James Dobbin, Procurement Heads‘ Financial & Professional Services Head of Practice, spoke with Jonathan Hughes, Head of Procurement and Estate at Shawbrook to understand more about the company’s culture and what makes them different from other challenger banks.
I have been in procurement for more than 15 years now.
I started on-site as a Construction Buyer in a procurement team of more than 300 people and worked in several different roles all in construction, which took me to Paris for a year and a half which was a great experience as a Category Lead for architectural trades.
It involved a lot of travel and was very exciting.
I then moved back to the UK and into the defence sector, still in construction, with QinetiQ, which allowed me to diversify as I moved into an indirect spend Category Lead role and after three years there I moved into this current Head of role at Shawbrook, where I set up the procurement team.
What led you to the bank?
It was a combination of a relocation to the UK, having come back from Paris, I was moving back to where my kids were going to go to school.
It was also the desire to take on that new challenge, having diversified into indirect I was keen to take on a team but in the end, the opportunity was to set up a new team from scratch, which was a really exciting opportunity in a smaller organisation with growth prospects and the company has grown massively in the last seven years while I have been there.
It is very progressive and has huge ambitions.
Listen to James’ conversation with Jonathan here
Can you tell us a bit about the organisational structure and some of the big projects you have worked on so far?
It is a relatively flat structure, so I report into the deputy CFO, we regularly go to ExCo meetings and present updates around procurement opportunities and contract approval.
The role I am in really allows me to get close to the senior leaders of the company.
I have been working on some big projects recently both in BPO and in IT and based on the nature of our digital journey there are several big contracts we have worked on and will be working on in the coming months to help Shawbrook continue to grow on the trajectory we already are on.
That flat structure must have been refreshing for you?
It was one of the attractions of Shawbrook in the first place and certainly hasn’t disappointed.
As the company grows the headcount has doubled since I arrived, that flat structure remains true and just dealing with talented people at all levels of the company makes that collaborative experience a joy every day.
How would you describe the culture at Shawbrook?
It is a great people organisation; everyone is very much valued.
We now have more than 300,000 customers and we’re active in multiple markets where consumers and businesses need a solution for an immediate need, which also recognises and accommodates their individual characteristics and circumstances.
This is difficult to achieve, particularly at scale, but we make it possible by combining tech and data with the talent, expertise and ingenuity of our people.
So everyone here is driven to create opportunities for our customers and we obsess about three things – how we can be practical, personal and creative.
These principles apply right across the bank and the procurement function is no different.
Everything we do is practical, not needlessly bureaucratic, but we also take the time to ensure the things we put in place are truly personal and empathetic – taking into account both our requirements and the supplier’s needs.
And, last but not least, creativity isn’t something that only our marketing team can be!
We’re all encouraged to think laterally, and creatively to come up with the smartest outcome.
In a procurement function sitting kind of in a back office, you still need to be able to work with that same ethos so we can deliver to our internal customers the right solutions.
We will frequently seek feedback and work closely with our board to ensure that we continue to make the right decisions that will ultimately serve our purpose.
You are looking to grow the procurement department. Can you talk us through the two mandates that we have just taken on with you?
They are two very exciting roles with the investment in the procurement team as we seek to drive further value with the partnerships that we have with third parties we are looking now to establish a category management structure in the procurement team, so we have a senior role which will focus on IT and BPO as we continue on that digital journey.
We also have another role which seeks to drive further value across some of our other categories like HR, Finance, Legal and Marketing where there is still plenty of opportunities to renew and improve existing relationships and create new relationships.
What skillset and personality traits are you looking for from individuals when they apply?
It goes without saying an excellent negotiator but we need a really good people person who has a deep understanding of procurement category management, supplier relationship management and best practices, is able to effectively influence and manage internal stakeholders and is able to comfortably engage with senior leaders as there will be regular contact to both collaborate and work on contracts and get the contracts approved.
Do you expect someone to be in the office five days a week and what kind of travel can be expected?
So, Shawbrook is very flexible.
We’ve adopted a hybrid working policy so office-based working is not mandated but certainly within procurement, based on the fact that it is a role where you need to collaborate and communicate then it is key the new team remains connected.
It will involve regular team collaboration in the office and also key to best negotiations will be face-to-face supplier contact so there is no obligation you need to be in the office, but I am looking for a team that wants to be in the office and connect but can work from home when they want to get the best balance of the two worlds.
Where is the office?
My office is in Brentwood, but I spend more of my time in London where there are a lot more of the senior team.
We have stakeholders in our other offices we have offices in Glasgow, Manchester and there is the opportunity to travel around different offices.
Really, the location of the role is flexible but I would imagine a pull towards London or the south where a number of the key stakeholder meetings will take place.
What qualifications will someone need for these roles respectively?
Experience is key for this role in terms of category management.
So, financial service experience is preferable however based on my background I came from another sector so appreciate the wealth of experience that this can bring to a role.
We are looking for somebody certainly for the more senior IT role with a deep experience in IT procurement and a real understanding of the whole sector, the suppliers and where those leverage opportunities are to negotiate the best deals.
Do they need to come from a CIPS background?
I think CIPS is a great grounding in procurement but again you can see from experience that somebody brings to the table that CIPS is not necessarily a prerequisite to making an excellent Buyer.
If they are not coming from a financial services background do you think it might lend itself to somebody who was coming from a heavily regulated sector previously?
Regulation is a key factor.
We spent a lot of time working on that.
Especially with regulations that came in recently and what we are trying to establish is being able to drive as much value as possible create these new opportunities within the remit of the regulations so that risk work is done
We have established a great framework to move forward and it is the kind of thing that can be learned on the job, a lot of it is based on good practice, building the right relationships, managing risk and driving value.
What is the remuneration for these roles?
Shawbrook offers very competitive salaries, excellent benefits, enhanced pensions, good holiday and all the other benefits to make sure we are a progressive company.
What makes Shawbrook different from other challenger banks or fintechs?
It is a great place to work, a great team we are a very strong performer in a very competitive market and we have grown massively over the last ten years so it is a wonderful place to work.
It is niche, it is innovative and essentially what we bring is the best of both worlds.
The innovation you’d expect from a fintech with the expertise and certainty of a bank.
I think that is what differentiates us from the competition based on that deep sector knowledge and our talented people.