Discussing HR and reward strategy with RBS

Head to Head with Damien Teisseire, Global Head of Reward – Corporate & Institutional Banking – at RBS


Tell us a little more about yourself and your role

For the last five years I have been the Global Head of Reward (Corporate & Institutional Banking and Non-Core Businesses) at RBS.  In this role, I am responsible for leading the development, decision making and implementation of company-wide reward that support the CIB and Non-Core strategy. Given market conditions, shareholder expectations and regulatory focus on compensation, this role is particularly important.

French born, my background and training before entering the reward sector some 20 years ago was as an accountant and tax advisor and I firmly believe that this early experience has been fundamental to the success of my career to date. Having the ability to ‘speak the language’ of the business and the CEO, to understand and appreciate what makes business work and how to genuinely apply commercial strategy and understanding of the HR and reward model has been invaluable. Having moved across into the reward arena two decades ago, my career has been split between consulting and banking. Prior to joining RBS, I worked at Goldman Sachs as Head of Reward for Europe, Middle-East and Africa.

How is the reward function – and the role of the Head of Reward – evolving?

The bottom line is that the ‘people costs’ associated with successfully running any commercial enterprise – especially in financial services and banking – equate to between 60-70% of turnover. Reward and reward professionals – in their many guises and specialist areas – are key to this success and this is something that is only going to accelerate and grow in strategic importance. We need reward professionals with a new set of technical and personal skills.In addition to being able to communicate effectively with the C-Suite, effective reward professionals need to be able to pro-actively engage with the HRBPs within the business to ensure an appropriate awareness and understanding of the broader reward agenda.

It’s essential that reward staff remain up to date with developments on a regional and international level, build external networks and knowledge, ensure reward programmes fully comply with all regulatory requirements and closely and pro-actively monitor legislative activity and inform all stakeholders of progress and significant events that may impact reward.It’s no secret that today’s organisations are demanding that HR demonstrates an increasingly commercial and business focussed understanding and acumen.

"HR is increasingly data-driven and ‘big data’ is certainly the flavour of the month"

Companies are looking for their HR and reward leaders to have a new mindset and experience gained from across sectors, divisions and functions – even from outside of HR! Senior reward professionals in strategically key roles are often already presenting and working alongside the CHRO or HRDs with the executive leadership. Furthermore, I believe that there is a real opportunity right now for reward specialists and leaders – again, maybe especially in financial services and banking – to use all of their expertise, experience and associations to make the next step on the career ladder and to take on the role of HR Director or CHRO. I foresee that, within the next five years, a good number of our future HR leaders will be coming out of reward.

What do you see as the main challenge that the reward function faces in the future?

Data! HR is increasingly data-driven and ‘big data’ is certainly the flavour of the month. Whilst I appreciate that it’s increasingly vital right across the HR function, reward is absolutely all about data. It’s of paramount importance that reward professionals can interpret the numbers and do the analytics as it can offer you a valuable source of strategic foresight and give you a huge advantage in earning credibility and helping the business to drive the right decisions.

Whatever country you are operating in, one of the biggest challenges we face in reward will always be ensuring that we have an understanding and appreciation of the local financial regulatory authorities. Whether it is the FCA in the UK, the US FED or BaFin in Germany, keeping abreast of the changes and demands on compliance, governance and regulation is a significant challenge.

A third major challenge is the effective implementation, management and exploitation of technology. Given our previous expansion, at RBS We have worked hard to rationalise our systems, something that has allowed us to deliver a much more streamlined and effective service to the business.

What key characteristics do you look for in reward professionals when recruiting for your team?

I’ve already discussed the sort of expertise that we are looking for in our future reward professionals – and not just at RBS or in financial services but, to a greater or lesser degree, right across the business world. Technical knowledge and expertise is a given but, increasingly importantly, are the more commercial and strategic skills and capability.

For instance, the ideal reward candidate would also demonstrate high levels of business acumen, be commercially and financially astute and possess the ability to effectively balance the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the role. They would have experience of providing successful leadership (or least demonstrate the necessary competencies/attitude) and be a strategic thinker with problem solving skills, an ability to think outside of the box and well versed in dealing with complex issues in a global and matrixed organisation. And today’s enterprise will, more often than not, be operating on an increasingly global remit so relevant international experience is also becoming an important asset and a multicultural mindset is invaluable; as is the ability to make accurate and prompt decisions within a global policy framework.

Our ideal recruit would be results oriented with an ability to develop and manage collaborative partnerships with HR colleagues and the wider business to drive solutions, deliver outcomes and meet deadlines. They would have strong project management and planning skills learned in a consulting firm and an ability to act and lead with confidence reinforcing and reflecting the values of the firm.

Finding one candidate with all of the above and more requisite skills is, of course, a tall order. But, if reward is truly going to step up to the plate and deliver what it is being asked of it in order to meet those ‘new world order’ challenges and if our future people leaders are to come from out of this function, then exceptional and ambitious reward professionals should be aiming to emulate these skillsets.

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