Helena Morrissey named Person of the Year
Leading advocate for greater female participation on corporate boards calls for end to 'group think' on key questions of the day.
Produced and filmed by Petros Gioumpasis.
I'm delighted to be here Helena Morrissey, who has just been named Person of the Year in the Boldness in Business Award. Helena, you've just given a stunning speech and quoted Teddy Roosevelt at length, Pliny the Elder, Mozart. How do you define boldness in today's business world?
So, I think it's obviously about taking risks, but also not risk for its own sake. I think it's important to recognise that we're in a time of great upheaval. We need to listen to each other. we need to be open-minded. And then sometimes we need to have the courage of our convictions and take a forward when we may not know all the answers.
You talked tonight about the global financial crisis and how, perhaps, in the boardrooms there was a little too much testosterone, a little too many men. You have championed the view that we need 30%, at least as a kind of informal target, in the boardroom. How will that help?
It's really just a start, it's not the end. I think what this financial crisis did was it exposed, again, it's not the first time in history it's happened, it changed the group think, not when just people agree with each other, but when they shut out dissenting voices. And I saw the opportunity to, I suppose, start with women. I mean, it's not the end game. What we need is diversity of thought. And I do subscribe to the view that actually men and women are equal but different, and having some different dynamic to the boardroom would help shape it up a bit. And I think that's what chairmen do say has happened, but I'm not claiming it's a panacea at all.
And how far have we got in Britain today?
So we're just on 27%, so we haven't quite gotten to the 30% target. And attention is more now on making sure it's sustainable. Some of those women who were appointed are now coming off the boards. But most importantly, making sure that it's not just a few women at the top but we're changing the culture at all business levels and we're encouraging not just a few women to succeed in a man's world, but we're re-balancing the world, not just in favor or women but all other underrepresented groups as well.
And you've been a very successful lead executive at Newton Asset Management, you're about to take a new job at Legal and General. How are you going to apply boldness to the insurance business? Which is going to be incredibly disrupted by artificial intelligence.
So I'm not actually going to the insurance side. I'm joining Legal and General Investment Management, but I suppose the premise still holds. My plan, my hope, is that we better connect as an industry, and particularly, obviously, at LGIM, we'd say that we encourage more people to plan for their financial health, that we actually make investment engaging and interesting, and in that way disrupt what I think is a bit of a staid industry.
Are we being Bond enough in the political arena?
Have we been, or have I been?
No, well, you. You can start with you, and then general.
In what sense? In terms of like changing the way the country is run?
Well, do you think that in Britain we've had too much group think?
Well, I think, what I've learned, because, to be honest, I don't think if it really solved grouping problem, people would have been so surprised and shocked by Brexit or Trump's victory last year. I think it showed that the sense was that we had made a bit of change but actually it was still a very tight-knit, very closed group that was still listening to each other. And I suppose that's just a somewhat painful reminder that we still have some way to go. I think it's a natural condition to surround ourselves with people that we get on with and agree with us, and I guess the next stage is actually inviting people to dare to disagree.
Helena Morrissey, Person of the Year in the Boldness in Business Awards for 2017. Thank you very much for joining us.