Lady Rice: Wisdom as an Acquired Taste – A Voice of Reason

Lady Susan RiceLady Susan Rice is the first woman to head a UK clearing bank. Currently, she is managing director of Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland. Born and raised in the United States, Lady Rice now lives in Aberdeen with her husband Professor Sir Duncan.

Lady Rice bristles at the mere notion of a glass ceiling that might somehow inhibit the advance of women in business. Once the idea of restrictions on female progress has taken roots, it is – as far as she is concerned – Game Over. Hard work and dogged perseverance should deliver the results desired regardless of gender. This has certainly been true in her case with senior appointments at the Bank of Scotland and as a dean at Yale and Colgate universities.

A poacher turned gamekeeper, Lady Rice is now referred to as the voice of reason in Scottish banking. Her credentials on corporate social responsibility (CSR) are impeccable. She is one of the few bank executives that may perhaps have seen the error of their ways. During the earlier part of her career, Lady Rice was as aggressive a banker as they come and this certainly contributed to her advancement in the industry. However, she has mellowed with age. Or become wiser.

“CSR is fundamental to running a successful business. We must help solve society’s problems in order to keep our business strong.”

Lady Rice became a Prince of Wales Ambassador for Corporate Responsibility in 2006 and has said that, “CSR is fundamental to running a successful business. We must help solve society’s problems in order to keep our business strong.”

She is a former president of the Community Finance Association and a driving force behind Social Investment Scotland which connects capital to communities. Projects financed by the latter organisation include Factory Skate Park, the Collande Youth Project and the Maritime Rescue Institution which now provides a lifeboat to help safeguard the north east coast of Scotland. These seem to be activities close to this senior banker’s heart.

Under her stewardship, Lloyds Banking Group has become an active supporter of the shift to a green economy. In 2009 Lady Rice became a member of the high level 2020 Group working on climate change targets. It is also heartening to note that with her total support, Lloyds is now very keen to help SMEs respond to climate change. The bank has trained about 300 relationship managers to better understand the challenges in this sphere.

On the overly generous, and at times even quite outrageous, pay packages bankers claim, Lady Rice takes a slightly less clear stance and points out that not all at the top of the banking industry receive vast bonuses. She also mentions that rewards should relate distinctly and transparently to a given company’s overall strategy. This suggests a reasonable way forward, provided that bank strategies are indeed responsible.

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