MANAGERS ABROAD : Sophie Denny


What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?
For my career, the opportunity to work in an organisation tackling variety of issues alongside an extremely ambitious global growth plan was an exciting prospect that grabbed me. The real draw, however, was personal – being in Europe and travelling both for work and pleasure really gives me buzz – I love exploring the different ways people approach life and work.

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?
Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for more than 48 million customers and clients worldwide. I lead the Western Europe legal team for Barclays’ consumer bank. I have team of more than 50 in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France and my immediate team sit with me in London. I manage the legal risk throughout our Western European countries and advise our Western Europe executive and the consumer bank’s global general counsel. No day is the same and can include anything from interviewing new general counsel for one of our countries, reviewing cost management strategies, advising on regulatory investigation, exploring new channels for delivering our products or supporting major outsourcing or acquisition.

How does it fit into your career path?
Great question! My career is somewhat organic. I worked in private practice at Wilson Harle in New Zealand before joining Barclays in role setting up front, middle and back offices across the globe – India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Lithuania and bit in China. Each step in my career intentionally draws me closer to the business drivers and strategy in teams that are dynamic and keen to grow. Leading team in New Zealand is something that I would like to put on the cards in the future.

What are its main challenges?
The greatest challenge is keeping on top of it all! Whenever we have closed deal, appointed key hire or dealt with major challenge in one jurisdiction, there is something bigger waiting in another. This all exists on the backdrop of the increased regulation in the banking sector and the speed at which changes need to be embedded. I face the ongoing challenges of ensuring that we have the right people and operating model across each country to deliver more for less.
Personally, I find being away from my family in New Zealand challenging too.

What are three learnings you will take from it?
1) The importance of building strong relationships in calm waters so that when we hit storm we can act quickly together as one team.
2) How embracing change opens so many opportunities.
3) That integrity is always more important than being liked.
I continue to learn every day.

How do you now view New Zealand both as country and economic/business environment?
I will always view New Zealand as home. I am incredibly proud to be New Zealander and value our ‘clean green’ image and foreign policy even more since I have been away.
In my view, people and our ‘Kiwi can-do’ attitude are our greatest assets. Since being away I have an appreciation for New Zealanders’ freedom from custom and tradition that enables us to think outside the box. If our leaders think big, long term and commit to delivering vision, then as the business globe gets smaller and people’s working hours change to reduce the impact of New Zealand’s time zone, the country has great potential to export skilled services.

What sort of ongoing contribution/involvement do you, or would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?
I am currently involved in exploring opportunities to use certain services from alternative sources (including New Zealand) and I frequently assist New Zealand lawyers to tackle the London market.
I intend to return to New Zealand and develop local business through setting up new company or working within an existing New Zealand organisation.

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

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