Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interview with HSBC Canada's Lindsay Gordon

Libby Znaimer, Financial Post, 16 September 2006

Lindsay Gordon is the Vancouver-based president and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada.

Q What are your key functions?

A I spend my days ensuring that we have the right strategy in place and that we execute it. I spend equal amounts of time with staff and with customers. For the most part, I work with our Canadian employees, but because we're a global organization, I also spend time with staff in other parts of the world. I have a lot of meetings in Chicago, New York and London.

Q Hours of work per week?

A This is really a 24/7 job even though I obviously don't work 24 hours a day. I'm on deck and on call 24 hours a day, except for two weeks in August when I really get away. I usually start at 7:30 a.m., and work until 6 or 6:30 p.m., and I have about three evening functions a week.

Q How often do you take work home?

A Most evenings I take something home. Sometimes it's heavy and sometimes it's light, but I never go home without my briefcase.

Q How many people work for you?

A We have 7,000 people in Canada. I have 11 direct reports, plus my assistant.

Q What do you wear?

A It's not necessarily banker's pinstripes, but I do wear a suit and tie, except on casual Fridays. Then I wear a jacket with no tie -- but the tie goes back on at the first inkling of a customer appointment.

Q How much e-mail do you get?

A I get about 100 e-mails a day and I delete 15 to 20. I respond to 30 or 40 very quickly.

Q How many phone calls do you get?

A The calls have fallen off since e-mail has become prevalent. I now get 25 a day. I always answer my own phone when I'm there. I don't know how easy it is to get my phone number through the bank, but my direct line and my cell number are on my business card.

Q How often do customers call you directly?

A Most of the customers who call are relatively large customers, and I receive about one of those a day. In terms of the other customers who call, it's usually the result of a complaint we haven't been able to resolve. Fortunately, I get very few of those, maybe one a week, and I take them all. [My meeting with Mr. Gordon is the result of a customer complaint. After a series of bank errors, HSBC asked what they could do to make it up to me. "Lunch with the president," was my response. Mr. Gordon and his senior vice-president Geoff Hoy graciously obliged me.]

Q How much time do you spend on your cellphone?

A It's always on, always with me, but I don't spend a lot of time on it.

Q What about your BlackBerry?

A The BlackBerry is always on, and I use it extensively when I'm out of the office.

Q Do you turn these devices off?

A The only time I turn them off is in hotel rooms at night.

Q How many meetings do you attend?

A I have five or six meetings a day -- that includes face-to-face, conference calls and videoconferences. For the most part, they are useful and productive. I usually control the agenda and I make sure they're focused.

Q How often do you travel?

A Most weeks I'm somewhere. This week it's Toronto. Next week I'll be in Chicago, and I'll travel to Ottawa the week after that.

Q Is your desk messy or neat?

A I'd say it's in the middle. It's not messy, but there are piles of things. I am a very organized person, so I know what's there. They are key documents and files that I want quick access to.

Q What's the best perk?

A We sponsored Formula One racing and I got the opportunity to spend some time with Jackie Stewart, who is a legend in the racing world.

Q What's your management philosophy or guiding management principle?

A Treat others the way you expect to be treated yourself and be a straight shooter. I really believe in calling it the way it is.

Q What are the best and worst parts of that?

A The best part is the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings. There's no substitute for that. The worst part is the time wasted between leaving the house and getting on the plane.

Q What's your pet peeve?

A People who don't respond on a timely basis. It doesn't happen inside the organization because I'm the CEO and people get back to me. Sometimes people on the outside don't have the same sense of urgency about dealing with things.

Q Do you have hobbies, sports or a fitness routine?

A I love to ski and I'm an avid sailor. Right now, my workouts are limited because I need a hip replacement.

Q What's your management philosophy or guiding management principle?

A Treat others the way you expect to be treated yourself and be a straight shooter. I really believe in calling it the way it is.