60 seconds with … Malcolm le May

This month, Clare Nash, Director at Norman Broadbent Group interviews Malcolm Le May, CEO of Provident Financial Group plc. Malcolm looks back on a career which has spanned the financial services sector in banking, consumer finance, asset management and insurance.

Of all your experiences and achievements in the industry to date, which are you most proud of and why?

I think my proudest achievement is my current role and helping to reposition Provident. It’s been done in conjunction with a great team of people. It’s fair to say that when I took over, the business was having its challenges and it was difficult to attract great people into the organisation. We re-purposed the group and came up with a new definition of our purpose and having rolled that out across the group it’s something that has brought everyone closer together, and I genuinely believe that people who work at Provident now do so because they believe in what the company is trying to do. It’s something that people are proud of. And I hope that’s a sustainable position that will continue long after I’m gone!

What advice would you give yourself if you were starting out again?

When I left University, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I trained as an accountant, and it proved to be one of the best things I did. If you’re numerically minded, it gives you a very good grounding in how businesses operate, which has served me well. I’ve had experiences on a whole spectrum of industries and companies, but that basic understanding of ‘how things work’ has been invaluable for me throughout my career.

What excites you most about the future of your industry?

I think we’re going through a real step change in the industry. The FCA coming in to regulate the sector in 2014 was very constructive. We’ve had our ups and downs as an industry with the regulator, of course, but I think lending to the segment of society we lend to – 12 – 14 million people, who aren’t catered to by the mainstream financial services firms – is a really important thing to do. Certainly, in the last 2 – 3 years it has been recognised as something really beneficial for a number of really different groups. Both politically and from a shareholders’ perspective, people are understanding that having a business which lends responsibly in this space in the market is both sustainable and good for society. Over the coming years, I am anticipating a move away from some of the more traditional modes of lending in this marketplace, and there will be a far greater emphasis on using technology, which will lead to better decisions, better outcomes for customers and long-term better outcomes for your investors.

What is your Golden Rule?

The golden rule in business is always to be open and transparent with people. You can be accommodating to different views but at the same time it is OK to have strong moral compass and understanding of where you draw the line. Then you can be clear about whether it is acceptable to cross it – and when not to.

What are you currently reading?

I read a lot around my interests, and I’m currently reading a book on how to grow vegetables! I’m also a great cricket fan and am halfway through My A-Z of Cricket by Henry Blofeld, the retired BBC2 commentator, which is a fascinating look at cricket through the ages, and very funny. I tend to read just a page or two to relax, when I get the time.

If you would like to discuss the wider market in more detail and /or your hiring plans for 2021, please do not hesitate to contact Clare Nash, Director of Financial Services via clare.nash@normanbroadbent.com or +44(0)7483 015591