It was a great idea for me to move into financial services. It might seem like a strange career move, from the Armed Forces into a very different workplace and industry, at a particularly challenging time. Yet the challenges that I’d faced in the Armed Forces, and those faced during the financial crisis, have had a degree of resonance.
It’s certainly been a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. But I feel very much at home here – people are having to think on their feet to find solutions for the workplace, company and clients. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years in the Armed Forces. This move has given me an opportunity to establish my professional credibility in a very different industry, and in doing so, to demonstrate my flexibility.
In 2000, the ban on gay people in the Armed Forces was lifted. I’d been on board a large ship for a couple of weeks, as head of operations. Having waited a very long time for the ban to be lifted, I had a really strong desire to be part of making that new policy work. I decided to ‘come out’ on the day that the ban was revoked. Unfortunately, it meant that people hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know me before they suddenly discovered that I was gay.
In an Armed Forces workplace in 2000, that was quite profound. For a short while, it stopped people from getting to know me, because they were completely dumbfounded about what this news meant and how it would have an impact. Of course they gradually learnt that it would have no impact at all. But looking back, I wished I’d given them breathing space.
I made a less serious, but more dramatic, mistake during my years in the Navy. I was on nightwatch on a ship in Scotland. I wasn’t really experienced, and when I looked out the window, there was shipping everywhere. The captain had gone to bed and I panicked, hitting the emergency alarm to say that I needed help on the bridge. The captain woke up, ran to the bridge, and threw open the swing doors. He was in a silk dressing gown which got caught in the door as it swung shut. He fell face first onto the floor and broke his nose. He was lying there on the floor with blood everywhere when the senior watchkeeper came running up and fell over him. What a moment.