Trailblazing Women: Claire Calmejane, Director of Innovation, Lloyds Banking Group

Trailblazing Women: Claire Calmejane, Director of Innovation, Lloyds Banking Group
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This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared on Global Invest Her. You have to see what you can be.


"Be confident, Dream Big, Embrace your risks. And don't forget to have fun."

Claire Calmejane, is charged with test driving tomorrow's banking to best suit Lloyds' 30 million customers. The computer engineer joined the bank in October 2012 as Head of Digital Delivery and became Head of the Digital Centre of Excellence, Innovation and Partnerships in 2014, helping to devise a strategy to digitise one of the largest banks in Europe. She set up the Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) Innovation Labs, an internal sandbox enabling senior executives to de-risk strategic investments through a test and learn approach and other techniques from the start-up world. With the HR team, she created the Digital Academy accessible to 75,000 Lloyds Banking Group employees and the UK's first digital graduate scheme. French-born Calmejane is a board member and mentor at Startupbootcamp FinTech, having helped to drive Lloyds' backing of the accelerator programme. Before joining the bank, she has worked in the London office of Capgemini Consulting and has served as a visiting scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business in Boston.

Learn more about Claire on the Lloyds Digital Banking Digital Group Hub, her Linked In profile and follow her on Twitter @ccalmeja

Who is your role model as a leader?

Before Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer, for a long time, we had few women leaders in technology that I could really look up to and aspire to. Today, I am proud to be surrounded by diverse leaders driven by the same desire to deliver global economic growth through digital and making services easier, simpler and more accessible across industries, and especially for me in financial services. Yet, there is still much to do at senior level, where despite lists flourishing on the Internet, we are lacking diverse representation on boards with more CEOs named John than women CEOs in the US. This is our responsibility to be the trailblazer and pathfinder; to nurture new talent such as Sophie Bialaszewski, who leads our Innovation movement and Women in Fintech effort at LBG or Krissy Bordas, the co-founder of the start-up Swave, a simple mobile solution to encourage savings.

With other senior directors at LBG, such as Andy Clarke our Risk Director and Jo Brown our Customer Experience Director, I sponsor the Digital Breakthrough network, an initiative encompassing our women's network and targeted internal and external activities to ensure our workforce represent our customers, 51% of them being female. As an example, I mentor the #50/50Tech Challenge to increase from 10 to 50% women CEOs in tech in the UK and we champion the FemTechLeaders which unleash role models in the industry.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I think that we are at a unique moment in the fourth industrial revolution named the digital age, succeeding steam, electricity and automation revolutions. The speed of current breakthroughs has no precedent. Whilst it is true that start-ups are disrupting parts of the financial services value chain, traditional banks are not standing still. I have gained great enjoyment out of the transformation of a 250-year-old organisation that has had such a positive impact for our customers. The team has delivered projects bringing banking closer to our day to day digital life, such as self-identification in a couple of clicks to open an account, instant video collaboration with advisors, and testing new forms of authentication that could eventually see us getting rid of passwords altogether. We created a sandbox where start-ups and banks can innovate together, through our Startupbootcamp partnership. Some of the known examples are with WoraPay and Swave.

There is still much to be done and we cannot stand still, we have to continue to adapt and meet the demand of our customers. In this journey, I have the unique opportunity with the digital team to work with the UK regulator, the UK government and other peers to shape the next generation of financial services rails, 'Open Banking'. This aims to enable customers to access their data at any point in time through approved third parties. This has the potential to fundamentally change Financial Services in the next few years and , with what I'm seeing in the bank, I'm confident LBG is well prepared to be the best bank for customers in this new world.

On a more personal note, living in four different countries gave me the opportunity to grow and develop differently, thinking more inclusively and embracing diversity. Ten years ago I was travelling in India, where the IT industry was booming. I met a General Manager of a GE BU who had an impressive Ivy league US background. One of the things he told me was: 'if you have an opportunity for a double culture in life, just go for it.' This resonated with me, and when I had the choice after Boston of going back to Paris or London, I embraced the different culture and went to London.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman leader?

