tick the box on the broad base? I'm going to be valuable across the piece. 

Oliver Cummings: Cathy, time is flying by even faster with this being a live event which, uh, and I want to get [00:29:00] on to the questions because I can see lots of brilliant questions have come through, but before we do that, I just want to quickly do the lightning round with you where I say a short statement and ask you for a quick response if you're ready.

Cathy Turner: Okay, let's try it. 


Oliver Cummings: behaviour that irritates you most? 

Cathy Turner: Okay, it's the dominant nerd who won't shut up and tells the execs. what they should do. 

Oliver Cummings: Favorite quote and why? 

Cathy Turner: Okay, I'm gonna, I'm going to steal two here. All the people, all your listeners will be steeped in quotes on leadership and ambition, etc.

We'll take that as a given. My quote at the moment that I love is one about how you get content with life. So all the thing on well being and satisfaction when so many things around. So I heard this the other week, I think it was in a film I went to see is happiness. So happiness is continuing to desire what you already have.

I really like that. So that's my number one. Can I steal number two? Number two is from my lovely [00:30:00] father, who's no longer with us. Very wise man, but I was brought up in a fish and chip shop in the north of England, so good northern, northern lass. And he used to say to us as kids, if you expect nothing, you won't be disappointed.

And that's quite a good, that's quite a wise, wise words. Most significant professional 

Oliver Cummings: insight. 

Cathy Turner: Be humble enough to acknowledge that you don't know very much at all. 

Oliver Cummings: The worst professional advice you've ever received? 

Cathy Turner: I was told that in order to be a Ned, a good Ned and have a Ned career, I ought to hold out for a FTSE 100 board position on day one.

Bad advice. Not really. You don't need to do that. 

Oliver Cummings: What have you changed your mind on about boards over time? Okay, this is a good one. 

Cathy Turner: I think the biggest shift I've made, Oliver, is the discerning criteria should be about the values of that organization and the [00:31:00] people that you'd be working with. Much more important than the sector or the then current performance of the business.

Oliver Cummings: What are you invested in and why? 

Cathy Turner: Okay, so this is, I'm taking sort of what do I invest in financially. I'm a hugely conservative person. I, I think I just mentioned I was brought up in a chip shop and we didn't really have much money, so financial independence is key. So I'm quite conservative. I always buy.

One times my net fee in the shares of the company that I sit on. It's rarely compulsory for very sound reasons, but I always try and buy one times my fee. And then otherwise I just hate being in debt and I want to be financially self sufficient, which means I don't have a huge amount of imagination on the investment side.

Oliver Cummings: What's been the most difficult good interview question? 

Cathy Turner: Yeah, this is one I've used, actually. It's, uh, so if I was interviewing you now, Oliver, I'd say, I'd say to you, Tell me when you got a judgment wrong, and what did you [00:32:00] learn from that? 

Oliver Cummings: Terrifying. What three things should our listeners take away from this podcast if they take nothing else?

Cathy Turner: Okay, I thought you were going to answer the question first though. So 


Cathy Turner: three things. So being a nerd is not an end part of your career these days. I definitely think about it as a new and exciting chapter in your career. That's number one. The second takeaway is brand and reputation is everything. And the flip side of brand and reputation is spending enough time on your own self awareness.

And then the third thing I'd take away is to be successful as a Ned. My observation is that you need to be pretty low ego. You need to love helping other people to succeed, and you probably benefit with a sense of humor. And I think all of those are essential. 

Oliver Cummings: Fantastic, Cappy, and that's been absolutely brilliant.

We're going to go to the Q& A now, because I can see there are loads of questions that have been asked and [00:33:00] upvoted, which is really exciting to see, so thank you to the live audience for those. First up, um, from Jackie, uh, thank you for the webinar, very informative. How do you pitch yourself as a first timer?

Versus someone who has a portfolio of non executive roles. 

Cathy Turner: Okay, Jackie. Uh, thanks for that one. That's just hard. So if you are in a process and you might be down to the last two or three, and you're a first timer and there's others that have got. Some of that brand and reputation already as an ad, it's hard.

What I would say is if you're a first timer and you're ending up on a short list or down to the final few with people who've already got experience, you should take that as a success because you've actually got through the many hurdles already to be, to be in the final group. That means you're on the right track.

You are going to land one, but it's hard if you're competing for a position where people have already got brand and reputation. I think that's where what you can do is you can really work [00:34:00] on the narrative. You can really work on your analysis of what that board needs and why you are a particular good match and make sure you've honed that narrative to put your best foot forward.

Um, but it's quite a tough gig when that happens. 

Oliver Cummings: One of my experiences as a private equity investor is often actually those first time NEDs are some of the best because they're out to prove themselves. There's a little bit, I think there's a parallel with first time investment funds tend to outperform second, third, fourth time investment funds because often those experienced great in the good NEDs will, they've maxed capacity, they've been there, done the t shirt, they're not quite as hungry always, not always the case to prove themselves.

I wonder, do you think, I mean, how does someone pitch that sort of hunger without seeming naive, I suppose. 

Cathy Turner: Um, yeah, probably not to over pitch, but I think you've got a good point. What you sell is presumably, if you're a first time, Ned, you've been relatively recently in exec life. So what you can sell over, um, if you take me, you've mentioned kindly, Oliver, I've been at this for 10 years.

Well, one of the [00:35:00] biggest issues, if you've been at it 10 years is the How do you stay current? How do you really have your finger on the pulse of what are the issues that are facing businesses? So if you're the first time, Ned, and you come out of executive, then dial up in your narrative that what you bring is very recent experience of what the executives who you're trying to have oversight and encourage and support, you've actually been in their seat.

pretty recently, whereas somebody who's maybe been already got an established parole career will be that bit further away from having actually faced the issues that business face these days. So make a virtue out of freshness. recent experience and enthusiasm. It reminds me, 

Oliver Cummings: remember when we had a 32 year old get a board role on the board of a FTSE 250.

And I think when the chair first saw them coming through, they said a child has applied for this role. And I, Oh my gosh, you're joking. We've clearly got a safeguarding issue. We weren't a child, they were a 32 year old. And I think what that particular person [00:36:00] did was, you know, they brought a deep digital.

Background, but what was interesting and has played out over time. And I think they'd be one of the best board members on that particular board is that they brought a proximity to the stakeholders, both the customers and the employees, those of Asia, average age of that board is a sort of classic 65 type mark.

And suddenly here they were with 32 that just brought a completely different perspective, but Sean asked it in for you. I don't think they played up on it, but by the way they talked about digital and some of how they saw the world that came out, which I thought was really interesting. 

Cathy Turner: Yeah. Yeah. It really is.

Oliver Cummings: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Cathy. You've been absolutely brilliant. And I can see from the comments coming in, uh, the chat that people have really appreciated your enormous wisdom and generosity sharing that experience. So Kathy, thank you so much.

Cathy Turner: Thank you for inviting me. 

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Cathy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

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