Byline: RORY CLEMENTS
LIKE any man who reaches the top of his profession, Neil Roden is not the sort to shy away from the occasional risk - so long as it is a calculated one, on the basis of all the available information.
That is certainly the way that banks have to operate. Like insurance companies and other financial institutions, they must take risks every day of the week, whether lending money, investing it or standing surety. The key, of course, is to organise it so that the odds are in your favour.
"As a bank, risk is a key issue for us," says Roden, human resources director for the Royal Bank of Scotland. "Banking is about the management of risk and as such we have significant teams involved in it."
The problem is that some areas are highly specialised and experienced people can be hard to come by. "We employ a broad range of staff - mainly professional market/credit risk people," Roden says. "Recruitment has got harder over the years and we are therefore working on initiatives such as our Risk Academy to develop talent from within.
"I would say the whole risk management arena has expanded dramatically over the past four or five years. A lot of that is down to the growth in compliance - all sorts of things, whether it is the UK regulator tackling money-laundering or Sarbanes-Oxley [the 2002 antifraud act in America, which was brought in hurriedly in the wake of the Enron scandal], just increases the burden.
"A lot of banks have gone public about the cost of compliance and the burden of it. But it means the compliance people are in demand.
There never used to be many people in compliance, but now we have hundreds of staff. It is part of our group risk function, which probably has 2,000 people."
The Royal Bank of Scotland operates in more than 26 countries, so trying to comply to all the different regulations can be a nightmare. "There is no doubt that it's a much more complex career than it was five years ago," says Roden.
An affable Glaswegian, Roden divides his working life between Edinburgh and London, flying down at least once a week. He is a busy man, heading up a worldwide team of 1,900 human resources staff looking after the needs of 140,000 people across the group.
Despite worries about the economy, these are heartening times for people wishing to work in banking.
"In general, I would say that financial institutions are employing more people rather than fewer.
Certainly in the UK we employ more people than we did last year.
The prospects are good.
"We are taking on about 250 graduates this year and we received 16,000 applications, which is up 2,000 on last year. So demand for these jobs has gone up. We also take on a lot of non-graduates in various parts of the group. Retail banking takes a lot of A-level students. Having quite a wide diversity of business units - from insurance through to retail banking through to back operations through to the guys in financial markets - we take on people for all areas."
Roden, 48, came from a modest home in Glasgow. His father was a police officer and his mother a nurse tutor. But one thing was always uppermost in their minds - that their children got a good education. …