Fast Track: CV - Elizabeth Wade - Director of Corporate Communications at Barclays

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The Independent Culture
When Elizabeth graduated with a law degree she felt she didn't have the contacts to make it as a barrister. Now, at 40, she manages the reputation of one of the biggest banks in the City

When I went for careers advice at university they had no knowledge of the City, and neither did I. So it has genuinely has been an accident that I'm in the City, but having got there I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

I wasn't a swot at school; I enjoyed sport and socialising. I read law at Girton College, Cambridge so the natural thing for me to do was to become a barrister, but I felt I didn't have any contacts in that area - I had no family history in law. I thought it would be difficult for me to make my mark, so I decided to use my law elsewhere.

I got a job at Chase Manhattan Bank in their legal department, but I realised that if you wanted a career in banking you had to be mainstream. I moved into their credit training programme, which gave me a broader grounding in finance. After three years at Chase I moved to Fleming Investment Management, where I was seconded as a loan negotiator to Eurotunnel.

I was only 28, but it gave me real exposure to senior people, how they think and work, I was beginning to see how things got done. It was a unique opportunity because of the scale of the project; we had to persuade banks to lend money when the economics of the project were challenging.

I am quite outspoken, and there were times early in my career when that were a challenge. You have to have a belief that what you are doing is right, not just for you, but for the organisation you work for or the people you are trying to influence. I don't want to communicate something that I don't believe in. That drives me personally and professionally, so if I come up against something that I don't think is right, my determination pushes it through.

From Flemings I moved to BZW, and then I was approached by the finance director of Barclays who asked me to run their investor relations department. It was flattering, but I was nervous. I had spent a lot of time working with oil and gas companies, but I didn't understand an enormous amount about commercial banking in a broader sense. It was scary to have to deal with banking analysts who I knew would be technically exceptional in their field. It was a very exciting time for me.

I don't have five children like Nicola Horlick; I don't know how she does it. I have two children. You do have to make sacrifices and I admit I don't spend enough time with them, but I feel comfortable with that. I'm happy in my job because I think my family are happy as well. If there were any doubt about that, then I would have to take stock of my situation. I've always believed that my children benefit from my challenging role; they have experiences and conversations with me that maybe other children can't. I'm probably much more disciplined than some of my male colleagues about organising my working week - I have to be. It helps to have a supportive husband.

It saddens me that a lot of graduates who come into the City go into investment banks because they are seen as more glamorous. I have spent time in investments, but there are still tremendous challenges in broader- based banks.

Young people have advantages; they can move much faster through an organisation because they have skills that people over 40 do not have - understanding the power of technology, and languages. The world is so small; these skills are very important. I don't think some in the City have grasped how quickly things are changing; young people are better conditioned to deal with that.

I often wonder what would have happened if my career had been planned, but I never think about where I am going next. If you enjoy something, you do it. When you don't enjoy it, you stop and do something else. I haven't stopped enjoying what I am doing.

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