Clare Logie interviews Tanya Castell. Tanya is a sucessful senior business woman and holds a portfolio of non executive directorship and trustee roles; a non executive director of Newedge UK Financial Ltd (a major global multi-asset brokerage firm), Multrees Investor Services (a specialist provider of services for investment managers and family offices) and Scottish Canals (which owns and operates canals and other inland waterways in Scotland). She is also chair of Soirbheas, a community charity in the Highlands. She chairs the Risk Committee of Newedge UK and the Audit and Risk Committee of Scottish Canals.
Clare Logie We learned about your personal ‘board journey’ in the3rdi last year, Tanya; has your experience of a portfolio career matched your expectations to date?
Tanya Castell Overall, yes. I love the flexibility it affords me – the time to focus on things that I really enjoy. I’m still very driven and my portfolio provides an outlet for that, so it hasn’t changed that part of my character.
CL Did you want it to?
TC Well, I have a tendency to put myself under quite a bit of pressure – I have done that in the past at both UBS and HBOS and one thing past experience has taught me is to recognise when I am beginning to do that again. It’s not that I will ever work less, I mean, I always like to do what I do well and I can always think of more to do around every role that I take on, but I have learned not to push myself so hard. I don’t work fewer hours, but I am alert to taking on too much responsibility or anxiety that leads to extra stress. I love the intellectual challenge of working with different organisations and learning about them – though sometime it can feel a bit lonely.
CL In what way?
TC You are no longer really part of an organisation in the same way as when you’re in an executive role. You have to do difficult things, made tough decisions and stand up for what you think is the right thing. When your view is different from the initial proposal being presented, you have no idea initially whether the rest of the board will be supportive or not. It’s much easier to chat and consult within an organisation in an executive capacity, and to gain a sense of solidarity from that, but it’s different sitting on a board where your dialogue with fellow Non-executive directors (NEDs) to develop a consensus is often conducted by phone and you have to build relationships within the organisation whilst only engaging with the company fairly infrequently. I am often the only person with a risk management background and not everyone initially appreciates how valuable a good risk framework can be to in helping deliver a company’s strategy. You also need to validate information via a different route; I have learned to use my external network for advice and support in a way I never felt I had to do before.
CL Do you plan to expand that portfolio significantly further?
TC I want to make sure I do a good job and I think people underestimate the amount of time it takes to be a NED and to do it well and keep current with industry developments, etc. I want to take on one more major appointment and I would then fill any gaps with voluntary and project work.
CL What did you learn about the process of moving into NED roles in terms of how to promote yourself as a candidate? Did you have to change anything about yourself?
TC You need to be known. Networking is essential. I realised I had always been good at networking internally, but less good externally, in a strategic way, when I worked in a full-time executive role. I think perhaps men are generally better at doing that than are women. No one really tells you about the value of strategic networking and I now understand fully how essential it is. With a portfolio career, I no longer have the more operational focus on why I am meeting someone and recognise that it just may be a useful connection somewhere down the line, but that I can learn something from everyone I meet. I’ve certainly changed that about myself. I’ve also learned how important it is to influence effectively – to probe without being aggressive. I’m still at an early stage in my NED career and I’m learning all the time.
CL What single piece of advice would you give to other women who are looking to begin that journey to NED either now or in the future?
TC Get out there. Get known. Get people to advocate on your behalf. People have to be comfortable with you, with your ability and be willing to refer you. You have to be known.
CL Have you always been involved in women-focused activity, or is it something that developed because of career experiences?
TC No, I haven’t. In the City I didn’t really think about gender much – I just focused on what I was doing. I’m not sure quite why I got involved. I think I just started wondering, gradually, where all the women were. There were quite a number of women in the risk world at UBS in London, but I couldn’t find them elsewhere. I also recognised that women got different feedback – that they were called “aggressive” or “scary” when they were seeking to challenge and that they have to adapt a lot of their behaviour to fit in or be accepted. Being a woman certainly never affected me career-wise, nor held me back, but I did begin to recognise these different challenges and styles – and I didn’t see enough women around me.
