What leaders think
Posted on

The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Andrea Blance

Andrea Blance 2 minute interview
Andrea Blance, Senior Independent Director and
Remuneration Committee Chair, Provident Financial plc and
Non-Executive Director, Hargreaves Landsdown plc and The
Mentoring Foundation

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

I’m a Non-Executive director and one of my companies is releasing its half year results on Wednesday so I’ve been preparing for the various Board and Committee meetings and discussing the key issues with the executive team. It’s our first results that were prepared remotely by the team and reviewed remotely by our auditors and the Board has been more involved at an earlier stage than in the past which has been very positive. 

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?

I’m very concerned about the potential for a second wave of Covid-19 and the implications for economy. We need people to feel confident that they can get on trains and buses safely and get back into city centre offices so that the small businesses that rely of office footfall start to rebound and we get a positive multiplier effect. Confidence is very fragile at the moment and a second wave could be disastrous. 

In retrospect what would you have done differently in lockdown and therefore, how may this shape your thinking for any future lockdown (local or national)?

The companies I work with should be very proud of what they achieved in lockdown. The focus was on protecting colleagues and delivering for our customers. None of that should change in the event of a second wave. 

Given the reliance on technology during lockdown, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/ workforce transformation in the short-term medium term?

We’ve already seen significant acceleration – the changes since March would have been projected as multi-year projects pre Covid-19.   And in parallel firms have been accelerating investing in IT resilience and data security. I think customers’ expectations have also increased now they are more digitally enabled for work and the pressure for improved digital customer experience and outcomes will continue to increase. 

What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?

I think we are still at an early stage in defining the “new normal”. Colleague engagement surveys carried out in all my companies in April/May indicated that about 1/3 can’t wait to get back to working full time in the office, 1/3 never want to enter the office again and the other 1/3 want a balance of home and office working. Another general theme is that colleagues would like more flexible working hours. I think those preferences will be shaped over the coming months as schools reopen. 

Equally companies are working out what activities absolutely need to be done in the office where collaboration or on the spot coaching is required for example. And there’s an important overlay of colleague mental and physical wellbeing. I worry that there will no longer be a clear separation of home and work life. The one given is that things will be different!

There was a dramatic reduction in our carbon footprint during lockdown, what is your business planning to help continue this going forward?

The home lending business I work with moved rapidly to digital collections which means we need fewer weekly visits from agents. That has reduced the number of business miles driven and I don’t see us reverting to our old model so the carbon saving is secure. 

What changes personally will you keep from the lockdown period going forward?

I’ve started going for an early walk each day that takes me to my local bakers and fishmonger as they open. Not only do I start the day with an hour’s exercise and buy healthy food, but I support my local shops. I’m definitely going to stick with that!

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

The young waiter in our hotel last week was so positive about his furlough experience. After a month at home getting bored, he got a delivery job with Amazon to earn some more money, get a new skill (just in case the hotel didn’t reopen) and learn more about the area he is working in. Who says the work ethic is no more?!

Did you manage a holiday this summer and if so where / how did you spend it?

I spent a week on the South coast walking with my husband which was fantastic. The weather was typically British – burned to a crisp one day, soaked to the skin the next and blown away the following – but it was wonderful having different scenery and eating food that someone else had cooked!

Any words of wisdom?

Celebrate the small pleasures in life like spending time with family and friends— until this year I don’t think any of us appreciated them enough!