Garrett-Cox: ‘Financial services must build trust’

Katherine Garrett-Cox will address the IoD this week. Photograph: Jane Barlow
Katherine Garrett-Cox will address the IoD this week. Photograph: Jane Barlow
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LEADERS of the financial services industry need to do more to repair the sector’s damaged reputation and ens­ure it plays its part in delivering wider prosperity, Katherine Garrett-Cox will tell the Institute of Directors this week.

The chief executive of Alliance Trust will issue a “call to arms” to her fellow investment professionals at the IoD Scotland conference at the Fairmont St Andrews resort, asking individuals to think carefully about their role in promoting change.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday ahead of the event, she said: “Trust has been lost and it needs to be rebuilt. A number of people are trying to transform the financial industry but others are still not doing enough.”

Garrett-Cox said change would come through a combination of words and deeds, “but it’s deed that are most important”.

“If you want to change the way people perceive financial services you’ve got to do something about it,” she added.

The theme of this year’s IoD conference is “making prosperity a reality,” and Garrett-Cox said the financial sector has a key role to play to help bring about wider prosperity.

That would benefit the sector itself in turn, but she said it is important to aim for more than just financial returns.

“In many cases financial groups are the people funding the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, but you’ve got to do it right. We haven’t always covered ourselves in glory.”

One area that Dundee-based Alliance Trust has been concentrating on is financial education with schools and a local social enterprise to spread awareness of savings options and the need to save.

“There’s been an increasing trend for financial companies to step back from giving advice, or to make it too expensive to be worth while,” Garrett-Cox said. “But as an organisation with a large retail shareholder base we need to encourage the younger generation to start saving for the future. We’ve got to give people confidence to look after themselves.”

Other speakers at the conference will include Sir John Elvidge, chairman of Edinburgh Airport; Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan; and Robin Watson, chief of Wood Group PSN.

Speakers will talk about the challenges and advantages of running major organisations from Scotland, and the global impact achieved by working from a Scottish base.

IoD Scotland chief David Watt said it was time for Scotland to move on from the endless constitutional debate and concentrate on the economy.

“We’ve had a great year with the Commonwealth Games and the focus on Scotland int­ernationally, and we have an opportunity to capitalise on that,” he said.