Helen Fullerton Event Manager Royal Bank of Scotland
1. You must have a huge responsibility within your role, tell me a bit more about it.
Yes, we look after leadership events for the CEO and Chairman, and for the Executive Committee (direct reports of the CEO), as well as managing and delivering customer facing events like the AGM, Shareholder events, and conference sponsorships & exhibition stands too, so the stakes are high.
2. What do you enjoy most?
Live event days – even after 13 years in the industry!
3. What is the best career advice you’ve been offered?
To get into events. I had no clue what I wanted to do after university, but my unofficial mentor pointed out that I was spending most of my spare time organising events – whether that was freshers’ week activities, or university sports competitions etc. I clearly had a passion for it already, I just hadn’t recognised it as a career choice because I was having fun
4. To get to where you are now, what has been your biggest challenge?
Taking risks, for example quitting a permanent job in a recession to go and get new experience on the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and moving to a new city to take on a 3-month corporate contract.
5. In your view, what makes a good leader?
Transparency and honesty – calling out the good and the bad with your own team and with stakeholders and suppliers.
Prioritising wellbeing and resilience for your team and for yourself.
Trusting your team, supporting them, and recognising what motivates each individual and challenging them to keep them engaged.
6. How do you continue to develop yourself and your skills?
Networking with peers is important and keeping on top of industry trends and innovations – as in-house corporate event managers, there’s a limit to what we can share about our events due to the confidentiality around events in finance; it’s great to take the opportunity to lift yourself out of your inhouse ‘bubble’ and see what’s going on in the wider industry. I take the time to attend industry events, I make the most of industry networks and I use industry channels and publications to find out what’s going on outside of the Bank and to get inspired.
7. What do you see as the biggest challenge for the industry at the moment?
Sustainability. It’s such a huge topic just now, and events as an industry is one of the most wasteful and unsustainable. It’s a difficult subject to address because, as event managers, we love to get people together in a room – you can’t easily get the same level of atmosphere or recreate the environment you want in virtual events. But face to face events inevitably equals travel and hotel nights and a big carbon footprint. You’ve also got the environmental impact of catering – what food is provided, where it is sourced from and how to avoid waste. Then there’s a plethora of other things to consider from the suppliers we work with, to event collateral and the wider Corporate and Social Responsibility piece too. We’re looking at ways to make our events more sustainable and to guide our colleagues in the Bank who are running their own events; it’s not easy, but we are making progress.
8. Any words of wisdom for those wanting to get ahead in the industry?
Get experience – event management degrees weren’t really around in the way that they are now when I went to university. I formed my own self-prescribed ‘grad scheme’ and got experience in exhibitions, Professional Conference Organising (PCO), sponsorship and hospitality, and latterly in in-house corporate events. Also, put time into building your network and your profile, and use your networks well; I’ve recently been linking up with ex-colleagues on a couple of projects who I worked with nearly ten years ago – you never know when you’ll cross people’s paths again and how you might be able to create opportunities for each other.