The Big Interview with Daniel Keyworth

Procurement Heads‘ Big Interview this month features Daniel Keyworth, Chief Procurement Officer – Group Procurement & Supplier Management at Legal & General.

How did you get into Procurement?

I’m one of the rare people who always wanted to get into Procurement – I didn’t fall into it! After completing my degree, I was accepted for a Procurement training scheme which I loved, and my Procurement journey began there. I started working for Alfa Laval, buying for their Centrifuges initially, but ended up with services as well. I discovered that as a Procurement professional my role added real value, and I genuinely couldn’t see a better department to be working within. I was involved in everything and my work had a direct impact on the wider business.

It’s so satisfying to see the end product successfully going out the door, knowing you’ve been part of it. The first few years of my Procurement career, it gave me such a sense of achievement that I knew I had chosen the right career path for me. In Procurement, you get to make a real difference and effect change.

Now you’re a Chief Procurement Officer, what does a typical day look like for you?

A lot of my time is spent steering our direction within the business. We are a federated model with lots of great new growth business areas, new stakeholders, and therefore lots of demand on the team. It might sound a bit clichéd, but we have to ensure that we are strategically engaging with the right people at the right time, to influence the right things in the right way.

I don’t want us to be a transactional, reactive function; I want us to be aligned and strategic so that we can influence the real buying decision. To do that, we need to engage with the business, building those all-important relationships.

There isn’t a typical day in our industry. We work on multiple big, strategic projects and as a part of that we constantly engage with our stakeholders to sell the value we can deliver. It’s so important that we carry on building relationships, keeping up a rapport with our stakeholders and understanding their businesses.

With stakeholders, I believe that it has to be seamless – they need to feel that you’re a part of their business, not just appearing every so often with a request. A huge part of my role is based around strategic engagement, nurturing partnerships and relationships, as well as managing and motivating the team so we can deliver.

What do you love about Procurement?

As I said before, when I look at other people’s roles I genuinely don’t know why they would want to do those over Procurement. With Procurement, you’re involved in everything from a change within the internal company to the very end product, and you have a huge influence over how that process is managed.

As a Procurement professional, your work will influence the customer’s experience as well as the profitability of the company. You must also manage major risks for the company (suppliers and third parties) which is a huge responsibility – but in return, you’ll be in the very privileged position of being involved in many interesting, dynamic conversations because effectively you’re the custodians of the company’s money!

I really am glad that I’m in this profession because of the variety we get on a daily basis and the influence that we have across the wider business. The sense of achievement when we go home at the end of the day is second to none.

Are there any elements of Procurement that you find challenging?

Some stakeholders need to be constantly sold the value of Procurement which can be very frustrating. You want to be in a position where you have proved what you can deliver, you just need to continue building on that relationship to ensure you can keep delivering.

Sometimes, situations can be entirely out of your hands. You might have done some absolutely cracking work on multi-million-pound deals, but you end up being judged because a purchase order went out late. It’s just some of those dichotomies of the role that we have. It does frustrate me, but I also enjoy a challenge at times!

I am a proud ambassador of the profession, so I could talk to anyone about the value of Procurement. I like to ensure that we always have a seat at the table, but a frustration of mine is when I have to continually fight for that place – Procurement should be there without any questions asked.

In your career so far, what would you outline as your biggest achievement?

Probably becoming CPO at Legal & General! I’ve travelled all over the place, overseen global deals with huge companies like British Airways, worked in various different sectors – but working in a FTSE 50 organisation progressing in so many different areas has to top them all. To me, it’s a huge luxury and privilege to be in this situation with a highly capable team behind me.

What advice would you give your younger self, if you could?

Make the most of everything that you are doing. Different projects and opportunities or new roles; they don’t stay around forever so grab them as they come! That way you can progress your career exactly how you want to. Procurement gives people so much variety; the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to influence, exciting deals and new projects.

I’d also say that it’s important sometimes to take stock and look at what you’ve just achieved. Learn from it, build from it, and you’ll become more successful as a result of it.

Finally, learn how to balance different requirements. Stakeholders are all different people with different requirements, personalities, dynamics, and cultural behaviours, so you need to make sure you keep a very balanced view in order to maximise those relationships – for both of you.  

Thinking about the industry as a whole, are there any particular trends that you’ve observed within Procurement recently?

We’ve just completed our 2025 strategy paper, and clearly, there is a drive on digital. Everything is digital now, but what that really means remains to be seen, I think. There are multiple great new technologies; robotic process automation, AI, blockchain… but will they really come to something?

I don’t know. What I do know is that something will happen in the digital space, and rather than seeing that as a challenge, I view it as a huge opportunity for Procurement professionals.

If we look at what we’ve seen in our strategy work, technology can be a huge enabler for getting transactional procurement off the plates of experienced buyers and category managers.

We can get better market insights and data, while letting computers and systems manage things like transactional spend, freeing up the team to focus on more strategic, human-based activity. To us, technology is a major driver. The desire for the business to do more themselves, within a self-serving environment is all the more evident – and we support and drive that.

What skills do you consider essential to be a Procurement leader?

Finding a balance. Firstly between having a vision, and driving it. Secondly between having the flexibility to manage people closely, but then giving them the freedom, tools, and technology to go and deliver. It’s about having an overarching vision of where you want to take the function and aligning that with the core objectives of your company.

Also – you need vision as to where you want to take the function in line with the business. If you’re too reactive and you’re just waiting for the business to come to you then you’ll fail.

Get to know Daniel Keyworth

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I play the drums – and I love it. I’ve played for a long time and was in a couple of bands when I was at university! Nowadays I just drum at home, with my electric kit. I also enjoy mountain biking and family time.

Do you manage to achieve work/life balance?

Work/life balance isn’t always easy to achieve working within a very successful, busy FTSE 50 company but agile working and the technology available these days allow me to make it work. It’s all about thinking and planning ahead.

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