Alex, at the age of 35 has delivered a lot of added value for clients and the business over the years. Currently a Director at Barclays Corporate, a Global Diversity Award winner at Barclays 2017 Diversity awards for Business Impact and shortlisted and runner up in the 2016 Insider Young Dealmaker of the Year.
Alexandra Fogal
Alexandra Fogal

Alex established Barclays Women in Business Awards, now in its fourth year it achieves £1m ROI per annum. She set this up not only in Yorkshire, but the North West. She has a Diversity board role for Corporate Bank and assists with the Barclays International Women in Networks for this area. In addition, Alex has organised several gender and inclusion events, including launch events for the external awards programme and supporting sector and diversity dinners with external guests as well as leading internal programmes.

Alex has now been nominated for the 2018 Young Professional Award.

Tell us about your day to day role

As a Relationship Director in Corporate Banking at Barclays, I help my clients achieve their ambitions whether this be through day to day banking, providing funding for growth or supporting their international expansion plans. My clients are manufacturing businesses based across Yorkshire, with annual revenues in excess of £25 million.

Every day is different, which I really like. In essence it is client-led so whatever my client base or prospective clients require drives my activity as well as pro-activeness. I am out on factory floors seeing R&D come together and products, understanding their lean processes, seeing innovation come together and helping clients with advanced manufacturing which is driving the sector forward.

I can be helping businesses or business owners with everyday business activity, expansions, growth overseas (importing or exporting) or funding acquisitions. The activity is led by what my clients want to achieve. A big part is relationships and understanding what people want. I help facilitate this activity by hosting a variety of industry led events where we can learn and share best practice from one another.

From joining the bank on the Corporate Graduate Programme, I have done several roles within the bank and held a senior position for the last eight years now as a Director, all of which has been achieved in my early 30s.

I established and run the Yorkshire Women in Business Awards. This awards program, now in its fourth year, has been incredibly successful not only in recognising the achievements of Yorkshire business women, but also in creating an active, local business network. The awards have been replicated in the North West, such was their impact in Yorkshire. In addition to my local initiatives, I also have a national role and sit on the Diversity Council for the corporate bank, a key part of which is to support Barclays’ gender initiatives and internal female network.

You’ve been responsible for the Women in Business Award Programme for Barclays in Yorkshire, can you tell us more about them and what you learned from that process?

I established the Barclays Women in Business Awards four years ago. I felt there was a gap in the industry for an award programme such as this. I had been going to other networking events across the region and couldn’t find anything that brought together senior leaders from across the community who ran their own businesses. I really want to create a network for everyone to be party to and inclusive.

The awards are completely independent and open to clients and non-clients across the multi-category award scheme, which is focused on women and businesses. This is about recognising women or businesses that have made a real difference in business over the past twelve months.

The essence of these awards is to discover and reward exceptional women and businesses that, through leadership, entrepreneurialism, mentoring skills, and / or ideas stand out from their peers. We rarely get to hear from successful businesses so this platform gives people the opportunity to share this.

In the UK, there does need to be more work and emphasis put onto women in business at all levels and I feel that this awards programme and other connected events I run help towards this. It is about bringing people and businesses together to share best practice, values and hopefully drive activity across the Yorkshire community.

Each year the awards develop and one of the key things I have learned is that we do not value our contribution as much as we should, take the time to reflect on what has been achieved. In essence we need to leave a legacy and create role models for the future. Hearing about the exceptional talent in the region and what these incredible businesses have done gives a platform for this to be done.

How did you get into the banking and finance industry?

I always loved business studies at school and sixth form college and dreamed of running my own business one day. At the time of studies I was doing my dancing qualifications with the aim to become either a fully qualified dance teacher and run my own school or become a professional dancer. I decided to venture down the university route to ensure I had a fall-back plan, taking a business studies degree. After university, I applied to three graduate programmes and loved the Barclays one. Here I am as a director twelve years on.

The graduate programme in corporate banking was set up to provide you with a platform to learn and develop through the various roles in corporate banking. My career has seen me go from client servicing, portfolio management, credit, risk, business development, working with our PLC clients and for the last eight years running my own portfolio of clients from mid corporate sized business to now running a Yorkshire manufacturing portfolio in larger corporate (£25m+ T/O together with some PLC clients). I also help support our northern manufacturing board, green initiatives as well as the food and drink sector.

What is an essential quality of a successful manager?

I would say it is about people and understanding how I can help or assist them in business.

Listening, understanding and suggesting ideas to help make this happen and key areas of a successful manager.

It is about working with people internally as well to bring out the best in them and provide them with the platform and confidence to take their careers to another level. Over the last two years in particular I have worked with my support team to buy into their own development plans and ensure I actively help them secure the next career move. I have seen my colleagues promoted and achieve their goals which is fantastic to be part of.

I think really caring about what I do and how I help people makes this a great quality. Clients see and feel this too and feel in safe hands to create a trusted adviser relationship.

How can we get the biggest shift towards diverse and inclusive workplaces?

It takes time to make change happen. For me more work needs to be done in banking, in particular investment and corporate banking, to change the culture around diverse workforces to be more inclusive. Some are part of the journey already whilst others don’t appear to be on the bus yet.

There are numerous things we can do help support this and at all levels; it’s not rocket science either but I would suggest to all that we need to champion women and teams, be a sponsor, be a mentor, set up diversity working groups or councils to ensure every colleague feels connected or a part of something that means something to them. #Thisisme.

One way could be to introduce this into the balance scorecard or annual performance plan of individuals (or equivalent in a given sector) that we get measured on. What gets measured, gets done so perhaps this might encourage more to think differently. Particularly those who are running teams and on a national basis.

I am not in favour of quotas as I believe and particularly as a female you want to have got there on merit and hard work rather than ticking a box or filling a gap. However, we can do more to encourage females to go for roles, its far better to be approached for a role that a leader feels you have the right qualities or skills for over not been recognised. Other areas of focus would be on recruitment, the wording of some job titles I think puts people off and having a diverse interview panel doing the recruiting.

Some of the work I have done on the corporate diversity council is to work on some of the above and also ensure as part of our internal women’s network that people feel included, we have one quarterly regional event in all regions every year, team leaders are encouraged to pledge what they will do to make change happen, I have created a mentoring booklet with senior role models and skills aligned so that this makes it easier to approach a mentor in your given area, we have also released a dynamic working white paper which has really helped changed attitudes on this.

Tell us something about yourself you think people would find surprising?

I am a qualified dancing teacher. I have danced since the age of four years old and was on the stage from this young age. I did various styles of dance including ballet, tap, modern, disco freestyle, ballroom, latin and hip-hop.

My claim to fame was dancing in the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games in Manchester and got to meet the Royals.

I have also done various professional shows covering summer seasons and pantomimes together with the professional ballroom and latin circuit. I then went onto teach dancing every weekend to children of all ages (4-18 years+).

My love for dance has continued in the professional work place as I choreography the annual professional fashion show every year (500+ guests) for charity and actively get involved in this show every year. I have also done a number of first dances for friends weddings which has been another great way to stay involved.