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Leigh Smyth

news published date 27 September 2017
  • Our Stories
“I really believe in loving the job you do. Life is just too short to do anything different.”  

Leigh joined Lloyds Banking Group in 2012 as Head of Digital Inclusion, leading the digital inclusion agenda on behalf of the Group. She has built the UK’s largest volunteering network of over 25,000 Digital Champions and also leads the development of the report into the digital capability of SMEs, Charities and Consumers – the Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index.

Leigh was the 2016 WIBF Outstanding Achievement Award winner and is a recognised UK Digital Leader. She has recently joined WIBF’s executive board.

Leigh’s passion for digital started during her career in retail, pioneering the launch of the UK’s first computing range for children with Dixon Stores Group. Leigh then moved into the public sector, helping to lead the Government Home Access Scheme which saw half a million people from low income families access the power of digital at home.

Following this, Leigh was the Managing Director for Race online 2012, working with Martha Lane Fox and running the partnership campaign to raise awareness of digital inclusion, in particular the barriers and opportunities faced by millions of people unable to access the key enabler of our generation.

Leigh lives in the midlands with her husband and two sons, who share her endless enthusiasm with all things digital.

We spoke to Leigh to ask her about joining the WIBF executive board, her career and her tips for success.

What are you most looking forward to now you have joined the WIBF team?

I am most looking forward to working with the board, operations team and advisory board to help all women in the sector to gain the benefits of the network and membership services. With technology being a huge part of banking, I hope to be able to bring on board more women in tech to the WIBF community.

Why do you think women’s networks such as WIBF are still so important?

I really believe in networks. Not only to help you in your day to day job, but your own careers and life in general! Indeed, some of my closest friends I have found through networking events. I am never lost as I always have my network and if I don’t know the answer to something I always know someone who will.

What is it about the banking and finance industry that you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy working for an organisation where I feel I can really help impact our customers and communities. I love working for Lloyds Banking Group due to the scale and reach it has and the part it plays in helping to drive the digital and wider economy.

What is an essential quality of a successful manager?

A growth mind-set. Matthew Syed talks about it in his book Black Box Thinking, I heard him speak a year or so ago and it really resonated with me. Basically, it’s not just the ability to be happy, work hard etc but the fundamental belief that you can grow, learn and change for the better through failure and success. Effort and attitude determine everything, and we talk about failing fast and learning from this in our change processes – but I’m a firm believer that you need to do the same as a leader as well. By consistently wanting to improve, and doing this by testing and learning from any mistakes (which we all make!) you can utilise this growth mind-set to create a fantastic team who all pull in the same direction and aren’t afraid to challenge when a process doesn’t feel right. There’s more information on the book here

What piece of career advice do you give others?

I really believe in loving the job you do. Life is just too short to do anything different. When you enjoy your role, you don’t feel like you are working and it’s a great feeling. I also enjoy encouraging women to progress at a pace which suits them and helping them to understand and recognise if they are suffering from “imposter syndrome”. I often “nudge” people to think about their next role and to have a plan, even if the plan is to stay put, otherwise I find people can drift. Women in particular really benefit from someone just saying, “Go for it!” when thinking about the next role or opportunity.

Working with stakeholders can be challenging. What is your top tip for working well with others?

People and life in general is about relationships. I am lucky enough to have worked for some great leaders where I have learned so much about getting to the heart of customer needs and understanding stakeholders. Nick Williams, who I work for, is a great advocate for understanding people and how to create a shared vision that everyone can buy into. In particular he talks a lot about ‘paying it forward’, helping people with what they need. Also, Martha Lane Fox who I worked for at RaceOnline in 2012 once told me that business should always aim to be friendly. I have really tried to take both of these styles throughout my career.

For me it’s about understanding how you think you can help others with what they may need. Finding a win-win solution, where the needs of both can be met and a better outcome created for all. This is a great platform for any relationship to work effectively.

When is a time you were out of your comfort zone and how did it ultimately help you?

I constantly try to take myself out of my comfort zone as I believe it is the best way to learn. One of the biggest moves I have made was into Lloyds Banking Group from the charity sector. I must admit, this was a move I made with a certain amount of trepidation, and seeing the impact that we have been able to make is something I am very proud of and I am so glad I made the leap. I also believe in surrounding myself in people who work differently, and think differently to the way I do. Whilst this can sometimes be a challenging way to work, by doing this we are ensuring real diversity of thought. I have learned a great deal personally, and have also been able to deliver far more with my team for our communities. After all, we need to reflect the customers and communities we serve.

What is your proudest achievement from your career to date?

There has been so many for me. Mostly down to the type of work I do with respect to Digital Inclusion. Whether it be chatting to the PM at the Cabinet table with people who have had their lives transformed through digital, or helping 500,000 low income families get access to IT for their children at home, or more recently seeing the massive impact our 25,000 Lloyds Banking Group Digital Champions are having in our communities every day. Winning the Women in Banking and Finance achievement award was an incredible moment and one I will never forget. Actually, I would say it was one of the proudest days of my life.

Who are your role models?

I don’t have just one role model but several people who I admire and I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. I like to take the elements I admire about them the most and then create this persona of the ideal type of leader / colleague I would like to be. I also like to listen and work for people in particular to people who are not like me, I find they give me wider perspective and it’s really helpful to listen to their advice and approaches. Reflecting on this, my husband, my boss, my team and most of my friends are nothing like me which I guess just demonstrates how I live this value. Life is about diversity and I love it!