The Big Interview with Joe Bakowski

How did you get into procurement?

Prior to my Procurement career, I worked in all softs of fields – I started out in engineering construction where I was responsible for managing process plant installation projects all over the world – Asia, Africa and Continental Europe. 

I didn’t realise it at the time, but the focus on contract management was a great foundation for the future!  I did an MBA, had a brief slot in consulting, ran a public/private education company, did a stint at one of the major high street banks, and ran a graphic design company. 

I joined Metro Bank in its early days in 2011 and initially ran banking operations. In 2014 I was given the job of setting up our Procurement & Supplier Risk team and I haven’t looked back since.  I love it.

What success are you most proud of in your career to date?

I get a buzz out of every commercial deal that we do, but one does stand out. Metro Bank processes coins for customers and non-customers alike for free, whereas if you do it in the supermarket you’re charged 9%. 

As a result, Metro Bank is one of the highest-volume coin processors in the country. 

Coin processing is a dirty, expensive and sometimes risky business and we struggled to find the right partner to work with, but eventually, we found a small niche player in Northern Ireland that we partnered with to help them set up on the UK mainland. 

They operate a unique commercial model which allowed us to cut our costs by >90%, but more importantly, their service is exemplary and our Magic Money Machines – a key feature of our stores – are kept running every hour that we’re open.

What do you love about your role?

I love structuring a commercial deal, solving problems for the business and bringing in great new suppliers to support Metro Bank. 

I also love developing my team – we hire high achievers from industry and consultancy and train them for over 2-3 years in a fast-moving, high-growth environment, before laying the groundwork for them to broaden their careers or develop them elsewhere. 

I’m really proud that the first procurement manager that I recruited has now gone on to front up Metro Bank’s commercial approach to the open banking market – a fantastic opportunity for him.

Are there any aspects of your role that can be challenging?

The most challenging issue for me is recruitment – we are extremely selective and finding the right calibre of professional experience and cultural fit takes a long time. 

In the current climate, recruiting specialist supplier risk people is a little bit like looking for millennium bug engineers in 1999.

What does your typical day at work look like for you?

Although I have three young children, I commute on a daily basis from Leicester to Metro Bank in London. 

I did promise myself once that I’d never do that, so I must really love the place! 

I’ll work on the train down, waking up with a coffee, then usually head straight into a round of meetings once I’m in the office – supplier negotiations, management meetings, and team development. 

Preparation for GDPR is consuming an inordinate amount of time at the moment, as I suspect it is for many of my peers – but GDPR is also an opportunity to embed great procurement and supplier risk practice in the organisation. 

What trends have you observed within procurement recently?

In Financial Services, supplier risk has become huge. 

As the threat and the regulatory landscape evolve, banks are having to make sure that they understand and manage all the risks posed by their supply chain across many areas – critical supplier failure, data breaches, cyber-attack, Modern Slavery and so on – and it’s a very complex thing to manage. 

We’re part way through rolling out a programme that includes technology, supplier data, ratings, cyber defence and a process that I think is going to be fantastic once it delivers. 

One element of the programme that I’m very proud of is that we’ve come to an agreement with 10 other banks to share due diligence information on suppliers, through a system called FSQS, operated by Hellios.

We all benefit vastly from the shared process and data and it significantly reduces the burden on suppliers.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I had a great time in my twenties working all over the world – which I really miss now that the furthest I tend to travel is Slough or Southend – so I’d say enjoy it while you can! 

The other piece of advice would be to calm down – I’m Polish by background, and Poles have a reputation for impetuousness. 

It’s great when charging tanks on horseback, but perhaps not the best way to influence people.

Procurement Heads‘ Big Interview Series features Procurement Professionals throughout London and the Home Counties. It’s an opportunity to shed some light on the specialist world of Procurement and those who work within it. If you’d like to feature in our next Big Interview, contact us at 01962 869838 or drop us an email:

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