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Kevin Gartside, Head of Military and Veterans Outreach, Barclays.

Impact

Bringing “the military factor” to work

25 June 2021

After leaving the army in 2012, Kevin Gartside joined Barclays and moved up a new set of ranks. Now he helps other military leavers make the transition to civilian working life. He tells us what “the military factor” brings to the corporate world, and how Barclays is supporting wounded, injured, sick and vulnerable veterans.

As Head of Military and Veterans Outreach (MVO) for Barclays, Kevin Gartside has found a job close to his heart. In 2012, after 10 years of service in the British Army, he joined the bank’s Citizenship team on a work placement, while awaiting his medical discharge from the military.

“One of the key things the bank set up a decade ago was a scheme to help injured service personnel, of which I was one,” he says.

A captain in the army, with postings in Basra and Baghdad, Gartside was injured during his third tour in Iraq, recovering through “four years of various treatments and operations”. While he says his injuries were minor compared with many of his colleagues, “they were sufficient to mean I was no longer ‘soldier fit’.” 

Kevin Gartside in Belize in 2007.

Kevin Gartside in Belize in 2007, during his time in the army.

The years Gartside spent in the army “really set me up for different challenges”, he says. Now, Gartside’s responsibilities include overseeing Barclays’ AFTER programme, which has helped more than 8,000 service leavers over the last decade, and a Military Talent Scheme that takes on between 50 and 100 recruits each year, and has over 600 alumni working throughout the bank.

“What we refer to as ‘the military factor’ means those coming from the armed forces bring a huge diversity of thought to the business,” says Gartside. “Their broad experiences provide something that’s different to the normal corporate thinking.”

Armed Forces Week provides “an opportunity for us and the nation to recognise the contribution of our armed forces and veterans”, adds Gartside. “We’re marking it through a variety of different activities, including online social events from our military network.”

Supporting military charities

Gartside sees it as Barclays’ duty as an Armed Forces Covenant signatory to support military charities who look after the wounded, injured and sick. An “action not words” philosophy sees the bank announcing new support for four charities, over the next four years, with a reach across all three services and throughout the UK.

“These charities support veterans in landing long-term jobs and give them that ability to build second careers”, Gartside says. The charities are Mission Motorsport, Walking with the Wounded, Royal British Legion Industries, and Groundwork Greater Manchester.

For veterans in contact with those charities, transitioning from military service can be a “long-term, slow process”, says Gartside, “considering what a lot of them have been through. And it can take quite a lot of time to get up to that position where they're able to forge new career paths – which is why these partnerships are so crucial.”

Speaking of his own military experience, Gartside says that “you’re coming from the original values-based organisation. And that really sets you up for success at a place like Barclays.

Kevin Gartside in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008.

Gartside in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008.

What we refer to as ‘the military factor’ means those coming from the armed forces bring a huge diversity of thought to the business. Their broad experiences provide something that’s different to the normal corporate thinking.

Kevin Gartside

Head of Military and Veterans Outreach, Barclays

“In the corporate world, there are a lot of very good managers, but actually they’re crying out for strong and empathetic leaders.” These qualities exist in the military regardless of background or rank, Gartside says, and Barclays’ programmes prove that “despite a lot of commonly held preconceptions, financial services is not just for officers. The leadership, training and qualities learned and demonstrated across all ranks in the military set a great standard.”

The ability to lead has been an “asset, advancing my career at Barclays” from project manager to programme manager to head of department, and he sees it as a “similar asset for the hundreds of other veterans that we have in the business.”

Sense of duty

As well as AFTER and the talent scheme that brings veterans into the bank on a 12-week programme – with a 90% retention rate – MVO oversees VETS (Veterans’ Employment Transition Support), helping all veterans, regardless of rank, service or circumstance, to find employment in a variety of industries. “It’s grown exponentially over the last year and a half,” says Gartside, “with 180 corporate partners all looking to employ veterans for the same reasons we are.”

Gartside explains: “Veterans bring with them an inherent sense of duty, and if they come in and feel that they're building a career and belong in an organisation, that is often rewarded with loyalty.

“Data shows that our veteran population performs very favourably against other talent pipelines. Their promotion rates are higher, and they look to stay and build long-term sustainable careers, which is good for them but can also only be good for the business.”

Knocking on the door of senior colleagues to garner support is actually quite an easy thing to do, because so many of them are veterans, or have got veterans working in teams or have been part of the network. Success breeds success.

Kevin Gartside

Head of Military and Veterans Outreach, Barclays

Kevin Gartside in a garden, with his dog.

As Head of Military and Veterans Outreach, Gartside’s role includes overseeing initiatives like Barclays’ AFTER programme and the Military Talent Scheme.

During this year’s Armed Forces Week, Barclays’ special focus is on reservists – with Gartside pointing out that the bank has been making extra efforts to promote the particular needs of reservist colleagues, “giving non-military colleagues the training and understanding of how to support them.”

Gartside says that Barclays’ support to the armed forces community both within and outside the bank is “the right thing to do”, but also “makes real business sense”. The next steps will include a focus on military spouses and partners, a 90% female cohort who Gartside sees as an underrepresented and often underemployed demographic.

“Quite often they’ve sacrificed their own careers to follow their partners”, he says, “but they have a huge amount of similar skills like resilience, agility and adaptability. That makes business sense to us, too.”

The presence of so many military-linked colleagues also helps the bank serve their customer base, Gartside thinks, with bespoke products and services from credit solutions to payments services to help-to-buy-schemes. Internally, alumni of veterans’ programmes have progressed up the corporate ladder, leading to “a number of senior veterans”, within all sections of Barclays. “Knocking on the door of senior colleagues to garner support is actually quite an easy thing to do, because so many of them are veterans, or have got veterans working in teams or have been part of the network. Success breeds success.”