CL You recently engaged with the Scottish Government on an initiative that looks to increase the diversity of, and the number of women on, public boards in Scotland; what was the impetus behind that?
TC The Scottish Government is keen that by 2017 Scottish public boards will represent Scottish society more than they do now. The reason for this is the research that shows that the quality of decision making is improved by having a more diverse set of thoughts and experiences around the table. And this initiative is driven by a desire to improve that quality. This particular Scottish Government project is focused gender balance in the boardroom.
CL What to do you believe to be the three main reasons women are not yet equally represented in Scottish public life?
i) Unconscious Bias – people not realising how they make assumptions and have prejudices that lead to repeated behaviours that exclude or discriminate against anything that is outside the ‘norm’ of their experience
ii) I think that men don’t always value the skills and style of women, partly perhaps because it can be quite different to their approach
iii) The Sun. Page 3. This attitude deep within society that women are second class citizens. As a result I think that women often don’t believe in or value themselves sufficiently and hence don’t always put themselves forward.
CL How confident are you that we, as a nation, can redress that balance?
TC It is possible, but people underestimate the challenge because of this unconscious bias. So, I’m confident that we could, but will we…?
CL What can women do for themselves to improve the situation, whilst work is ongoing around systemic change?
TC Don’t wait to be asked. Be willing to speak your mind. Don’t worry so much whether people like your views or not; women tend to be natural people-pleasers. Say what needs to be said with authority and carefully expressed influencing skills.
CL What is the most challenging aspect of your career now?
TC Resilience is key. There is a lot of competition for the roles and so you will need to cope with being turned down. It can be lonely, as I outlined earlier, and you need to hone your influencing skills and extend your network for support.
CL And the most rewarding?
TC The intellectual challenge. And the sense that you are genuinely in a position to make a difference and to see the impact of what you do.
CL What, if anything, inspires you?
TC Mountains. They help me to think creatively. Not necessarily climbing them, just being surrounded by them. I think it’s because they help me gain and maintain perspective.
CL And to what, if anything, do you still aspire?
TC Next steps is a FTSE 250 Board position. Though I also want to continue to push to help ensure diverse views are valued in the boardroom; that is linked to women, but not exclusively focused on them.
CL What is the character trait you most admire in others?
TC Integrity. Transparency.
CL And that you most deplore?
TC Deceit. Manipulation. Duplicity. I hate a lack of honesty and find it very difficult when I know I am dealing with someone who is not being transparent.
CL What three things would you put in Room 101?
i) Phubbing – I just learned this word. It means snubbing with a phone; people reading their phones and blackberries when they are sitting in front of you or in board meeting. So rude.
ii) Poor grammar. Especially misplaced apostrophes, split infinitives….
iii) Poorly made tea. For example, you have to make tea with boiling water, and they bring you this teabag alongside some tepid water. Horrible!
CL Is there anything in your life that you regret?
TC I do try not to regret anything. I would like to have had more faith in myself at an earlier age – to have realised sooner what I was capable of. My breakthrough moment came at UBS when I was asked to be global COO of the Risk Department of the Investment Bank, which I don’t think I would have applied for by myself – and I thought “well, if they’ve asked me, I suppose they must think I can do it”. They saw I could do more, but I hadn’t. I wish I’d understood that earlier.
CL Where is your favourite place in the world?
TC The Highlands. It’s what made us come to Scotland.
CL How do you prefer to spend your downtime?
TC With my husband. He is a critical part of my life. He makes me feel calm and relaxed when he is around. He doesn’t say much – the strong, silent type – but I don’t like being apart from him for too long.
CL What is your favourite song and why?
TC It’s a piece of music, rather than a song; Pachelbel’s Canon, because it’s the piece of music that was playing when I walked down the aisle to marry my husband.