James gave his career a new flavour
Taking a breath
Food for thought
But James also had an entrepreneurial itch that he needed to scratch. An encounter with a new ice cream company in a Bangkok shopping mall led him to get in touch with the founder in the U.S. Emack & Bolio’s is a quirky and imaginative brand that very much taps into social media culture. James was intrigued by the model and saw huge potential for it across Asia. After a couple of conversations with the owner and a meeting in Boston, he quickly found himself taking the plunge and launching the business in Hong Kong, despite having limited retail experience.
“Ice cream is the world’s most favourite food, and E&B’s is some of the best! It’s also an ideal product for today’s social media world with great visuals and huge scope for innovation. I was really intrigued to see how harnessing that potential could propel the fortunes of a small company.”
James describes it as a fantastic adventure. He loved running his own business and getting involved in completely new areas such as global logistics and retail operations. Although he had previously completed an Executive MBA with the Columbia and London Business Schools he found that he learnt so much more through the hands-on experience of setting up and running E&B in Hong Kong. Importantly it also gave him the flexibility to spend the time he needed with his young family and replenish some energy after 20+ years in banking.
Returning to his passion
From the outset James knew that he would want to return to his principle career in finance technology, and that steered how he established and structured the business. E&B’s in Hong Kong is still going strong and, although he’s less hands-on, James is still involved.
So when Deutsche Bank gave him the opportunity to run the main client-facing digital platform, it was an easy decision. With the experiences he’d had, he was keen to put his new skills and perspective to good use in the corporate context. Perhaps more importantly, the Bank could see the power of having a leader come into the business with a broad range of influences and experience too.
“I knew that the new skills and experiences that I’d picked up as a small business entrepreneur had made me even more effective and capable. The fact that Deutsche Bank recognised this too was a very powerful incentive to join.”
A supportive culture
Readjusting to life at Deutsche Bank has been pretty straight-forward for James. From the very beginning his peers could see that he’s focused on driving quick improvements – harnessing the skills of everyone on the team and making a difference each and every day. The supportive and collaborative environment has provided a fertile ground for James’s more ‘entrepreneurial’ approach to be taken-up and developed.
“When you run your own small business nothing much happens unless you take positive action. Large organisations can sometimes run at a slower pace than they need to – but there are ways of breaking through that inertia and realising all the benefits of a more entrepreneurial approach. This was one of the key experiences I was keen to take back into my career.”
James also has great advice for people that are thinking about returning to work.
“You’ll undoubtedly still have all the skills and experience from before your career break, but now you have a whole new set. Focus on how your expanded value proposition makes you even better than before!”