13 Jul 2020
Post-pandemic leadership: The CEO of Intertrust Group speaks out on staying connected, accelerating strategy and rebalancing the workload
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COVID-19 caused difficulties for many companies, but opportunities for others. Stephanie Miller, CEO of Intertrust Group, shares how she is dealing with this difficult situation.
How have you experienced the COVID-19 crisis so far?
For me personally, it's been fine. Me and my family in the Netherlands are healthy, as well as my family and friends back in the United States. As for the company, it’s been really hectic. At the same time its provided a unique opportunity for us all to pull together and continue giving great service to our clients. To give a few examples:
We hired 300 people remotely in India, which is one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19. Those 300 people, they all need background checks, references, workplace and technical facilities, onboarding programs, etc. That has happened.
We have done three or four accelerations of proofs of concepts for our clients because they were in need of our help.
Furthermore, the capital markets division has been working day and night on restructuring trades for our clients, especially in the airline industry.
We very quickly shifted from face to face to virtual meetings with our banking and investor community, and we have continued to meet successfully several times over recent months.
We built an internal dashboard, so we can see, anywhere in the world, how many people are in the office, how many people are off sick, on vacation, active and available.
Our sales team did a fantastic job in ensuring all of our sales and global relationship data is aligned, providing insights we did not have before.
“Using Microsoft Teams across the world is great to stay connected. I can literally see who's doing a meeting and I can jump in to meet with my local teams”
We are close to finalising a formal working from home policy, and a formal flexible working policy - because that's different too. If you're a mom or a dad and your kids come home at 2pm in the afternoon, you might work from 8am to 2pm and get back online during the evening. It’s important we recognise that organisations are returning to very different office and work environments, and I want to embrace that change.
Keeping in touch with all our colleagues over the last few months has been even more important than usual. Lockdown has provided many challenges and I want to ensure we are doing everything we can to support our colleagues, and their well-being.
What impact does this have on Intertrust’s strategy?
We have accelerated some major technology programmes. We had a limited electronic signature programme, but we now have one globally.
We have modified our wire transfer policies, because we are executing payments and wire transfers from home now. We were in the middle of implementing a new financial accounting system. That's now being rolled out, and people really see the benefit.
From a client perspective we see different approaches. They are often overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis, making sure staff can work from home, while we have to ensure our services are provided in the usual way. At the same time, we want to ensure our new technology driven solutions continue to provide added value to our clients. They therefore need to be embedded in clients’ processes as the ‘new normal’.
What adjustments have you made to your own leadership style and techniques?
I would generally not be available before 8 am. But now, as soon as you wake up, you're essentially available because you are in the office anyway.
Today I got up at 7 am and was in the ‘office’ at 7:15 to have a call. Same thing last night when I received a call at 8:30 pm. Because work and private life can get mixed up, I block my calendar during the day for personal matters. For example, I now go to the park three days a week with a personal trainer. It’s important to try and keep that differentiation between work and home.
“In terms of leadership style, it’s a lot more extended hours, a lot more one-on-ones, a lot more ‘come on, let’s talk’. Before, I’d meet people at the coffee machine in the office, but now by phone or video at any time of day”
The other thing I see, in terms of leadership style, is that there is more delegation. We have a weekly senior leadership meeting which I lead. But now, I rotate because I want to ensure all are engaged, and this also increases the sense of connection.
What perspectives can you share when looking ahead and “how to lead from here”?
Re-balancing of the workload will be the key priority for the rest of 2020. COVID-19 has increased our workload by approx. 20-30%. People were highly motivated for two, almost three, months, to get our clients and us through the crisis, but I don’t believe this extra workload is sustainable.
While we still need to drive the acceleration of our tech agenda, set up centres of excellence, accelerate other programmes, monitor clients and meet the expectations of all our stakeholders, including investors, we are going to have to rebalance that portfolio of work.