Managers Abroad : Gerard Walsh

Gerard Walsh: Head of Web & CRM; Head of Change Management – Distribution Schroder Investment Management

What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?
It was happenstance – my wife and I both completed our Victoria University MBAs on exchange to Milan in 1998 then found work in Ireland and London through
the Kiwi network. We’ve not made it
back yet!

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?
I manage the global web, intranet and CRM (Salesforce.com) teams, and change-manage strategic projects in the distribution (sales, marketing, client services and product development/management) division of Schroders, an investment manager headquartered in London.

How does it fit into your career path?
Describing it as path might be overdoing it – I’ve come long way from the farm I grew up on in Woodville! I love jumping in at the deep end – I’ve always revelled in the challenge of steep learning curve and I firmly believe it’s because I’m Kiwi. I grew up in country that ingrains ‘can-do’ mix of ingenuity, flexibility and pride in good job done well. I’ve worked in six industries here and in New Zealand, for some great companies, and on some seriously strategic projects. Good mentoring advice when I came to Schroders encouraged me to apply the things I learnt getting here. My most recent move into web and CRM has been very enjoyable and positive experience.

What are its main challenges?
The biggest challenge in world of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube is knowing what to explore and what to ignore. There’s an enormous amount of noise and hype about web, CRM and intranet, but if you sift out all the clutter there are some potential gems.
Web has really matured as business tool in the past two to three years. We’re starting to see the long-heralded convergence effect of service provision, user-knowledge and platform capability. Web-driven business models are fast-moving, populated with dynamic people with great ideas, and I find that satisfyingly challenging work environment.

What are three learnings you will take from it?
I’ve found that the simple way is usually the best way – the most complicated ideas can always be broken down into simple sets of deliverables.
People appreciate being appreciated – don’t forget to give credit and say thanks. If you’re sincere, simple words like ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ mean lot to people.
Never underestimate the power of keeping the minutes and writing the action lists – you’ll appear action-oriented and in charge!

How do you now view New Zealand both as country and economic/business environment?
Agricultural commodity production apart – where we are global force – I think New Zealand punches above its weight as niche player in high value-add creative industries. I get huge surge of pride when I see the work of our film-makers, yacht-builders, IT developers and merino-textile manufacturers on the world stage.
The emerging economic challenge for New Zealand is to create an environment that nurtures such creativity –from the very earliest steps in learning.
I think education systems are very valuable resources – any government that focuses on, fosters and champions education will leave magnificent legacy. Look at the wise government policies of California in the 1950s and ’60s that built UCal, creating the largest population of Nobel laureates of any single campus structure in the world. New Zealand could foster that same degree of intellectual rigour and competitiveness through sensible policy-driven stimulus of mix of the public and private educational sector.

What sort of ongoing contribution/involvement would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?
I’ve always admired the Chinese and Indian informal overseas business networks – they’re quietly powerful individual and collective contributors to the economic health of the home country. I see Kea (and web-driven communities like ReadWriteWeb and LinkedIn for that matter) as the diaspora’s opportunity to do the same for New Zealand. I’d love to play part in that.

Gerard Walsh is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community, www.keanewzealand.com

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