Claire Foy has been Head of Learning & Professional Development at Coutts & Co and Adam Bank since 2016. Having worked at Coutts most her career in various locations and disciplines she seems to have settled in a role where she is able to make the most impact within the business.
Claire Foy
Claire Foy

An avid supporter of the development and success of those around her, women in particular, her role allows her to use creativity and forward thinking in development opportunities for others, and most importantly offer support to everyone regardless of grade or role.

One of Claire’s greatest achievement is naturally being mother of two young boys, but more recently her determination and tenacity in shifting the culture of learning from one of a fixed mindset to that of a benefit mindset, where people strive to learn and develop to benefit others not just themselves. She is also heavily engaged in tackling equality imbalance, across the board, and is currently developing an Empathy Lounge within the business to build deeper awareness and empathy for all.

Claire has been shortlisted for the 2020 WIBF Award for Achievement.

How does it feel to be shortlisted for the Award for Achievement?

I am honestly a little overwhelmed and immensely flattered to have made the shortlist for the Award for Achievement. On the one hand you hear of so many fabulous women in business and their incredible work, and you naturally believe what you have done could not possibly compare. I think it is very much ingrained in us to view and value others achievements before our own. But on the other hand, I have a fabulous collection of colleagues that have backed me and worked tirelessly with me to achieve something incredibly special, and so of course I think their achievements are worthy of recognition, so I see this as a collective recognition which I am very proud of.

Could you tell us about the career path to your current role?

I was genuinely working as a waitress in a cocktail bar and could upsell a pitcher of margheritas in my sleep! In pursuit of a real job I was hired as an assistant banker at Coutts in the Cayman Islands (I had been brought up there since the age of 2). After 4 years I took a secondment to the Strand office in London, again as an assistant. I moved into credit, and then to my first role as a team leader, managing 28 people. I left briefly to pursue another leadership role at Ingenious Media, but was back at Coutts within a year, having secured a two-position promotion, this time in risk. After my first child I was promoted again to be a Regulatory Supervisor and fell pregnant 3 months later! Back to continue that role for a further five years, I applied for the Head of Learning role. Unfortunately, I was told despite my outstanding scores on presentation and interview, the other candidate was perceived as being more ‘corporate’ than me, so I did not get the job. With resilience, persistence and hard work, 18 months later I had finally claimed the role I had unknowingly always wanted.

You developed two new programmes, based on performance psychology, can you expand on this?

I thrive on discovery and innovation of visionary learning, but at the time I was working against a somewhat fixed mindset to self-development. When by chance, I first encountered Mindflick and their performance profiling tool ‘Spotlight’, I was immediately impressed with the focus on people’s mindsets alongside behaviour, and it invigorated me to explore the art of the possible with our leadership population. A firm believer of leadership stemming from behaviour not position, I knew that developing a complete and deeper awareness of themselves and of the way they could be perceived had to come first. This lay the groundwork for the second phase which was repositioning that awareness to that of colleagues and direct reports and how they perceive them. Quite quickly we saw improvements in our employee’s survey scores around leadership and personal development, and so it was from this success and almost immediate improvement that I went the step further building a programme which would help us better connect with each one of our clients. We now have over 180 leaders who have started the programme, 1500 people in the bank who have 1-2-1 self-awareness coaching and we are currently working with 400 of our frontline colleagues to tune this awareness into our clients and their needs.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

Coming back to full time work after maternity leave is always difficult, but after my second child I had a further 9 months off due to having breast cancer. After the ops, chemo and radiotherapy (bald as a coot!) my husband was suddenly made redundant, and so it was necessary for me to go back to work probably sooner than I should have. Physically I was fine, but emotionally I was very unstable and aesthetically I was a long way off. To add to this, I needed to be fully re-accredited in my regulatory supervisory role, in both private client investments and lending (6 weeks of regulatory training & assessments), and in the time I’d had away RDR had being introduced!

I’ll be honest there were many tears, mainly of exhaustion and frustration, but being known as the ‘helper’ and coach of others, I most definitely made it worse by carrying on without help of my own. Whilst it was a very difficult period, it gave me the drive I have now; to improve learning and the assessment experience for others, and to greatly enhance the emotional intelligence capabilities in our leaders, which so lacked in my return to work.

You are an advocate of mentoring, what advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?

Please do it……but only if you really want to see others succeed, this is not about you. Sometimes it is simply listening to their thoughts or concerns, sometimes it crosses into coaching and learning, but mostly it is being an advocate, a supportive voice. Being someone to bounce ideas off, someone to challenge deeper. You may not always agree, and that’s good, differing opinions develop wider minds.

I cannot tell you how many people (women especially) I have mentored who don’t know how good they are, who don’t know how to promote the excellent work they do, or how to get ahead. They feel stuck, under valued and lost in the politics of corporate life. I see my role of mentor as a custodian of the opportunities their experiences offer, to guide them, encourage bravery and self-progression and most importantly accept what they have to offer.

If you do decide to mentor it can be challenging, but the rewards outweigh the time you invest as you get to be a close bystander as individuals fly off with renewed confidence and success in both their career but often also their life.

Once travel restrictions have eased, where will you first be heading to?

I was planning on taking my sons and husband on Safari this year. It’s been my dream since I was a teenager and I wanted to join the VSO. We’ve always said it was too expensive, or the boys were too young. However, this year I put my foot down and told them it was on my bucket list, I’m saving and we’re going. The plan was to swim with great whites, climb Table Mountain and find the big five. So, whilst I was able to influence my husband (with my deeper EQ skills!) I have been unable to influence lockdown to date – although I’m still hopeful!