Course studied: MEng Manufacturing Sciences and Engineering 1994 and Business Information Technology Systems PgDip 1997
Position at time of writing: JPMorgan International Private Bank CTO
Interesting fact: I went to the France '98 World Cup for two weeks, with around a dozen of what remain my best friends from University. We drove all over France in a mini-bus and had the time of our lives. My personal highlight was starting a Conga in the middle of Bordeaux square, where almost every nationality of football fan was in attendance.
Tell us about your background
I was born and brought up in Ayrshire, living in Irvine originally as my dad worked in the old Monsanto's factory, and then moving to Saltcoats after the factory closed down.
I grew up with four siblings, three brothers and a sister, so the house was a little bit noisy. My loud voice stays with me to this day, as do my memories of summer holidays at our family caravan. Maybe your happy memories get exaggerated, but I'm certain every summer back then was filled with sunshine and lovely weather that let us spend most days down at the local beach.
When I started fifth year I had only one thing in mind, get the grades I need and head to University. And so it was that I ended up on the Manufacturing Sciences and Engineering course in 1989 as a young 16 year old. The idea of spending another year at school just didn't appeal, but I can see how that has become a normal path in Scotland in more recent years.
When I graduated I joined a family bakery business, Ferguson's Bakery, which was run by two of my uncles. I managed the daily production in the bakery for two years, during which time I recognised the importance of technology and decided I needed further education. This led to my return to Strathclyde to study Business Information Technology Systems as a postgrad.
That was my launch point into a career in technology, and since joining JPMorgan on the graduate training program back in September 1997, I've had a variety of roles and responsibilities that have stretched and developed me. The various roles have taken me all over the globe, including time in New York, London and Paris, with business trips to many other fantastic cities.
Why did you choose Strathclyde?
Being the first in my family to go to University, I think the idea of staying at home and having support appealed to me, but I did consider a number of other Universities where that would not have been possible. Strathclyde rose to the top due to its engineering pedigree, and when I spotted this relatively new 5 year Masters undergraduate degree that combined industrial placement and management courses with a broad based engineering discipline, it jumped out to me.
It felt like it would give you a platform to do anything you wanted. The fact it only had about 30 places available each year also made it feel like it would be a challenge just to get accepted, and I couldn't resist that challenge.
What does your role as Chair of the Glasgow Economic Leadership Finance and Business Services group involve?
I suppose I'd sum up the role as being responsible for harnessing a diverse set of individuals, who are volunteers representing the private, public and higher education sectors, in order to have a positive impact on Glasgow's development across the Finance and Business services sector. That can be through advice or recommendations we pass on to the GEL Board, which is co-chaired by Glasgow City Council and the University of Strathclyde, or through initiatives we undertake ourselves as a group that bring long term economic benefit to the sector and the city.
To do this I work with a variety of groups to share important and relevant information that helps to inform and shape our thinking on what is important for the sector's continued development, and identify where we have partnering opportunities that can maximise that.
In terms of developments, the group has historically been able to promote the International Financial Services District (IFSD) as part of promoting Glasgow as a location for inward investment in Financial Services. It has also been behind the development of graduate apprenticeship roles that have increased the opportunity for diverse talent to enter the sector through a different path.
Since I've taken up the role my focus has been on developing the diversity in the working group, bringing in representation from SMEs and FinTechs, and working with the group to define the key priorities we want to focus on for the next five years. We have agreed these are Innovation, Diversity and Inclusion, which we see as key to building on the success of the sector to date in developing Glasgow's economy. For the last year I've also represented the sector on the Glasgow Economic Recovery Group, as we continue to plan for our recovery from COVID-19.
What has been your most memorable moment from your career so far?
Being promoted to Managing Director in 2013 in JPMorgan. When I joined the graduate program in London in 1997 I always remember that Managing Director was seen as such a senior role in the firm that a long term goal of aiming for this was a challenge I wanted to take on. I made it a little more difficult when I moved to our new Glasgow office, as for a long time there were no Managing Director roles in the site.
For me to achieve it without being located in one of the more traditional financial centre offices, like London or New York, made it feel more significant. I'll also admit to having a little bit of pride every time we get a new Managing Director promotion in Glasgow, as I think of how hard they've all worked to build these roles in our site.
Any final points or words of wisdom?
I say it to every year's intake of graduates, graduate apprentices, summer interns and any other group I speak to when they ask what has made the biggest contribution to my career.
My answer is always learning, never stop learning, never stop asking questions, always be willing to ask the simple question you think everyone will laugh at, and know that this itself will open up a world of possibilities in any career you choose to follow.