Phil Smith, managing director HR, Barclays Wealth

Where were you working before, and what were your duties?

I was a member of the executive committee and board of Fortis Investments, a global asset management business operating across 20 countries. I held the position of chief financial officer, with management responsibility for finance, strategy, mergers and acquisitions and HR. As a people-centred organisation, it provided an exceptional platform to bring together the financial and human capital aspects of the business.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a first-class honours degree in industrial and business systems, a post-graduate MA in HR management and I am CIPD qualified.

What are the duties in your new role?

I’m responsible for delivering the people agenda across the Barclays Wealth business worldwide. As we are in the process of transforming the business for rapid growth, a significant amount of my time will focus on leading talent across our front office, product and operational teams. I have about 140 HR professionals internationally reporting to me, covering generalist and specialist roles. I report to the chief operating officer.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

I prefer to talk about the business challenge that manifests itself around people. In our sector, it remains three-fold:

1) How to compete in a shrinking and fiercely competitive, globally mobile talent pool.

2) How to build a high-performance environment that accommodates diversity and work pattern flexibility.

3) To create a reputation as a builder of high-quality talent, rather than just a hirer of quality talent. The business that meets these challenges successfully will have phenomenal success in the wealth management arena.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Common sense. While everyone’s version of this is different, I find it gives me a firm foundation on which to use my technical and commercial skills effectively.

And the most overrated?

Status. Too many HR (and other) professionals rely on grade and seniority to get things done. I have found solid thinking, pragmatic solutions and good delivery transcends grade every time.

What is the worst thing about HR?

HR people. The profession is a hard working, highly dedicated group by and large. The problem is that a large proportion still want a free lunch and have not embraced the challenge of becoming a commercial executive first, and a technical specialist second.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Single-handedly running a compensation review in Jakarta, Indonesia, for 150 full-time equivalent staff, using a compensation survey written in Bahasa Indonesian. We had two days to complete the process from start to finish. Most of the staff were smiling at the end of the process, so read into that what you will.

Who is your ultimate hero?

Clichéd as it may be, my father has long been my hero, both for what he achieved from zero for himself and our family, and as a role model to me and, in the future, my kids.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

Just Can’t Get Enough, by Depeche Mode.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Johnny Depp. Other than having the looks, he has the kind of relaxed, understated confidence that I see when I look in the mirror at home. My wife would probably have suggested Johnny Vegas.

Smith’s CV

  • Feb 2007-present: Managing director HR, Barclays Wealth

  • Aug 2002- Jan 2007: Managing director, chief financial officer and HR director, Fortis Investments

  • June 1999- Aug 2002: HR director, Andersen Business Consulting

  • Oct 1998- June 1999: HR director, global operations, PPM Worldwide (now Prudential M&G)

  • June 1995- Oct 1998: Regional HR manager, Prudential Corporation Asia

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