Simplifying the activities of Barclays

05 January 2017

Andrea Bonafe, Chief Operating Officer of Barclays Non-Core (BNC), describes herself as an energetic and entrepreneurial spirit and with her determined leadership, alongside BNC CEO Harry Harrison, they are driving down costs and risk-weighted assets (RWAs), and simplifying the activities of Barclays more broadly.

Andrea moved to the UK over 20 years ago having previously worked and studied in Brazil and North America. Before joining Barclays in 2015 she gained a MBA from Harvard Business School and has had a successful career in finance initially in investment banking at Bankers Trust, UBS, NatWest and later working in Private Equity and Hedge Fund management.

Tell us in a nutshell what BNC does?

BNC was established to reduce assets and businesses that, although often attractive, simply do not form part of Barclays’ future strategy. By running down or selling these assets, we are reducing complexity, operational risk and the ongoing costs to the business. This in turn allows capital to be redeployed across the Group for higher returns.

Since the inception of BNC we have more than halved the size of our RWAs and are well placed to reach our target of c.£23bn RWAs in 2017 – this is an incredible feat from such a determined team.

What is the culture like in BNC?

When I joined BNC we felt (wrongly) as the ‘underdogs’ of the business, as though it were us against the world. I think this perception united us to build a truly collaborative culture. Part of our success is that everyone has the same, very clear objectives, knowing what needs to be achieved and by when.

Often when you work in big organisations people might have a tendency to hide and slow down processes behind emails. In BNC we work in small teams and encourage people to get up and talk to each other and ultimately stay extremely focused on getting things done in very short periods of time. The sense of urgency is there, and there is no time to waste.

Why is good leadership so important in BNC?

People that work in BNC need to be brave as there is a defined end point to the business. In BNC we really try and get closer to the core of people and find out what makes them tick. We take an interest in their lives and what they want from their careers. To me, recognising that people are the centre of your business is the most effective form of leadership. Our team is trusted and empowered to make decisions which in turn builds morale and confidence.

I often hear that colleagues appreciate how we treat each person with dignity and respect. One example of this is that we’ve dedicated resources to helping people find their next job opportunity, whether that is within Barclays or outside. We are always encouraging colleagues to think proactively about their careers.

What have you learnt from working within BNC?

I am constantly reminded that no matter how much you try and plan for every eventuality there will always be unforeseen issues and diversions. Sometimes situations we are faced with force us to be innovative and think on our toes. Dealing with adversity is all part of the job here in BNC which makes us resilient, tolerant and nimble.

How do you ensure BNC’s activities ultimately benefit all parties?

Each and every business sale we carry out focuses not just on finding the right buyer at the right price but considers the possible impact on customers, clients, colleagues and our business. When we work on a sale we always discuss how the buyers will treat their new employees and customers, as well as any reputational challenges we need to be made aware of. We want to ensure that the transition is smooth and we are leaving a positive legacy so that the business can go on to thrive under the new ownership. On the asset and derivatives side, we also want to make sure we leave behind a mindset and proven processes that ensure the continued optimisation of resources and simplification of infrastructure.

What advice would you give to other women in banking?

Working for a bank is an incredible and varied experience. No two days are the same. Today there are more women in banking than ever before. In a traditionally male-dominated environment, women may feel less confident at speaking up, but I would encourage them to recognise the positive contribution they have to offer. Research shows that leadership teams with greater gender diversity develop better solutions and foster a more open, collaborative environment.

My advice to all women is do what you enjoy and remain true to yourself. Find a mentor who supports you and don’t be scared to put yourself forward. Ultimately I believe we need to empower more women to succeed by having greater vigilance in identifying and championing those who show potential. I’m always on the lookout.