My journey Victoria Muir CDir of BlueBay Asset Management
The case study below provides an in-depth view on the journey to the Chartered Director Qualification and how the IoD programme has supported Victoria Muir in her professional development.
With an academic background in botanical sciences and over 20 years’ experience in financial services, including serving on a number of boards and committees of the UK’s largest mutual insurance society, Victoria has been a chartered director since 2014.
Currently global head of investor relations at BlueBay Asset Management, Victoria is also a member of the IoD Chartered Director CPD Review Group.
As of July 2015, Victoria is a non-executive director with Invesco Perpetual Select Trust.
My journey to chartered director
Although I have worked closely with the boards of various investment trusts since 1999, it was in 2008 when I was introduced to the IoD and, in particular, the Certificate in Company Direction. At that time I was working for Royal London Asset Management and conversations were happening about me taking up a position on the board. At that time, board members were expected to serve for one year on the executive committee and pass their IoD certificate in company direction before appointment as a director. I found the (then eight) sections of the course absolutely fascinating and knew that this would probably change the direction that I wanted to travel in my future career. I really don’t know how directors can confidently carry out their role without training to look at their duties and liabilities, strategy, change, leadership, finance, marketing and HR! I passed the certificate in 2009 and was appointed to three Royal London board positions.
In 2013, and with a few years of board experience under my belt, I decided to continue on my journey to become ‘chartered’ by taking the Diploma in Company Direction. This was a very different experience to the certificate and looks to examine how you apply your knowledge in a board environment. During the Developing Board Performance course, ‘the board’, which was made up of 12 incredibly inspiring individuals from a variety of industry sectors, have three challenges a day, in which they have to brainstorm, present, chair and observe. The nine scenarios included an acquisition, a health and safety scandal, a press conference – it is fast and furious and encourages effective strategic team-working. One felt a little like a member of Alan Sugar’s ‘The Apprentice’ gang, where you didn’t know what was going to be thrown at you but you had to work with your new colleagues and deliver! I had to present the acquisition pitch and was thrilled when our tutors proclaimed that they had only seen one better in the history of the course! For me, the course really solidified the teaching from the certificate program and my practical experiences, demonstrating how much I had learnt over the past four years.
There was just one more step to go, that being the chartered directorship itself! It certainly was a completely new way of looking at your career and contributions to date across the five sections of the professional review, but ultimately it was rewarding and I think serves as a reminder for how one should approach directorial or other governance roles going forward. After the application, portfolio and interview stages, I was absolutely thrilled to gain my chartered directorship in February of 2014.
Key attributes for a director
I believe a great director has that combination of thoroughly knowing their role, twinned with a strategic approach and a quiet confidence in their leadership skills. Additionally, it is important to remember that businesses are ultimately about people and one’s EQ (emotional intelligent quotient) is a vital attribute!
The importance of chartered director
I would like to see more recognition from companies of the chartered director status and the other IoD courses. Recruiting boards should seek out CDirs as they can then be assured that those individuals not only know their stuff but have a track record of putting it into practice! I think that more qualified individuals on boards can only lead to a higher standard of corporate governance and should go a long way to avoid future governance scandals.
To the future
I am interested in seeing true diversification across boards – this is not just a gender issue! We need to finally shake off the ‘pale, stale and male’ (!) image and embrace true diversification, which should even include such differentiators such as blending individuals with a mix of thinking styles, from different backgrounds, sectors etc.
My first full-time job was in fashion and I have made garments and accessories for many individuals including some lace covered buttons which ended up on one of Princess Diana’s dresses! I have been exploring a fashion brand idea for the last year or so and I hope that, in time, I will be able to bring it to life. The IoD learnings are just as easily applied in the large corporate world as in a start-up!