Paul Stallard

paul stallard

It was a privilege and a joy to speak with you Paul. An experienced and passionate marketing expert in the banking and financial sector you’re able to quickly distil complexity into simple messages that can be easily understood. You have a canny knack of asking the right questions, using the right tone, to get people thinking about the most important questions. Your dedication to the customer experience started many years ago at Midland Bank (pre HSBC) and you continue to champion them with roles at The Centre for Digital Banking and Finance, Euromoney Learning Solutions, CurveBlock, Safe 4 Information Management and S4Encrypt. An outstanding leader, thank you for giving up your valuable time.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Novels by Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy and Ken Follett. They are great storytellers, with a unique ability to draw pictures with words- something my students have said about me in the past

In Search of Excellence by Peters and Waterman. It is all about lessons from the corporate world and It had a profound effect on me early in my career

Marketing Genius by Peter Fisk. A most refreshing look at ‘Marketing’. As Philip Kotler said “Marketers who want to recharge their left and right brains can do no better than read Marketing Genius”

International Marketing by Simon Mijaro. A textbook that reads like a novel. It taught me a considerable amount about segmentation and consumer behaviour across the world.

As a bonus check out Tom Sharpe, he’s simply hilarious.


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?) 

Thanks to lockdown I spend more time at home.So, I get to experiment with lots of things around the house and garden. Sika Setting Sand. It’s for patio joints and costs about £30. Now, my patio looks amazing. There’s also Wet and Forget which removes swathes of green moss from wooden fences.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours? 

I’ve had loads of them. Early in my career and whilst on a Fast-Track Management Trainee Programme. I did an ‘Advanced Banking Course’ during which I had to give a 5-minute talk, on a subject of my choosing, in front of the whole course. We knew well in advance that we had to do this so I had worked out, in my head, every single thing I was going to say. Upon arrival we were told that each night we should prepare our talk but so confident was I on the subject of my talk (which was ‘Why England was so bad at most international sports’) and what I was going to say, I decided to play snooker in the bar instead. When my turn came to deliver my truly brilliant speech – I froze.- all that I was going to say simply went out of my head, it disappeared and I had nothing written down. The course tutor was not impressed, everyone on the course was very amused at my failure and I was left feeling extremely embarrassed. Since then, I have spoken in public to hundreds of people, hundreds of times both nationally and internationally and I have never failed to have notes, if not the whole speech, in front of me..Even though I don’t actually use them. I have got them just in case.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

Stay positive by getting rid of everything negative.

I don’t accept that something is not possible. It is too easy to say something cannot be done because it saves on the effort of doing difficult things. There is too much negativity around for my liking be that news or just negative people. The world became a much better place when I removed all negative things and negative people from my life and focused only on the positives.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.) 

A famous fund manager called Neil Woodford ran a highly successful investment fund before he set up a new company and became infamous for running another fund which proved to be highly unsuccessful and in which many people lost lots of money. The thing was, I invested very early on in his original and most successful fund and continued investing for a long time so it paid off a large chunk of my mortgage. 

My career in banking and finance has taught me always to seek professional advice if I am not absolutely sure of what I am doing.  I would counsel everyone against making quick decisions when it comes to investing. People should always think carefully about what they wish to achieve and plan equally carefully exactly how they are going to achieve their objectives..Most important of all, throughout this process they should decide what level of risk they wish to accept with their investment..If they choose a risky investment they should never invest a sum greater than they are prepared to lose. 


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I wear a bow tie every Friday. When working in the city some years ago, many of my colleagues stopped wearing suits on a Friday (dress-down Friday arrived). However, almost to a man they simply stopped wearing one uniform and started wearing another, namely chinos and a pale blue shirt.. So, just to be different and prove I am no lemming I began wearing a bow-tie every Friday. Even today, if I meet someone I know in the City on a Friday and I am not wearing a bow-tie ‘things will be said’.

Also, lots of people are surprised to learn that I have a workshop in my garden. When I was very young I used to earn pocket money by fixing TVs, radios and vacuum cleaner.s. All I needed to do was remove the back of the TV or radio, see what valve was not lit-up, replace it and hey bingo it’s back on air. |More often than not vacuum cleaners simply needed new carbon brushes fitted to the electric motor. .

These days I am to be found making garden furniture and hedgehog boxes, bird boxes, owl boxes. Currently I’m making three vegetable boxes for one of my daughters. I’m also very good at making gin and tonic tables!


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I have an added or renewed devotion to technology, I have always embraced change thinking about tomorrow and what is likely to happen next.. However, I guess my renewed interest in technology began with wholescale digitisation and digital marketing in particular. Artificial Intelligence, Web3.0, the metaverse etc  bamboozle lots of people but I think I have learned to understand most new technologies to a basic level and some in a really detailed way. More than anything, I think  I can explain all of them in simple terms to a level that  non-experts can understand and that is extremely useful in doing what I do for a living. 


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

Get as much experience as possible. Listen more than you speak. Never stop asking questions.  Also, never give up there is a solution to every challenge – refuse to believe there is not. 

Ignore or remove everything that is negative in your life – don’t listen to or read the news for a week and your view of the world will change for the better because most of the news we are fed is soul destroying.

If you’re sitting beside somebody who’s negative, move. If you have negative friends whose outlook is constantly dark and full of why things cannot be done – find new friends.


What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? 

