Spotlight: Sally Bridgeland – portfolio NED

Gambols and Gambits –

Using the Chess and Drama Club to think creatively about neurodiversity and teamwork

I’m coming to the end of my term as Chair of Local Pensions Partnership Investments Limited. We launched seven years ago as the first local authority pension fund investment pool and now manage around £23 billion of pension assets. We are also the fund manager for GLIL Infrastructure LLP, with £2.5 billion committed to investing in infrastructure predominantly in the UK. With strong roots in both the public and private sectors, we foster an entrepreneurial culture that aims to promote innovation that can help us improve service and lower costs.

My top tip for driving innovation and change is to talk simply and clearly about the way that you need to operate at different stages in the development of a team and a strategy. Particularly with a joint venture formed from two organisations – in our case Lancashire County Council (LCC) and London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA) – it is vital to set the new ground rules to define what is and isn’t important. Back then, I remember talking in terms of marks out of ten: at the outset we knew that some aspects of our governance and policies would be a good few marks short of perfection, but that was okay. Others, as a newly-regulated company, needed more finesse.

These days I’d talk about being more “drama club” or “chess club”. To bring this to life: at a personal level ask yourself the simple and playful question; “which club would you rather join, the chess club or the drama club?” Just make a quick decision and go on to think about what work situations and contexts suit you best, and when you might need to call on your friends in the other club, or try to be more that way inclined. It can help us remember that others are not only different but also happy doing things that we may not enjoy doing. This is a good thing. It’s teamwork.

So, where perfection was not required but the vision needed to be clear, I’d talk about being a bit more drama club: getting to story and the plot right, gathering the right cast, knowing what happy every after looks like. Lights, camera, action. It’ll be alright on the night. Where the requirements are already clear, as in regulated activities where the rules of the game are specified, we need the chess club. Attention to detail, the right moves in the right order, if you don’t win, you lose.

Along our journey we have needed the drama club to define a “north star” for our strategy and the chess club to define specific objectives and metrics. And the drama club and chess club to work carefully together to define our Net Zero targets and how we will explain the vision to our clients. The chess club have redesigned our data and systems infrastructure, our risk appetite framework and our client reporting. And now, the drama club are developing our vision for growth into the future. I’ll be in the audience, watching.

Corina Balaneanu

Founder, Innovation Partnership

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