Helping the Jersey Institute of Directors move with the times
Lisa Springate is the new chairperson of the Institute of Directors in Jersey, succeeding Chris Clark. She will carry out the role in her spare time away from the day job as head of technical at Jersey Finance. Gwyn Garfield-Bennett went to find out a bit more about the woman who will lead the IoD in Jersey for the next three years.
LISA Springate is an English barrister who worked in London and Hong Kong before arriving in Jersey in 1993. After qualifying as an advocate, she was a commercial litigator for over 25 years before deciding to try something new and taking on the role at Jersey Finance.
Why did you want to take on the IoD role?
I’m a great believer in not standing still – it’s important to keep on learning. It’s a real privilege to be given a role where you can really make it your own. And I think when you look at all the previous chairs, they’ve all done things quite differently. And they’ve all been known for their own achievements in that role. It’s quite a lot of hard work, in addition to the day job. But I think once I’ve got things more organised with the committees and the main board, there are some fantastic opportunities ahead.
What are you hoping to achieve in the role?
One of my objectives is for IoD Jersey to be a lot more visible than it has perhaps been previously. And also, it’s very much to ensure that the brand is all-inclusive to industry, so it’s not just the finance industry. To that end, we’ve got the main committee at the top, but I’ve introduced three new sub-committees, one of which is a diversity sub-committee. And that’s not just gender, but it’s also age, ethnicity. And I’ve also brought on a technology sub-committee, because I think it’s imperative that we move with the times with the brand. And thirdly, I’ve got what’s called an all-inclusive sub-committee, with which I’m looking to involve the Ports of Jersey, local retailers and tourism, to really ensure that we’re supporting and joined up as much as possible from a Jersey plc perspective.
We’ve also brought back Chris Clark as an NED to the main committee, and also one of the former chairs, Jason Laity, because I think they both bring tremendous inputs, having been in this role themselves a few years ago. We’ve also been focusing on a new website as well, which we’re looking to hopefully launch at the annual debate in September.
We’re working a lot on the annual debate. The title is ‘2050 – Will Jersey have Talent?’, a play on Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a bit of fun with the title, but it does have a very serious undertone. We’re really looking at just one topic this year. I feel, having been in the audience at previous debates, that sometimes we’ve tried to cover too many topics. I think having been a litigator in my former role for 25 years plus, it’s very important that we do have a debate and it’s not just a review, which I think has happened possibly recently. And I’ve been very much listening to the members in terms of what they want, to make sure that we’re delivering what they want as a membership.
I’ve proposed to the committee and the principal sponsor, Carey Olsen, that rather than having our panellists on chairs, it would actually be quite nice to have them behind podiums. I thought, that way, it would put more spotlight on each of them. We only propose to have five panellists – in the past we’ve tended to have a panel, and then dinner and then another panel. We’ve also been liaising with Alastair Stewart about changing the format. So we’re talking with a local presenter, and also adding some diversity as well. That person will be looking to work the audience and working the Slido.
There have been comments in the past that people don’t ask questions, they won’t be controversial at debates, which is partly a twofold issue – one, we’re a small village of an island and everybody knows everybody and people don’t want to upset people, and two, there’s the whole finance industry mentality, which is very much to be seen but not heard. Do you want to encourage real debate?
That’s something that quite a few people have commented on, because I’ve used the first six weeks to speak to a lot of members, and this has come out quite a bit. I think people feel that we’re becoming almost too silent, actually, on occasion. One of the reasons we’ve introduced the Slido technique for the debate is because of that, as I think, having watched the debate for several years now, the audience is sometimes concerned about speaking out because they don’t know who else is there, and they’re worried about upsetting others. The purpose of introducing the Slido this year is so that people can ask those questions. There is a debate rather than a review.
My other plan is that I’d like to come away with a list of action points from that debate. And also then ensure that we try to follow through with those action points.
What about the wider role of the IoD?
I have quarterly meetings with the Chief Minister, which has been running for the last few years, and I think as the IoD, it’s important that we do have the voice for industry, because there’s not that many bodies over here that have that ability. I think the IoD is a very old traditional brand. It’s been around for over 100 years and also it has the respect of industry because it’s an all-inclusive brand. But I think what I’m quite keen to do is try to collaborate with stakeholders as much as possible for the benefit of Jersey plc. Only when I reach the point that I think that it’s an unreasonable stance that’s been taken, then I will speak up on behalf of those stakeholders, because I think that’s what my role is there to do. But I think as much as I can I will try to work with people, rather than being vocal all the time.
