‘Take the time to bring people on the journey with you’

By Tony Sanchez -

Claire Rankin Shawbrook Bank

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Claire Rankin, Director of Strategy and Digital Transformation for the Property Finance division at Shawbrook Bank, a leading, specialist UK savings and lending bank.

The Property Finance division works with intermediaries to support professional investors, landlords and SMEs.

Claire has 20 years’ experience in the mortgage industry and has been with Shawbrook for almost 7 years. Her current role was recently created to reflect the bank’s focus on technology and to drive their digital programme.

Claire is passionate about transformative digital change that streamlines the journey and improves the experience for Shawbrook’s intermediaries and customers.

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

For me, a successful leader is one able to firstly articulate a clear vision, and then invests in the building of a ‘talent dense’ team.

Many of the most successful leaders were able to achieve great things not necessarily because of their own technical abilities or knowledge, but because they spent much of their energy investing in the team.

Once you have this bedrock it becomes the job of the leader to provide guidance and direction and support the development and growth of that team.

I once heard a business leader say that you should try and give people all the tools they need to leave the organisation and, more often than not, these people will not only stay and thrive, but will also be the greatest assets and ambassadors for your business.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

Although they have not necessarily been career barriers, I, like many, have been through some fairly tumultuous times in this industry with various global events providing significant challenge.

Clearly, we are in the middle of a fairly unique event in the shape of COVID, but I remain positive about the future and the UK’s ability to bounce back in 2021.

Given the current state of play, it’s perhaps easy to forget the global financial crisis of 2008 where interests rates plummeted and have never really recovered, but these things are cyclical and we are fortunate to have a very robust financial system.

From a personal perspective, whilst it’s been far from plain sailing, I’ve had some great support over my career from some very talented people and like to think that hard work has also played a small part!

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?

Pay attention to culture in an organisation – it forms the basis of a strong brand with engaged, happy, and productive staff.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Look at the big picture. Where I am now in my career journey it can sometimes be easy to get lost in the detail, whereas getting out of the weeds and staying fixed on the end goal is crucial to successful delivery.

What do you think is key for finding a successful worklife balance?

Remind yourself why you do what you do.

For many, our homes have become our workplaces so it is often the case that you end up working longer hours; but work-life balance has never been more important for our overall health so it’s important to look up from the desk and spend some time doing the things we enjoy outside of work.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Take the time to bring people on the journey with you, they will ultimately carry your vision forward.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

There is no substitute for hard work, but if you don’t invest in yourself then the road becomes a lot more challenging.

Be willing to learn and develop new skills, listen and take on board feedback (both positive and critical), and set yourself clear short term goals that pave the way for where you want to be in your career.

Also, be prepared to step outside your comfort zone in order to progress.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?

Anything that raises the profile of women in both leadership positions and financial services in general is to be welcomed.

Ultimately, we all want to achieve equality of opportunity based on competence and the Charter is an effective tool for representing women in this way.

Having said that, organisations should avoid signing up to the charter if it is merely a symbolic change with no material shift in their mindset.

Ultimately an organisation’s culture and how they encourage the ‘I’ in their D&I initiatives will determine how successful they are in recruiting (and retaining) talented female leaders.