“The Rise of Purpose” Nexus Dinner Series with Simonetta Rigo

February 28, 2020

The latest meeting of the Nexus Networking group was recently held in Edinburgh, hosted by Carlyle Managing Partner and Founding Member of Nexus, Carol-Ann Searles, with guest speaker Simonetta Rigo. Simonetta was the Chief Customer Officer at Tesco Bank and is a Non-Executive Director for Brewin Dolphin. A globally minded, customer focussed and results driven executive in banking and finance/ fin-tech industries, Simonetta has worked with several world class iconic, purpose led brands and helped them transform in the face of digital disruption, as well as with start-ups and scale-ups, supporting and accelerating their growth.  The event brought together female senior professionals and included a roundtable discussion on The Rise of Purpose – the notion of company or brand purpose has been progressively affirming itself in the corporate world in the last 20 years along with the business transformation imperative in the face of digital disruption.

Chief economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently suggested that Britain should make “legislative change” to shift corporate governance rules away from a sole focus on shareholders to instead consider consumers, workers and social goals[1]. A high-power player in the Financial Sector, Haldane went on to say that “the time is right for a refresh” of a capitalist model, particularly when it comes to corporate governance. These striking comments from the top of the Bank of England indicate a bold shift in focus when we consider the purpose of organisations that operate within financial services. The bottom line is not enough – the time has come to strive for greater purpose out with financial targets, looking towards ‘doing good’ instead.

World-renowned business school, INSEAD, hosted Unilever CEO Paul Polman for a keynote speech on” Right in Principle, Right in Practise” in 2018. During his speech Polman said, “I am here supporting INSEAD and applauding the school to simply do more because it is one of the institutions that can produce the leaders that the world needs. The best investment we can make is in our future leaders – and in people that are more purpose-driven, who think long-term, intergenerational, people that understand the values of working in partnership and have a high level of humanity and humility as global challenges are being tackled.” This quote highlights the awareness for the greater need of purpose in our organisations as we look to the future, and what the next generation of leaders will place their focus on within their roles. Speaking to students, Polman draws awareness to how crucial it is to pave the way for these up and coming professionals to achieve that great sense of purpose that current trends are highlighting as a top priority for progression to the senior level.

In Simonetta’s discussion on the matter, it was highlighted that purpose is a key point of interest for all stakeholders, including the customer and also current and future employees. Prospective candidates will use the degree of gravitas given to a company’s purpose as leverage in deciding where they wish to go in their career – with firms that hold a strong, clear and believable purpose the most attractive in obtaining and retaining the top talent on the market today.

In addition, the rise of purpose carries significant weight in internal engagement and morale. The takeaway quote by Simonetta from the dinner was that “clear purpose gives people their north star focus”; a line that resonates with many professionals at all levels who seek a purpose within their roles. Firms who drive home a strong purpose that stakeholders can comprehend and relate to will provide greater focus in their roles as they understand their ‘why’.

The challenge for senior leaders however, is to ensure that your purpose is believable. An article from Harvard Business Review in 2018 said “If your purpose is authentic, people know.”[2] It must align with all elements of your company’s culture and values and the nature of your industry. A simple buzzword approach isn’t enough to convince your employees of your proposed purpose. It must make sense.

Therefore, the baton is handed over to senior leaders to seek out their organisation’s purpose – if they don’t already have one – and to challenge their employees to believe and strive to achieve that purpose, for the greater outcome for all involve

[1] https://www.cityam.com/bank-of-englands-andy-haldane-calls-for-rethink-of-corporate-governance-laws/

[2] https://hbr.org/2018/07/creating-a-purpose-driven-organization

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