The IoD in the UK is quite vocal – it is quite outspoken. In the past Jersey IoD has not always been. Are you intending to be a little bit more vocal?
I think when it’s required I will be vocal. I think my own style is very much not to speak up all the time, because I think sometimes then the voice is diluted. But I think when there is something important to comment on, then I think it’s important to have that voice because that’s what I’m there for.
Have you spoken with Charlotte Valeur, who is the Jersey-based chairperson of the UK IoD?
I know Charlotte very well. I used to be an NED on her board apprentice, and so it’s great to know somebody that I can work in tandem with.
Charlotte has been pushing for much greater diversity – where do you think Jersey sits on this now?
I think it’s not only a from a gender perspective, but also from an age and ethnic perspective. It’s imperative for good board governance to have this composition. In terms of Jersey, it’s definitely moving in the right direction. I’m a great believer in not having quotas for the sake of it and I think you’ve got to earn your stripes to be in that position. But I think that certainly the dial is moving in the right direction. And to that end, I’ve been liaising with Pippa Davidson, the founder of the local Lean In movement. That has now over 300 members, which is a fabulous achievement for Pippa.
I’ve spoken with Pippa about trying to collaborate more with her brand. I appreciate we’ve got quite separate brands, but it’s important that we collaborate and work together as much as possible. So I think we’ve got a much better opportunity to try to change the dial faster than possibly I’ve seen it change in the last 25 years since I was qualified.
I think diversity is certainly one objective. But I think it’s also important for the Island, in terms of corporate responsibility, to consider the environment. Again, I think this is something that NEDs in particular are hearing in terms of the boards they’re sitting on. I think it’d be good if Jersey, just as Guernsey has been known for the green funds, could really be known for something similar. We’re very lucky in that on our main board, we have Dr Leslie Dickie from Durrell. She’s taken incredible strides in this field already and so it’s a question of trying to work more with the likes of her to see what we can do to broaden it out. I think it’s an area that as an island we need to do more for.
Are there any particular issues that you have been hearing about as you’ve gone round to talk to members?
I think, obviously, there’s been so much change in the last couple of years because of Charlie Parker and his team coming in. I think it’s only right that they have the opportunity to have the chance to try to see how much they can do while they’re in these new posts. It is a huge job that they have been tasked with. I think there’s always going to be this element of people being averse to change. Personally, I think change is imperative to keep moving the Island forward.
It’s a balance though, isn’t it, between the need for change and the need to stay relevant and the special qualities that Jersey has, which nobody wants to lose, because that’s what makes it so special and why people want to come here and stay here?
Yes, there is a real fine balance. I think Jersey has got some really strong attributes, from the stability of the politics, also from the economy. We’ve got a very strong legal judiciary system as well as a strong legal framework. I think it works because of the central time zones. I still think Jersey is very much a safe haven, a safe harbour in times of uncertain waters, when you look at what’s going on around the world.
I think that’s demonstrated by the growth in high-net-worths coming here. And also the age of those high-net-worths – they are a lot younger and more entrepreneurial than perhaps we’ve seen in the past. So whereas I think, certainly when I came to the Island in the 90s, there was a lot more people that were looking to retire here, we certainly see a lot more entrepreneurial applicants with technology skills.
I think as an island, we’ve got a super work-life balance, which is what we’ve all probably enjoyed while we’ve worked here. And I think that the quality is probably second to none when you look at other jurisdictions, but I think we’ve got to be careful and keep our eye on the ball. And this is why I really do welcome Charlie Parker and his team coming in – we do need to move forward. It’s going back to letting people have a voice and being open to new ideas because although they may seem a bit radical at first, they may really have some benefits long term for the Island.
The IoD Debate is on 19 September, and Jersey’s population policy, the concept of a local university and the employment landscape of the future will all be under the spotlight. The keynote speaker is Tim Arthur, former Director of Virgin Money. The panel includes: Louise Bracken-Smith, CEO and co-founder of Fairway Group, Brendan Carolan, head of social science for Victoria College and president of the Jersey National Eduction Union, Daniel Rowles, CEO of Target Internet and lecturer at Imperial College and Cranfield School of Management, and Senator Tracey Vallois, Minister for Eduction. See eventbrite or iod.je for more information.
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