Interview with Rachel Hopcroft

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 Rachel Hopcroft who leads corporate affairs at the professional services firm, KPMG UK.

Bio

Corporate Affairs Director, KPMG UK (current)

Director, Cabinet Office (2011 to 2016)

Private Secretary, Home Office (2009 to 2011)

What advice would you give to yourself 15 years ago?

Slow down! Careers are long and how you spend your early career will really shape and influence you as a leader later on. I was keen to prove myself and working in the public sector at the time, getting promoted was the only clear way of advancing. In my view the private sector is much better at recognising value in people and finding different ways of supporting them to learn and grow professionally. I’m not sure I’d have taken this advice, but I would have benefited from hearing it nonetheless.

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

Organisations today have a much better appreciation of the importance of reputation, and of just how easily trust can be lost. Corporate affairs is much more relevant to their companies today, and I only see that continuing, as evidenced by the number of corporate affairs directors with a seat at the top table versus even seven years ago when I moved into the private sector. Articulating your vision and strategy, explaining how your business is performing, engaging with your people in an era of greater employee and stakeholder activism… business leaders need and increasingly want help to do this well. In terms of what next, it’s hard to ignore AI but there will always be a role for good corporate affairs practitioners to add value, I think.

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

As a corporate affairs director you’re across so much all the time, so one of the things I am always so grateful for is having a memory like an elephant! You also need to be able to prioritise, often ruthlessly, to juggle the competing demands. And you need to have the freedom to make great hires and then develop them into a high performing team so you can get the best out of everyone. If you can do that and hire people with complementary skills, you’ll be able to delegate effectively and focus on the things that only you can do. If I had to pick just one it would be to develop a great memory, I can’t imagine doing the job well without one.

What do you love about the job?

If you are doing the job well you will be invited to get involved in things right across the business, and I love that variety. I also love the pace, and being part of a leadership team helping to shape the strategy and run the business. But most of all I love the people I work with, my team, my colleagues across corporate affairs and my peers – they’re what make the difference to my working day.

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

I’d love to have been a singer…alas karaoke is as close as I get these days.

What was the last book you read?

I recently re-read Any Human Heart by William Boyd for the sixth or seventh time, it’s such an uplifting read.

What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind?

Take That in the 1990s, I was a huge fan growing up. Or the machinery of government 2010 to 2015, it’s a fascinating period from a constitutional perspective.

What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

I go to the gym and lift weights three times a week, I find it motivational trying to set new personal bests. I also sing in a pop choir every Monday, both are therapeutic in different ways and they help me keep perspective, at work and at home. I also love hanging out with my husband and kids…the kids are still really little and they are hilarious.

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

Matt Ridsdale, Group Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Sky

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7th May 2024

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