Secondment gives WWF a fresh pair of eyes
Gavin Gleed is the latest RSA employee to lose his suit and tie and join WWF as part of RSA’s ongoing secondment programme. Since its launch in 2011, the scheme has proved an invaluable opportunity to share skills and know-how between the two organisations and get more employees involved in the partnership.
Gavin joined WWF on a one-year secondment as Sustainable Finance Manager on its One Planet Finance Team. It’s a far cry from his work at RSA where he is responsible for managing a team of sourcing specialists in charge of the company’s indirect procurement across the UK. “My line manager knew I was starting to think about a new challenge so when the secondment programme was advertised we made some enquiries, and after a hard interview process I was lucky enough to be selected.”
“It’s fair to say I felt a bit apprehensive before the move. I’m not a finance expert, but at least I’ve worked in and around the financial sector for some time and it’s an area that I’ve been interested in for a while.” After four years at RSA, Gavin is relishing this new challenge.
“One of my highlights has been researching and writing a position paper on the EU’s proposed financial transaction tax. It’s a tangible piece of work I’m really pleased with. I’ve also been able to put my project management skills to good use scoping out a project on resource scarcity.”
“Often, one of the biggest contributions I can make is looking at problems with a fresh pair of eyes and a new way of thinking,” explains Gavin. “Likewise, when I go back to RSA I’ll take with me a much better understanding of what WWF does and I’ll be able to bring a different perspective to my work based on what I’ve learnt here.”
There are a few cultural differences Gavin has had to overcome. One of the biggest, he says, is the timescales involved. “In a corporate environment everything is very immediate and commercially driven. When we talk about long-term strategies, we mean between three to seven years. But at WWF we look decades ahead because of the degree of change required. We’re not making small tweaks here and there, instead we’re trying to bring about change on a global scale. Also, the role is much more about influencing people and organisations to make the decisions you want them to, rather than making the decisions yourself. So it needs the same influencing skills I needed at RSA, but on a whole different level.”
Despite the differences, there is more common ground than first meets the eye, as Gavin explains: “There are some striking similarities between the two organisations. Both RSA and WWF are fantastic brands backed by lots of committed and knowledgeable people, all working towards a common goal. Also, just like RSA, WWF continually needs to review and refresh its strategy to ensure it is effectively meeting its objectives.”
“The more time I spend at WWF, the more I can see why it’s so important that the insurance industry and RSA get involved in the sustainability agenda. It’s RSA’s role to understand and manage risk, but there is a whole different set of risks arising from environmental change and insurance companies need to be at the forefront of understanding them. That’s the rationale behind our partnership. We each have different silos of expertise that we are bringing together to quantify and assess environmental risks.”
“Personally, it’s just an amazing opportunity and fantastic experience, I’m certainly getting lots out of WWF, and I hope they get something back from me too.”