A Matter of Mindset: How NatWest Harnesses Entrepreneurial Skills for Growth, Performance and Fantastic Company Culture

Gordon Merrylees is the Managing Director, Entrepreneurship for NatWest. Within his role, Gordon leads the bank’s Entrepreneurship Strategy and Entrepreneurial Development Academy; designed to harness the entrepreneurial potential of businesses and colleagues through its unique academy which is grounded using the principles of having a growth mindset or growth culture. This customer-led Academy has recently been awarded its IOEE status, and this month we chatted to Gordon to find out why this innovative approach of looking at a true growth culture focuses on how people feel, and how they behave can help organisations develop a sustainable learning experience.

In 2015, the Academy was launched to harness the right mindset, to help entrepreneurs grow their business and from this experience felt compelled to share insight on the growth mindset traits from successful entrepreneurs that can be transferred to a large corporate like NatWest. Gordon says:

“Within my job I’m responsible for embedding the entrepreneurship strategy and capabilities across the accelerator hubs and our organisation. I’m looking to build capability through an entrepreneurial mindset fit for the digital age. We have the view that even if we don’t have all the capabilities that we want right at this moment in time, if we have a willingness to learn and step out of our comfort zone, then there’s absolutely nothing that we can’t achieve.

“The Academy is aligned to a range of development programmes called Critical People Capabilities, Our Standards and Determined to Lead, all designed to lift the performance of the organisation in a unique and inspiring manner.

“You can have someone who’s incredibly intelligent, extremely capable and exceptionally experienced, but then you have to ask – why do they not achieve more? Why is what they’re doing not even bigger? Even better? What’s stopping them from doing it and what’s holding them back? And the answer is – mindset. Every time. If you’re in that growth mindset, you’re thinking, ‘what if I look at this differently, or I do it this way, or turn it completely on its head’. It’s about pushing the possibilities, and that’s a powerful place to be. For example, the organisation is passionate about embedding an innovative mindset taking existing or new ideas to help our customers achieve more of their goals. To do this we need our colleagues to be more innovative in creating solutions for customers and at the same time build knowledge in areas that are new or activated differently. ”

This unique outlook with businesses and employees’ potential is in part a proactive response to the fast-paced and continually evolving world of digital technology. Gordon says:

“What sets us apart is how much we value having a growth mindset first, coupled with building capability, which helps our organisation to be nimble, agile and innovative. You just have to look at the context of the world we’re living in. Technology is changing exponentially and evolving all the time, so the next five years are unknown in some respects, which means that future capability is evolving and demanding a new skill set. We need generations of people with grit and a strong sense of resolve, who adapt to change, who have an open mind and a willingness to learn and accept feedback, who will feel uncomfortable and take calculated risks. Anything else that person needs, we’ll provide – all the training and development to give them the skills they need – but they need that growth mindset. If they have that, then there are endless possibilities.”

However, this growth mindset is not just a means of employing the right people moving forward, it is about accepting that disruption is all around and how we develop employee’s professional thinking and their approach to the bigger picture of business will be key to how we respond to the technological changes. As part of the bank’s entrepreneurship strategy, the Academy has designed a programme that encapsulates the behaviours and mindset of successful entrepreneurs and enhances their already evident entrepreneurial streak. Gordon says:

“The programme comprises of various elements, such as online modules, live events, and visits to the business accelerator hubs – we have 12 of these hubs all across the UK, where people can become a part of a connected community. The course is completely voluntary and currently has over 7,000 members being proactive in building their capability on top of a really busy day job. It’s incredible to see the movement we’ve created having a lasting impact on our culture and a real impact in future-proofing our colleagues’ capabilities.”

This impact is not just exclusive to the NatWest internal workings, but is then further passed on to its customers. NatWest Accelerator Hubs are the world’s largest fully funded business accelerator supporting SMEs, and Gordon explains how this growth mindset is positively affecting the bank’s relationship with its small business customers:

“I find it really inspiring connecting with small businesses. When small businesses do well, that helps our economy and therefore our society and culture, and we’re passionate about supporting SMEs. Our latest impact report demonstrates our success, and we have helped to secure £255m investment raised, created over 8000 jobs in three years, and achieved 87% business survival rates. By developing our employees’ entrepreneurial skills, they come away being better at such things as networking, they develop the confidence to communicate with greater impact, and can solve problems differently and land creative ideas with real zeal. Our 12 hubs across the UK that are fully funded for SMEs to use, and this level of support really enables them to start, grow and succeed.”

The Entrepreneurship Academy has recently been awarded its status as an IOEE Enterprise Academy, and Gordon explains what this means to him and the bank:

“Being accredited by the IOEE is a huge turning point for us as an Academy. It gives us an incredible kitemark of approval that provides credibility and properly validates what we’re doing, but also the positive impact we are having. This is shown in part by the improvement of employee engagement scores, which are at a 10-year high in 2017. It gives us the assurance that what we’re doing is being seen and rated as being of a high quality, and becoming an IOEE Enterprise Academy is a great achievement for us.”