David Strachan has been saved
Life at Deloitte
Partner and Head of the EMEA Centre for Regulatory Strategy
I started life as a Modern Linguist (German and Russian) at Oxford and subsequently took a Diploma in Economics at Cambridge. I joined the Bank of England in 1985 and stayed there until moving to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) when it was created in 1998. My last job at the FSA was as Director of Financial Stability, a post I held throughout the global financial crisis which began in 2007. I joined Deloitte in 2011 and did so for two reasons. First, Deloitte was very quick off the mark in understanding that the regulatory response to the financial crisis would have a fundamental impact on the business model, strategy and profitability of the financial services industry, particularly banks. Deloitte had the vision and determination to establish a team dedicated to understanding and assessing the impact of regulation on the industry. Second, I had met a lot of people from Deloitte in my previous career and had always been very impressed by them. This was a team that I really wanted to join.
What work do you get involved in on a day to day basis?
My work covers all aspects of financial services and all types of clients. I spend my time briefing clients on the latest market regulatory developments, working as a subject matter expert on various projects, writing and publishing papers on regulatory hot topics and dealing with the day-to-day management of the Centre. The Centre is staffed by a great mix of people with a range of experience – from new graduate recruits through to colleagues who have worked in regulation or the financial services industry (and in some cases both!).
What do you like most about the office and region that you work in?
London is the most global of all the main financial centres, although New York might dispute this! So, if you’re working in financial services regulation, London is the place to be. Many regulators around the world look at what is happening in terms of regulatory and supervisory developments here and ask themselves whether they should be doing something similar. Consequently, when I travel to South Africa or Tokyo, there’s always enormous interest in what’s going on here.
Why your industry?
I’ve spent my entire career in the financial services industry and what we see now has changed so much since I started in 1985. This was the year before Big Bang and I remember, in one of my roles at the Bank of England, walking around the City to visit the discount houses wearing a silk top hat. The discount houses are long gone and so - no doubt - is the top hat. More recently we have seen insights from behavioural economics being used by both the financial services industry and regulators to enable them to understand better how consumers make decisions in the real world. Ultimately it’s the financial services industry’s ability to adopt, adapt, innovate, change with the times, reinvent itself and endure that is fascinating.
What is your top tip for working in your industry?
Be prepared for anything - you never know what’s going to come at you next.
What differentiates your industry from other industries?
Two things stand out about financial services. First, the extent to which they underpin the whole of the real economy. As we saw, at times very painfully in the aftermath of 2008/9, when the financial services industry doesn’t function properly, neither does the economy. Financial services permeate almost everything that we do in a way that, in my view, no other industry does. Second, the sheer diversity of the industry, from complex credit derivatives to credit cards, and the people who work in it.
Which personality traits or skills aid success in your industry?
Financial services are complex, regulation is complex and so are the challenges we help clients face. So, an interest in sorting out and solving complex problems and presenting the results in an accessible way is a good start. It also helps if you thrive under conditions of uncertainty since we seldom deal with issues which don’t have some degree of ambiguity. While you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, an interest in numbers helps. And last but not least, an interest in people, what motivates them and how they like to be engaged and receive information are essential.
What do you enjoy most about your industry?
The central role financial services play in all our lives.
Talk us through the most exciting project that you have worked on
I have been involved in a project supporting a major global bank as it transforms and restructures itself to meet the new demands placed upon it by regulators around the world. The complexity of the issues, the uncertainties and the sheer enormity of the decisions being made add up to a fascinating project. I have met many interesting people at the client and have formed close working relationships with Deloitte colleagues around the world. We needed a multi disciplinary team and this was precisely what we created, generating opportunities for people to apply their existing skills and to learn new ones.
How has Deloitte played a role in your long term career goals?
Deloitte has been the launch pad for the second phase of my career: my first foray into the private sector after 26 years in the public sector. The firm and my colleagues have been immensely supportive in helping me make the transition.
What advice would you share to others considering a career in your industry?
- Talk to friends, family and colleagues who work in and around the financial services industry – find out what interests them and how they see the industry changing. This will give you a sense of just how dynamic an industry this is.
- Look beyond some of what you read and hear about the financial services industry. It’s clear that parts of the industry have been beset by unscrupulous practices, but expectations are now changing fundamentally. We can play a positive role in this reshaping process.