Steve Cooper: shaping the bank of the future
Steve Cooper joined Barclays after leaving school and has worked in almost every area of the business. We spoke to the new CEO of Barclaycard Business Solutions about millennials, “shaping a business of the future” – and camping at Glastonbury.
Can you tell us about your route into Barclays?
I joined straight from school and was one of the first non-graduates to be put on the graduate scheme – Barclays actually sent me to get a degree and study at Harvard University in the US. Since then, I’ve worked in pretty much every part of the organisation: corporate, retail and investment banking, strategy, Africa and Europe.
What convinced you to join Barclaycard Business Solutions (BBS)?
What was put to me by Jes Staley, Barclays CEO – and he was right – was that I’ve done the running and transforming of large scale, complicated businesses. I think his words were: “Can you help shape a business of the future?” BBS is definitely that. It’s exciting, innovative and there’s a great sense of passion and energy running through it. For me, that was the attraction.
What are your thoughts on the business so far?
I love the cultural dynamics. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got that pure fintech element, like The Logic Group who provide innovative payment solutions to clients.
But at the other, you’ll find a 30-year veteran in Northampton who knows exactly what buttons to press to get the payments processing engine working.
Both of those extremes are important to our customers and our business – one doesn’t work without the other.
How do you lead such a diverse group effectively?
I’ve worked in a lot of environments and I think that’s taught me how to nurture all types of people. The more I can do to create an environment where colleagues want to be, where they can learn and grow, the better. And part of that is recognising that, as individuals, we have just one view of the world and that narrows as we get older.
Making BBS a diverse, inclusive and overall great place to be is really important. If I can do that, everything else follows.
Is understanding these outlooks something that interests you in life more generally, too?
I have four children, aged six to 16, and I find them fascinating, especially their perspectives on life.
In April, we were on the way back from a skiing trip with friends, and Prince Edward was sitting in front of us on the plane. I enthusiastically pointed him out to the teenagers and their response was priceless: ‘Who’s Prince Edward?’
I thought that was fascinating. On one hand, I couldn’t get my head around the fact they didn’t know, but on the other, I thought, well, from a young, Generation Z perspective, what relevance is he to them?
They connect with the likes of Princes William and Harry.
That’s really interesting and something that translates into a business environment, too.
Spotting those shifts in perspectives is vital in understanding what customers, corporates and colleagues would want from the bank of the future.
Tracking millennials, recognising their behavioural differences and how they’re changing over time is crucial for us going forward.
Understanding and helping people seems to be one of your passions. Is that something you do outside the office, too?
I’m a big fan of helping colleagues to be the best they can be and making sure they feel fulfilled.
Outside work, I sit on the advisory board of Teach First, a charity that trains graduates to become teachers and puts them into schools in disadvantaged areas of England and Wales.
These youngsters really inspire under-privileged kids and I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that a good education brings to people. I believe that people have to have purpose in their life, whatever that is. When you have purpose and you have focus around that, you can achieve wonderful things.