Interview with Louise Shield

To mark our 15th year in business our founder Wayne Reynolds is interviewing a wide range of highly accomplished corporate affairs leaders about their experience and views of the function. This interview is with Louise Shield who leads corporate affairs at the global investment manager, M&G plc.

Bio

Group Director of Corporate Affairs and Branding, M&G plc (current)

Director of Communications and Responsible Banking, Santander UK (2016 to 2022)

Director of External Communications, RSA (2010 to 2016)

Head of Communications, Lloyd’s of London (2003 to 2009)

What advice would you give to yourself 15 years ago?

Believe in yourself, and soak up the experience. I’d been given an amazing opportunity at Lloyd’s, with a big team, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I’d worry about everything. So I’d tell myself to take a step back, be myself, learn as much as possible and enjoy the experience.

How has corporate affairs changed over the last 15 years, and what do you expect next?

I don’t think many CEOs would have had the ability to communicate effectively in their job descriptions 15 years ago, but today it’s a core skill for business leaders. The proliferation of stakeholder groups, channels and issues has put the demands on corporate affairs teams on steroids. And things that organisations and individuals did in the past are being judged by today’s standards. Corporate affairs have had to develop broader skills as it’s increasingly the corporate affairs director who is expected to guide the business through difficult situations, to use their judgement and network to solve problems, and generally bring the outside in – helping to navigate risks and spot opportunities. In terms of what next, I think the demand for good people around the top table will continue, so corporate affairs can function in a truly strategic way. And technology will play a role in helping us to do the simple things more quickly.

What three skills does a modern-day corporate affairs director need?  And if you could pick only one, which would it be and why?

Resilience, empathy and a sense of perspective. Number one among these is resilience, which makes it easier to stay calm when things get tough and remain empathetic.

What do you love about the job?

It’s never boring! I love that you can do so many different things in one day and you learn so much about people, business and how the world really works.

If you didn’t work in corporate affairs, what would you do instead?

If I had my time again and didn’t choose corporate affairs, I’d like to have been a plastic surgeon with a focus on reconstructive work, or a professional chef!

What was the last book you read?

I recently interviewed Sir Clive Woodward for an internal M&G event about leadership and read his book, How to Win – it’s a really good read.

What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind?

Only Fools and Horses! My brother and I were due to audition for the TV show Telly Addicts when I was about 17 and that’s what we put down as our specialist subject.  Luckily, exams got in the way and we couldn’t do it.

What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

Baking, pilates and yoga.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Wayne’s interviews with:

Caitlin Hayden, Group Communications Director at BAE Systems

Greg Dawson, Group Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at DS Smith

Lisa Tremble, Chief People, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer at British Airways

Mark Henderson, Corporate Affairs Director at Wellcome

Matt Ridsdale, Group Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Sky

Rachel Hopcroft, Corporate Affairs Director at KPMG

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17th June 2024

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