Named as one of the ‘100 women to watch’ in Cranfield University’s female FTSE board report in 2017 and 2018, it’s no surprise that Lindsey Rix has been unanimously elected as the Deputy Chair of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Lindsey’s journey to become an executive within a FTSE 100 company, however, may not have taken the route you’d expect. For having grown up in Norfolk and attended Norwich High School for Girls she initially moved away to pursue a different career.
“As an undergraduate, I studied music in London,” explains Lindsey, “but as my studies progressed I became increasingly interested in a career in the financial services rather than music.” A journey which may not come as a surprise to those of you aware of the much-mooted link between musical and mathematical ability.
Lindsey’s career began when she Joined Barclays graduate leadership programme in 2001, after which she spent eight years in corporate and commercial banking, taking on a variety of roles, including leadership responsibilities from an early stage.
“Stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking the opportunities you’re offered, even if they feel too great a challenge, is important when you’re developing your career,” observes Lindsey. “Taking bigger bolder steps can really pay off, broadening your knowledge and experience.”
The wide-ranging experience Lindsey gained provided the springboard that saw her move to Santander in 2008, where her remit was to be part of the leadership team building an SME bank in the UK. “It was a fantastic opportunity,” explains Lindsey. “We were trying to do things differently by offering a new proposition to small and medium size businesses, but it was also a challenging time.
“We were in the heart of the banking crisis. It was a difficult time to be growing a business, but I had a great couple of years building up the team, reaching out to new customers and developing the business.”
Later transferring to work on product marketing and strategy, Lindsey then moved to the private banking division of Santander around the time she had her second child and moved back to Norfolk.
“I wanted my children to benefit from the life that Norfolk has to offer,” explains Lindsey. “Santander were very supportive, so I achieved a good balance between work and my family life.
“In 2014 I joined Aviva as Chief Operating Officer for our UK General Insurance Business, and also being site lead for the 5,500 people we have based in Norwich. After which I became Managing Director (MD) of our personal General Insurance business, before moving to be MD of our Savings and Retirement business.”
When it comes to business it is clear that Lindsey brings a fresh perspective to each new role she accepts, whether it is getting new businesses off the ground, galvanising growth or bringing about change.
To put things in perspective, Aviva has around 15 million customers in the UK and over 30 million worldwide, with a strong presence in Canada, Europe and Asia. They are the UK’s largest composite insurer, whilst their Savings and Retirement business alone has over 4 million customers in the UK.
“What I love so much about my role is its diversity,” observes Lindsey, “it takes in every aspect of running a business from risk management to financial control, the challenge is to prioritise my time.
“The very fact that my role is a general management role, means there are individuals in my team who have more expertise in particular areas of business than I do. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your team – they very often have the solutions you require.”
“Building the right team of people is crucial. Diversity of skills, thought and experience is important in any team, as it helps to make the business the best it can be. You want to challenge your team to win together by embracing diversity.
“Earlier on in my career, I sometimes found I was the sole female sitting on a board or management meeting and I’ve learnt that diverse groups make better decisions. We are here to progressively change the environment in which we work and the business in which we work.
“Your team and your customers are why you get up in the morning. Having the best team, developing a good relationship with them and helping them to flourish is really important.”
Lindsey is mindful of creating a supportive environment at work. “We’ve created an open and supportive environment which enables people to do their best work for our customers and for themselves. Our office design reflects these principles, it’s open plan, so the whole team is approachable.
“Wherever possible we support flexible working too, as we want our team to find the way of working that’s best for them. We’ve also recently introduced equal parental leave to men and women at Aviva – up to 12 months in the UK, including 26 weeks at full pay.
“Striking the right balance between work and family can be a challenge and I’ve been fortunate in the support I’ve received from my employers. So it’s important for me in turn to create an environment that supports a good work life balance for my team too.
“I’ve learnt from experience that it’s easy for your working days to grow longer and your mornings to get earlier – so now I’m very structured about how I approach my week. Working away from Norwich most weeks on Mondays to Wednesdays, I make sure I’m back in Norwich on Thursdays and Fridays, leaving on time to be with my family.
“At Aviva, our biggest focus is on our customers – making sure we deliver for them, providing financial certainty. Our core purpose is to help protect people and to be there when they need us.
“How we look after our customers is also about making our products relevant for them. The pension business is changing rapidly; we have to adapt to a future in which people are working and living longer.
“Losing the human touch in the digital age is something which must be avoided. Ensuring we are visible and it’s easy for people to do business with us is crucial.
“In large organisations, it’s easy to become distanced from your customers, but giving them the opportunity to share their experiences with you first hand is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
“My most valuable time is spent listening to our customers, it’s where I learn the most. If much of your role is office based, I’d always advise getting out on the frontline.”
With her expertise in the financial services, it’s no surprise that Lindsey’s been a valued member of the LEP board since joining the team in 2015.
Now Lindsey is taking this work forward in her new role as Deputy Chair of the LEP board, applying her energy, ideas and expertise to support the region’s business community and delivering the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk.
Lindsey is also a great ambassador for the region. “East Anglia is a fantastic place to live and work, it has a lot to offer,” she explains.
“From a business point of view, there’s a wonderful combination of large businesses and entrepreneurial, innovative and creative start-ups. It’s a fantastic combination that makes it a vibrant and exciting place of which to be a part.”
Lindsey Rix – Deputy Chair, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)