Group Strategy and Corporate Development Director
“For me, the most compelling reason for diversity is that we need to access the best talent.”
I was surprised to receive a call from a headhunter about a role in National Grid – my previous experience had been in the telecoms and media sectors, most recently at Virgin Management, which is much more consumer focused.
I had all the biases one would expect about the utility sector – in particular that it was too regulated and slow. I did a lot of research and found a number of interesting parallels, particularly with the telecoms sector. They’re both industries with big, physical infrastructure and, as I’m comfortable talking to engineers and taking the business implications of technology into strategy, it has been a relatively smooth transition.
This is an interesting time in the power and utilities (P&U) sector – the speed of change has significantly increased and that’s what you look for in a strategic role. You want to be in an industry where things are moving.
Telecoms has been transformed by mobile technology over the past 20 years. Now utilities face a similar challenge. I see technology playing an increasing role in P&U in the future, for example in:
- Energy storage
- More competitive solar panels and wind generation
- Innovative solutions around demand management
One of the big changes I anticipate is more partnering: the relationship aspects of my job will assume greater importance. We see opportunities to partner to enter new markets and gain access to expertise which is not core to National Grid. We also expect new entrants into our value chain, exploiting new technologies and delivering innovation.
Utilities will be dealing with more engaged, discerning and demanding customers. Customers compare the experience of interacting with a utility with the levels of service they receive in other segments and often, we come up wanting. In the UK, our regulatory deal now incentivizes us to improve customer service levels and we would expect this approach to be adopted in other markets as well.
At National Grid, I think diversity at board level has proven to be helpful because people look to the senior leadership team to see what is possible. A diverse team at the top encourages people throughout the business.
I see real value in getting lots of different opinions and perspectives around the table. If you have different types of people looking at a problem from different angles, you’re more likely to come up with a robust and rigorous response to the problem. You need people willing to challenge the status quo.
For me, the most compelling reason for diversity is that we need to access the best talent. It's an enormously competitive world out there and if we're not getting the best talent, we can't compete.
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