Diversity and inclusion is the core ethos of Northern Trust
‘I RETURNED from university in 1995 and like a lot of people, it’s a point of reflection – time to think about life.
‘Obviously, it’s the summer as well,’ says Dave Sauvarin, Northern Trust’s country executive in the Channel Islands.
‘I was quite clear I didn’t want to jump straight into what I thought might end up being my career.
‘So I took a job as a builder’s labourer – and in some respects it was the best job I ever had.
‘I think you learn a lot about people. You learn a lot about what hard work really is. It’s great for your sense of humour. It keeps you healthy. It was a really nice job. No pressure.’
Recalling the approaching winter of that year, he adds: ‘It started to get a little bit cold and I remember joking with the guy I was working on the site with, saying: “I’m going to get a job indoors for six months. I’ll see you back when the weather improves”. And the rest I guess is history.
‘I joined what was Barings in 1995 and I’ve been part of that organisation ever since, through various guises of ownership up to Northern Trust acquiring that business in 2005. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to do very different jobs within the same organisation over 24 years that have allowed me to get where I am today.’
His career has taken him to roles within risk management, fund administration and running Northern Trust’s Jersey office for several years before returning to Guernsey to head up the corporate services team.
Dave then became chief risk officer for the location and then CEO in April last year – with a 275-strong workforce in Guernsey and a business made up of banking, funds and fiduciary arms.
Asked what he has learned in that time, he says: ‘It’s experience. You pick up experience through everything, through life, through work, through challenges, through successes.
‘And it’s the stuff you carry with you that informs who you are today. I think the biggest thing in the role that I have today is probably how you interact with people, whether that’s the team, clients, the professional network that we work with in the island and more broadly. Fundamentally, 90% of my job is about those human relationships.’
It’s a neat segue into the importance of inclusion and diversity, something that Dave is passionate about.
‘Being a parent, I think, fundamentally changes how you view the world, the world in which your kids are growing up. Actually, you can learn a lot from kids. Their open-mindedness, use of language, it never ceases to amaze me. I have conversations with my children that I probably can’t have with grown-ups.’
Reflecting on Northern Trust’s ethos, he says: ‘The philosophy of the organisation in terms of diversity and inclusion is absolutely at the core. It’s part of the DNA. The tone is consistent right from the top of the organisation and runs right the way through it.
‘But that doesn’t exist without human beings believing that narrative – and I genuinely believe through the organisation we’ve got a number of very key people that genuinely believe that this is not only the right thing to do but it’s also the sensible thing to do.’
As part of this active vision, a personal support forum and a career development forum have been established in Guernsey.
A visible sign on desks across the firm’s offices at Les Banques in St Peter Port are rather special flags.
One flag signifies a person who is a designated LGBT ally and the other denotes a trained mental health first aider.
Dozens of people have received relevant training through the programmes.
While it’s difficult to precisely measure the impact, Dave points to real-world evidence as to the benefits.
‘Our partner retention rate in Guernsey as we sit here today is probably the highest it has been for 10 to 15 years. I know that we are having more open conversations with people than we have had before.
‘I talk about this term “psychological safety” and I think psychological safety is really important for anybody in any role that they are in.
‘If you feel safe in the place where you work, your work will be better, your output will be better and we should acknowledge the business case for that. That’s bottom line stuff. You don’t have to go through the complexities of dealing with staff turnover.
‘I have had personal experience of people being willing to talk openly about those sorts of issues and seek the assistance that Northern Trust provides beyond just the training. So, there’s no doubt in my mind that there is a connection between that and the benefit.’