Salesforce’s appointment of Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia as its new head of the UK and Ireland business is an interesting move from a number of perspectives.
Who is Dame Jayne-Anne? Her CV makes for impressive reading. The founder of Virgin Direct in 1995 - later Virgin Money - she held the CEO role there until 2018. This was followed by setting up Snoop, a tech start-up that uses consumer data to save money on household bills.
She became a Dame in this year’s New Year Honours list for her contributions to financial services and to women in the finance industry.
The UK is Salesforce’s largest market outside of the US and one into which the firm last year pledged to invest $2.5 billion over a five year period. That means the person steering the ship there carries a great deal of responsibility at any time, never mind when Brexit is looming with all its uncertainties.
That makes the timing of Dame Jayne-Anne’s appointment interesting as she will take up her new role on 1 October, 30 days before what looks increasingly like a No Deal exit from the European Union.
With a lot of uncertainty around the financial services sector’s response to Brexit in whatever form results, Dame Jayne-Anne’s background in that market is likely to be very useful. She had been rumored as a potential CEO at Royal Bank of Scotland and had been due to join the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee next year. She has withdrawn as a result of her new role at Salesforce.
The other thing that catches the eye is her specific job title - CEO of UK and Ireland. This is a new role. Previously there have General Managers. Paul Smith, the current GM, remains in that role, reporting in to Dame Jayne-Anne. The fact that Salesforce has created a country CEO position for the UK is indicative again of the importance of the country’s contribution to overall growth.
Finally Dame Jayne-Anne’s commitment to equality and diversity chimes very closely with the Salesforce culture, which is committed to delivering equal pay for all employees regardless of gender after discovering that female staffers were paid less than their male counterparts.
In 2015, she was commissioned by the UK government to lead a review into the representation of women in senior managerial roles in financial services, with particular focus on the talent pipeline at the executive population below board level.
The review found that in 2015, women made up only 14% of Executive Committees in the Financial Services sector. In response, HM Treasury launched the Women in Finance Charter, which calls for firms to appoint a senior exec responsible for gender diversity and inclusion, establish public targets for senior management gender diversity and ensure senior exec pay is linked to delivery of those diversity targets. There are now over 330 firms signed up to the Charter, ranging from global banks and insurance companies down o the smallest fintech start-ups.
She’s also been vocal about the role of business making a positive contribution to society, which mirrors Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff’s oft-quoted mantra that,“The business of business is improving the state of the world.”
This strikes me as a significant appointment at a hugely uncertain time for the UK economy. Throughout the run-up to Brexit, Salesforce has held the party line that it will adapt to whatever conditions emerge and support customers throughout the process. Having such an experienced and high-profile business leader as Dame Jayne-Anne at the helm can only be a positive contributor to that commitment.