We catch up with Giles Cross, Interim Marketing Director and NED at Superbia Group on caring about brands, understanding the mood of the consumer and his love of motorcycling
Tell us about yourself.
Husband to one. Father to two. Lover of literature, motorbikes, marketing and middle age. Financial services journeyman of thirty years standing. And counting…
How and why did you get into comms?
Like most things in my career, by accident. I started in sales and sales management, developed a talent for public speaking and presentation and quickly became the “go to” person for that sort of thing. I’d always loved writing and was fascinated by the power of language and its ability to drive and influence behaviours and outcomes and things kind of developed from there. By accident I became the “Marketing and PR Guy”. I guess people thought I was good at it!
What are you proud of in your career to date?
I’m quite hard on myself and tend to view the things “I’ve” achieved as more of a team effort. And then I always look at ways in which we could have done things better. So I struggle with that question. I’m not brilliant at being “proud of me”. However, I hope I’ve helped create environments and ecosystems for people who’ve worked with me that have enabled them to become brilliant and achieve brilliant things. That’s what I’ve tried to do. I hope I’ve succeeded. I’d be proud of that.
How has the pandemic changed your working habits?
I’ve had to work harder to find my creative edge. I find huge inspiration in other people and I’ve had to learn to get it elsewhere. Through exercise, reading, radio, being outdoors. Anything I can find. I increasingly find myself working odd hours in a different, but hugely intense way. It’s not healthy. And I’ve developed a true loathing of Zoom. I can’t wait to be working in an office again, with real people, working together on big projects.
What positives have you taken from the whole lockdown experience?
It’s been a once in a lifetime opportunity to reboot and, in many ways, I think I’ve learned to enjoy my life again. I’ve stopped trying to be the person my CV says I’m supposed to be. I’ve really got to know my wife and children and realised that we really like each other. I started to take pleasure from the small things. Rather perversely, I think I’ll look back on it as a really precious time. It’s been an odd gift.
What does our industry get right, and what needs improving?
There are so few “best loved brands” in the financial services space that it’s hard to say that we do anything “particularly well”. But I think we’re trying, which is a good thing, and there seems to be a new generation coming through, of business and marketing leaders, that genuinely seems to give a damn and I think that’s brilliant. What do we need to improve? We need to stop talking about the customer and get better at talking to them. And listening. Focus needs to come away from the shareholder and back to the stakeholder.
Is there a book or podcast that is essential reading/listening for your industry?
One book. “Firms of Endearment” by Wolfe, Sheth and Sisodia. There’s something vital in there for anyone seeking to build a brand that truly resonates.
Who makes our industry/sector better and why?
Goodness. Today, I’d have to say Lee Robertson at Octo Members. He’s dedicated himself to raising standards; not for the sake of the industry, but for the consumer. The work he’s doing to lead the industry to a better place is outstanding. He’s a great friend too. I’m really proud of that.
If you could give a younger version of yourself one piece of financial advice what would it be?
Save. Travel more, and if anyone ever tells you that owning something is more important than doing or feeling something, ignore them. They’re selling you something. Don’t give in to financial guilt. Never, ever feel guilty for having more or less than anyone else. Live in the moment. It’ll all be ok in the end.
What would you do if you were head of the FCA for the day?
Remove the barriers that prevent the mass market from receiving the financial advice they want and need.
What is the one column or website that you read every day?
I always try and get a glance at the financial section of the Daily Mail. I know it’s not cool but it’s the one publication that seems to consistently capture the mood of the consumer and, to be honest, they’re the only people I’m interested in.
What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?
Get on my motorbike and chase the sunset until the money ran out.