The worst recommendation I hear in business is someone saying “they just need to go out and sell”. We have long been a nation of poor sales people when compared with other countries e.g.; US. So, when I hear this said I think ‘no wonder there is such a high turnover of sales so many companies’. I have witnessed many instances where bosses believe selling is easy. Yet, in truth they just don’t understand the sales process, which sometimes is a very long process indeed. Sales success means salespeople have to understand customers and their behaviours in great detail, especially every step of the journey customers take before they purchase. 


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

Companies who claim they are customer focused and then do everything to prove they are not. For example branches are only open when everyone is at work and closed when they are not. 

Companies who have overly long IVR systems which constantly drive you toward their websites which you have visited anyway and still can’t find an answer to your problem.   

If you are lucky and someone does answer the telephone, I am apoplectic with rage when I speak to someone whose tone of voice tells me they  just do not care. 

Companies who ask you to complete long application forms for new products when they have all the information about you anyway. Why can’t they pre-fill the application form and then ask you if the information is still correct?


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Taking on too much work. There was a time when I would say yes to most opportunities. and stack myself out with work leaving little time for rest or play.

These days I only connect with people if there’s an active on-going reason for doing so. Most  salespeople today are very poor at finding ways to engage with or capture the attention of prospective customers. 

Also, I have never really been interested in the notion of corporate hospitality or corporate gifts and now I am even less interested because it is often poorly planned, never followed up in an intelligent way and largely a waste of my time.


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life?

At the beginning of my career my main concern was developing my career to give my family the very best standard of living.  Sadly, I was so engrossed in doing things to achieve this objectives that I did not spend as much time at home as I should have done. 

After 20-years or more, the continued self-inflicted pressure of work and travel took its toll on an underlying health condition. After taking positive action to change the way I did things i.e.; I spend much less time away from home and travel a lot less, things have improved dramatically for the better.. Now I have much more balance in my life. . I’m at home a lot more, spending time with my wife, children, grandchildren, friends and doing many of the things around the house and garden that I used to dream of but never had time to do. 

I don’t have regrets about the days when I did little else but work; I enjoyed them enormously. Luckily, I don’t worry about or regret the past.,  I only focus on the future. 

Also, once upon a time I would worry about and fret upon small mistakes but over the years I have learnt to brush them off and focus upon what is coming.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?) 

I became very interested in the subject of getting more done and more out of life some years ago and have learned about and developed several coping mechanisms.. All these revolve around relaxing better and more often.. Most of what I have done and still do is about solving problems and sometimes the answers are easier to come by than others.. My best techniques help me focus on something else entirely only to find the answer or various answers present themselves within a short period of time or sometime later – it could be an hour later or two days later..

The most practical and tangible tool that I use to get me back on track is to be armed with a pen and piece of paper at all times, in all places. .

When faced with any kind of challenge I find one or more of the following useful:-.

Going into silence. – just sit and be quite – not really thinking of anything

Go to sleep for a short while – I can put myself to sleep in seconds – I was taught a technique used by Special Forces.

Exercise – get up and go for a walk, a run or a swim

Fishing – is my favourite way of re-establishing focus 

Losing myself by doing completely unconnected practical things with my hands


What does leadership mean to you?

Putting people first by demonstrating respect, integrity, courage, collaboration and trust.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

My Dad without a shadow of a doubt. He was a sensible, level headed man; a brilliant craftsman and an excellent sportsman. He worked for the same company for 50-years, never missing a day from work with illness and could turn his hand to anything. He was still playing competitive football at 53 years of age and for my cricket team when he was 65.

My Brother – about 15-years ago he contracted Parkinson’s disease. Far from being the great sportsman that he was, his body is now completely mangled, but his spirit and his courage is incredible. He knows everything there is to know about what is going on in the world and refuses to be beaten by any challenge but he suffers dreadfully. He lives 200 miles away from me but we speak twice a week at least. 

Harvey Jones, a teacher at school. Teaching was a vocation for him. I was struggling with maths and he took me aside for a few months and gave me extra  lessons during his break times and that was hugely important for me and he did not do a bad job given what I do for a living.. He was a phenomenal gentleman and everyone loved him.

Finally, supportive bosses.. I have worked for a number of demanding, driven, tough but level-headed people who care about customers, who meet customers often, who listen to customers and who make the right decisions at all times because they do these things.


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

Principles are, I believe, rules about how I behave and how I treat people. Values are the standard to which I hold those principles. So I might have a principle of enjoying a drink for example, but my value would be to drink in moderation and not to excess.


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders?

Four questions:-

What is the most important people or profit?

What does your business do well? What does your business do badly? And what will you do about both?

If you arrived at work one day with superpowers, what would you do with them?

What do your customers think about you? Can you prove it?


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

In my personal life, I’d like to paint more (particularly portraits) and better. I think I’d get absorbed into the process of continuous learning – even the masters never stopped learning.

In my professional life, the breadth of work I do prevents me from becoming an expert in one particular thing.. It is very hard for me to change though as I’m interested in all manner of things.


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

I had a bad experience at work once where I found self-help techniques massively useful in managing the challenge. Without question I was being bullied by my boss and It was difficult to live with and difficult to control. They questioned everything I did and behaved in a very unprofessional way. My coping and recovery process helped me understand they were jealous of what I was achieving in many aspects of my job and life. However, it took me over 1 year to fully recover and of course I realised they were the one with the problem. Not long thereafter I was head-hunted into another company and never had that problem again.

Topic: 50 in 50