Matt Valentine

My Working Day: Matt Valentine

18 July 2017

Matt Valentine works in the CEO’s office at Barclays UK and has responsibility for relationships between the bank, venture capital and fintechs. He works in Canary Wharf and lives with his girlfriend in Putney, south west London. In the latest in our My Working Day series, Matt talks to us about continued learning, the engineering mindset – and whether he’ll ever finish watching Breaking Bad.

My alarm goes off at 6am and that allows me not to have to rush, to beat the busy commute and have a nice slow start to the day. I live with my girlfriend in Putney, which is just enough out of the city that there’s green space. I don’t have a set routine, I grab breakfast as and when, whether at home or in meetings, and I’m at my desk for 7.30am.

My working day is quite wide-ranging. I work in the Barclays UK CEO’s office for Ashok Vaswani, but I get involved in a number of different things. A main focus for me is leading an initiative about how Barclays gets closer to the venture capital (VC) community. It’s really interesting work, and it’s important from a commercial perspective that we’re connected and engaged with high-growth start-up and scale-up companies – the Apples and Amazons and Googles of the future. It’s a huge commercial opportunity for us. Every business is going to have to change and adapt, and the companies that VCs are backing are going to lead the way in that.

I joined Barclays in 2011. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was at school. I was just interested in everything and naturally curious. I went on to do a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Loughborough, simply because I could do it: my brain works very logically and it was a good fit for me. Then I joined the bank on a graduate scheme, which was an opportunity for me to see how a big business worked and how the component parts fit together.

Matt Valentine in the office

The graduate scheme lets you do four six-month rotations moving around different parts of the bank. Since then I’ve been quite aggressive in finding new opportunities around the bank, with the goal of building a real range of skills that I can lift and drop – understanding how all the bits work so that ultimately I can help the business run and grow.

Lots of people ask me about my “five-year plan” or whether I’ve thought everything through. I genuinely haven’t. I want to base my career on three core things: I want to be known as authentic, I want to have no fear, and I want to be known to have flexible thinking – adjusting to different situations and finding a way to the answer.

So there’s no “plan” but I look for opportunities where I’m going to learn something new and it’s going to test and challenge me. It’s about personal growth and continued learning and hopefully positive impact rather than any end-goal.

After the graduate scheme I realised I’d never had a customer-facing role where you see the whites of customers eyes and learn what our business does day-to-day. So I applied for a hub manager role, where you’re responsible for running several branches, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done because you learn so much around how customers react to what you’re doing, what their needs and priorities are, and how they understand things.

It was fantastic to have the chance so early in my career to help colleagues and customers in that way, and I learned a huge amount about myself and how I react to difficult situations, how I plan things and manage time: huge personal lessons that are going to help me throughout my career.

The thing I love most about my job is having the chance to look at all the new businesses that are out there. They’re going to impact every industry and it’s really exciting to see how smart people are creating new opportunities bringing together technology and business.

The most interesting part of my day is meeting external clients, either VCs or start-ups. There are also a whole range of internal meetings. Because I work across different sectors of the bank – Investment, Wealth, Technology and so on – there are a lot of different people you need to speak to, keep informed and leverage, so a lot of my time is spent having internal discussions making sure that we’re doing everything the right way.

It’s a people and meetings job, but in a completely different way to my previous role in the branches. The great thing about the branches was the energy from colleagues and customers. There are fewer high-intensity situations in my current role, but there are more challenging conversations with bigger issues and bigger decisions to make.

I speak to Tel Aviv, San Francisco and New York on a regular basis, and you can do a lot of that virtually, but every so often it’s good to meet face-to-face, so that means travel.

Matt Valentine in London

The most difficult part of my job is managing my own time and knowing when to say no. I’m interested in everything so that’s pretty hard on a personal level. From a business perspective, challenges are around pace and scale. Being able to get everyone internally into the right mindset is a journey we’re on. Loads of people get it, but it’s about knowing you have the freedom to try things.

My best day at work was the day I ran my first branch. I was fully in control, it was my responsibility, my team. That was a pretty big moment. More recently we’ve had some great days where we’ve brought VCs and corporate clients together and it’s cool when you look at room of 80 senior people and you’re aware that you’re responsible for the meeting.

Moving back to head office my step count has dropped dramatically, so trying to keep active is important. I was sporty at university, and still play a lot of football and plenty of golf. I have a 14 handicap but want to get to single figures.

I’m usually here until 6pm or 6:30pm, working Monday to Friday. I try not to work at weekends: I’ll spend half an hour going through emails just to help plan for the week ahead, but I take it easy on weekends whenever I can.

If I wasn’t working for Barclays (and if I can’t be a professional golfer!), I would be happy to be doing any job that kept me on my toes. I use the logical thinking of being an engineer: the ability to not see a problem as a problem, but an opportunity to find different routes to get to the answer. My skill is being able to make connections between things and show the value, and an engineer’s mindset helps that.

Lights out is around 11pm, depending on my girlfriend’s shifts. I struggle to get enough time to sit in front of the TV, so after three years of watching Breaking Bad we’ve only just started on the final series.

I read a lot of books: Ashok recommends business books for us and I’m reading one by Clayton Christensen about innovation. On a personal side, I like spy fiction and I’m big into the history of World War II. My grandfather was a landing craft skipper at Normandy and I’ve huge respect for that and feel a connection to that period.