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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Penny James

Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview main image Penny James

What have been some of the key learnings for you since the UK fully re-opening over the summer?

For us the key learning of the last eighteen months has been that we can serve our customers effectively and deliver big transformation projects with our teams working remotely. This means we are giving our people the flexibility they’ve told us they want by moving to a mixed model of working that combines remote working with using our offices in a different way. Personally I’m already really enjoying combining working from home with the energy and positivity from meeting up again with colleagues in person over the last few weeks. 

As we move forward from the pandemic and look to the future, what business opportunity most excites you?

DLG is at a significant point in its strategy as we move from tech transformation to utilising that new tech to transform the business. The new platforms are already starting to transform the speed at which we can adapt and deliver new products and I’m excited to see the impact grow and grow.

Given the important part that technology has played in all sectors during the pandemic, how do you envisage technology developing in your organisation going forward?

I’m really proud to say that the brilliant tech team at DLG were able to drive through our tech transformation programme even during lockdown and whilst working from home. It’s moved us ahead of the market as our tech stack is modular in design and fully cloud based making it dynamic.  We can plug in new products when we want. We can update pricing engines at speed or even introduce completely new ones. And as it is in the cloud, we aren’t limited by the amount of data we can store, making it an increasingly powerful asset year on year. 

With sustainability and ESG being more prevalent on the Board agenda, what is your business doing to meet net zero carbon emission targets by 2050, if not earlier?

I’ve been passionate about this issue for a long time. As CEO I’ve had to get the business to square up honestly to the choices we can make. This won’t be solved by one business area, it’s about the whole company and you’ve got to communicate that so people feel part of a collective movement. Working together across the business we:

  • reduced our energy consumption by a third since 2013
  • use 100% renewable electricity for our operations and have done so since 2014
  • divert 100% of our office waste from landfill
  • became carbon neutral last year through offsetting
  • signed up to Race to Zero
  • committed to set Science Based Targets to reduce emissions

But we know we need to do more, especially in the most carbon intensive parts of the business and that’s what we’re focussing on now.

How has your business changed in its approach to employee wellbeing during the pandemic and what will it continue to do more of in the future?

One of the reasons I joined DLG was its culture so in one way there hasn’t been a change in approach because employee wellbeing has always been front and centre. But over the over the last eighteen months one of our core values, “bring your whole self to work”, has reached a whole new level. There’s far more checking in on how people are feeling and it’s also become more usual to say if you’re having a tough time. We all know so much more about our colleagues’ home situations now not least as we’ve met their kids, their parents and their pets on video calls! We want that whole picture view to continue.

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

Actually, my daughter. She’s got a career dream and despite knowing it will be lots of hard work, that there are many challenges ahead and that she may not succeed, she has gone for it wholeheartedly. It’s reminded me that no-one achieved anything great without taking personal risk.

Hopefully you managed to have break over the summer, either abroad or a ‘stay cation’ – what was the highlight?  

My summer is always spent in Cornwall, by the beach with family and friends. The highlight? A dark and stormy cocktail (think spiced rum and ginger beer) on the beach with a BBQ one warm evening.

Which book have you read recently and why would you recommend it?

I’m reading Bill Gates book ‘How to avoid a climate disaster – the solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need’. There is, quite rightly, a huge amount of noise around climate at the moment. What really interests me is how he converts words and promises to action and the practical steps business leaders can take to completely step change momentum on addressing the issue. 

What are you most looking forward to doing in 2022?

I think mostly I’m looking forward to a long weekend somewhere abroad. I love the UK and always spend the summer here, but a few days of pampering surrounded by a different culture feels like a distant memory!

Any words of wisdom?

Well, Kate Syred in my team quoted the ‘Serenity Prayer’ the other day. I’d heard it before, but somehow this time it really resonated. The more senior I have become, the more I have felt the need to actively focus my mind on the things where I (and even better only I) can make a difference – ‘grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’