The Big Interview with Patrick Marter

He spoke with Procurement Heads about his career.

How did you get into Procurement?

The first job I was offered after my career in the Royal Air Force, was with Goodrich Corporation in the Aerospace industry, as Senior Commodity Manager.

The link between military and commercial aircraft made sense, however, what wasn’t so obvious was the transferability of skills.

Nevertheless, once I had learnt the mechanics of the role and gained the relevant commercial skills I found I progressed rapidly – thanks to the quality of the leadership training received from the military.

Ever since then, my career has largely come about through my network. I’ve found that the key is to have a career plan, but not to be too rigid about it… you have to be open to interesting ideas!

That’s how the role in San Francisco at Barclays Global Investors came up.

On paper, it was a smaller role in comparison to my role with Barclays Group HQ. But, the chance to build a Procurement function ground up and to learn from first principles was irresistible. The fact that it was based in SFO didn’t hurt either!

As it transpired, the role also gave me a chance to be involved in one of the largest-ever M&A transactions in Financial Services, the sale of BGI to BlackRock.

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

The only consistent aspects of my day are timings. I go to the gym or for a run at 6.30 am, making sure I arrive at the office by 8 am at one of our core three locations in Kent, Surrey or London.

I think it’s crucial to avoid getting caught up in BAU so I always try to block out a third of my day to speak with stakeholders or members of the team, a third for transformation projects, and I save the remaining third for the routine stuff. I leave the office between 4 and 7 pm as I try and get home with enough time to spend with my family.

What do you love about Procurement?

The variety.

Both in breadth, and depth.

A career in Procurement is like a vocational MBA. Any given day can range from briefing our owner (Fidelity is a privately-owned firm) or Operating Committee on the progress of building out the function, to working through an issue with the new P2P system we are deploying (the latest R13 version of Oracle Fusion). 

As a Category Manager, I used to love the fact that you could develop a strategy with your stakeholders and then over a period of a couple of years see that strategy come to fruition.

Although as a functional leader the focus has changed, it’s still immensely rewarding to see the impact of the team’s work on developing new products, moving into new geographies and integrating newly acquired businesses.

Are there any aspects of Procurement that you find challenging?

Funnily enough – the variety!

You sometimes have to move through the gears quickly, for example, you can go from one meeting talking about capital planning for potential supply chain risk events with the Chief Risk Officer, to the next talking about a new content management system with the Chief Digital Officer. 

You have to be in the right frame of mind for whatever meeting you’re taking part in so that your contributions are valuable.

To help, as I’ve already mentioned, I make sure I carve out time in my diary to prepare.

This normally means taking an hour out on Friday to go through my diary for the following week to clear out meetings where my attendance isn’t crucial.

Don’t worry – the organiser will always call you if you misjudge it, but I am always quite surprised at how infrequently this happens!

Can you tell us about your biggest achievements in your Procurement career?

It depends on how you measure achievement.

By deal value?

By save value?

By scale of transformation?

By impact on the businesses’ strategy?

I’ve been involved in $15bn Merger & Acquisition transactions, multi-billion dollar aircraft acquisition deals, and very successful front-to-back business transformation programs.

However, I think my biggest achievement has been my legacy. Building and developing teams that have continued to perform, and even thrive after my departure.

Have you observed any trends within Procurement recently?

Digital is already transforming every facet of our business including the way we interact with our clients, colleagues and suppliers.

New business models and new products mean new supply chains, and new ways of working mean new tools for our staff ….and both of those combined mean new suppliers and new risks and, as a consequence, new skills for Procurement professionals.

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

Resilience and flexibility.

You need to know when to back yourself.

At times you will have both your stakeholders and your suppliers explaining why they don’t agree with you, no matter how good the strategy is that you are proposing.

You need resilience.

However, sometimes, no matter how good the procurement process/analysis is, the outcome just doesn’t sit well with the business. You need to know when to take stock or try another angle. You need flexibility. I was once told ‘Process is the crutch of the incompetent.’ It’s stuck with me.

What has been the best lesson you’ve learnt in Procurement?

Clients are often very quick to blame the supplier, and yet it’s rarely solely the supplier’s fault. It is the buyer’s responsibility to ensure that firstly – they know what they want, secondly – they have done the due diligence to ensure they know whether the supplier has the capability to deliver it and, finally – they keep the supplier informed if there are changes required, or if performance isn’t up to scratch. “Caveat Emptor”.

Who has had the most influence over your Procurement career?

Nik Pocrnic – he was my first boss in the commercial world after leaving the RAF.

He shared the wisdom of his many years of experience freely, and he also made allowances for the fact that I didn’t understand some of the basics like how to read a cash flow statement, P&L or balance sheet. However, he also didn’t go easy on me – he rode me really hard for the first 6 months of my Procurement career!

Sounds tough, but it conditioned me to be ready for the fact that no matter how junior you are, you need to be resilient to the constant challenge you’ll get from both your suppliers and stakeholders.

Get to know Patrick Marter

Tell us about you – what do you like doing in your spare time?

Fly fishing.

I was taught by my grandfather at the age of six and have been hooked (sorry!) ever since.

I have competed at a national level and try to get away for a week each year.

More often than not it’s to the River Dyfi in Wales – one of the best sea trout rivers in the UK, but occasionally, and when time allows, somewhere more exotic.

I recently got shipwrecked in Antigua whilst fishing for tarpon with a local guide.

Perhaps a bit more excitement than I was looking for!

I have also spent a week at Farquhar Atol, a place very few people have ever been to.

Next year I’m planning a trip to Tierra Del Fuego, Patagonia.

I like reading as well, The Second Machine Age is a definite top five read (about the digital revolution) along with The Machine that Changed the World (about Toyota’s transformation of car manufacturing and the origins of Lean) and then something by Joe Abercrombie (epic fantasy) for getting away from the serious stuff.

Is work/life balance important to you? If so how do you achieve it?

Yes, it is important to me, as I think it should be for everyone.

I have a good team that works together to ensure we all achieve work/life balance.

Fidelity actively encourages flexible working, and as a result, we have a more diverse, happier workforce than most firms.

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