I graduated from IT engineering, amongst only 1% of women in my class. Today that has risen to around 10%. I have had great sponsors in my career and luckily, I have made gender not a barrier, but a differentiator. I have worked hard and made some difficult choices, such as changing country and moving away from my family and this led me to the job I have today. It is true that I needed to develop a thick skin and a lot of 'franc-parler' (learning to speak frankly), as well as facing unconscious bias.

Most of my challenges today are common to senior executives and not gender specific. Our CEO, Antonio Horta-Osorio made a commitment to have 40% of senior positions filled by women by 2020. With sponsorship from the top and Lloyds 'Manbassadors', we achieved our 2015 target to have 31% of senior positions filled by women, up from 28% two years ago. And I make sure to always have a great boss!

How do you grow people in your organization?

When it comes to digital talent, it is a mindset change for most of our colleagues rather than about recruiting millennials. When you say 'I want to buy a house', how many of you will go and search on the Internet versus walking to the branch? There is no silver bullet, and as Digital is increasingly becoming a key point of contact with our customers, we created a corporate culture programme with seven operating principles centred on them. The principles show the qualities and behaviours that digital employees should operate by to help our strategy succeed. One of the principles is 'we make each other successful' and we do that by collaborating and working across teams and divisions to harness the collective expertise we have together. Another of our principles 'we follow the data' means that we are fact-based, not opinion-based in shaping services for our customers. No matter what your level is in the organisation, as long as you have prepared your arguments with the right data, people will make the space and listen to you. Our diverse role models and culture squads spread these operating principles across the organisation and the Digital Academy trains people on how to follow through on those principles through their behaviours and increasing skills. More here.

If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?

It would be to help everyone understand the benefits of being online and accessing the Internet. There are 12.6 million people in the UK who lack basic digital skills and nearly 6 million who have never been online. The Internet created the most successful companies of today - Google, Apple, Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba. This year we launched our Lloyds Bank UK Digital Consumer Index and found that people who are online, can save an average of £744 more than those who are not online, by shopping around for the best deals. That makes a huge difference for many people. I would like to do even more and faster!

Leigh Smyth, our head of Digital Inclusion, is doing tremendous work with a UK charity called 'DotEveryone'. At Lloyds Banking Group we have pledged, through our Helping Britain Prosper Plan, to create 20,000 Digital Champions by 2017.

What differences do you notice between men and women's leadership styles?

Personally, I don't see a lot of differences between men and women's leadership styles. I think we all have our own special individual leadership traits and experiences rather than from gender being the primary difference. Alice Eagly, Professor of Psychology from Northwestern University, wrote an interesting report for Harvard Business School on Gender at Work where she points out some of the key gender differences on what makes a good leader. I think that both genders are equally talented and more diversity is the key to a more effective workforce.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I am a practical person and pragmatic, I am not afraid to challenge the status quo or give my opinion. I know where I want to get to, leveraging my energy to connect people and ideas to build a bank that is simpler, easier and more accessible for customers. Collaboration and inspiring the team to go the extra miles for our customers are my drivers, as well as enabling our talent to embrace the numerous opportunities open up by digital. I am an optimistic, enjoy life and suffer from Nomophobia (phobia of being out of mobile phone reach). I try to be the leader I aspire to be, and recently started to integrate Headspace exercises as part of my daily routine to practice mindfulness.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stay confident, trust yourself and have fun in what you do. Don't forget to have fun.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Supporting governments on harnessing digital to enable better, simpler and more efficient industries and societies on strategic topics such as customer-led innovations, data privacy, cyber-security, setting-up and running businesses, efficient financial services rails and education systems. There is a big opportunity that we shouldn't miss out on.

Lloyds Banking Group is on its way to becoming the best bank for customers by, amongst other things, shaping the way Britain banks. We are very involved in the startup accelerator system. When you are the biggest bank in the UK, you have an important role to play. We have already helped create 40 start-ups with innovative solutions for our customers and are nurturing employment in different areas in our economy. That is something I would like to continue and grow 10-fold over the next 10 years.

Enabling female talent to lead companies as C-level executives will remain part of my agenda, research show that companies led by a diverse workforce perform better and this is not a women fight but about making organisation more modern and reflecting their customer base.

3 key words to describe yourself?

  • Daring
  • Persistent
  • Inclusive


Watch Anne Ravanona's TEDx talk on Investing in Women Entrepreneurs.

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