Learn from the experts in Public Affairs – Blogger #11 – Chris Bose – Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Nationwide Building Society
At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I have a four-month-old and a four-year-old, so wake ups can start at 3am! I try and get a few more hours and I’m up at 6ish.
What is the first thing you do?
Usually, I’m sorting out our 4-year-old, but then check emails for anything overnight and get the headlines from BBC news and FT. I’m a Radio 4 addict, so Today program goes on early.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I read the Times and FT every day and start the day with politico playbook and a scroll through political twitter. I’ll also check New Statesman and Spectator to get a spread of views. For a deeper dive, I’ll dip into Project Syndicate and the Economist. I try to avoid domestic stories and love their random pieces like recent trends in Street names.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I tend to split the week three days from home and two in the office. The boundaries between work and life are less rigid, so I’ll be dialing onto 8.30 catch ups on the way home from the nursery run. If I’m in the office, then I try (and often fail) to be in by 9.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Too many. I’ve tried to be more disciplined and allot email time but frequently fail. I found the volume of emails a bit much during the pandemic, responding to things late at night and early morning.
When is your first meeting?
We have an 8.30 catch up with my leadership team colleagues three times a week. These are often walking meetings. I’m a big fan of walking meetings and think they tend to improve the conversation.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I don’t have a strict plan but I’ve found that Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be meeting-heavy as colleagues head to the office. Mondays tend to be for thinking and planning. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that we could all do with more thinking time.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
I try and prioritise external meetings, whether they be with policymakers or industry peers. A big part of our job is bringing in external insights to inform how Nationwide operates and I think we should be the team most focused on external meetings.
I invest a lot of time in building an external network. I really feel for people starting out in this hybrid world, where those chance encounters are harder to come by.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I get a barrage of notifications and alerts from political intel providers which help me keep track and I rely on my brilliant team who are veritable source of news and gossip.
How do you organize your calendar?
I try and spend a bit of time on Sunday to review the calendar, free up time and think about the week ahead. This helps me focus. I try and spot big meetings and presentations which are lurking a few weeks ahead to start thinking about what I want to say.
How do you take notes?
I need to get better at this, many children would have more legible handwriting than me! I use notes on my phone to distill my thoughts. I’m a big fan of writing to clarify.
What is your relationship to Excel?
What is your favorite app & why?
The FT, not just for the quality of the journalism but it’s a lovely app to use. I’d give a special shout out for FT weekend and the weekend columnists like Janan Ganesh.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Less than I did pre pandemic. Probably a couple per month but with some coffees and drinks thrown in.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
As well as the usual sites for PA news, I should give a shameless plug for this great blog! As an industry, I think we could learn a lot more from what others are doing. I find that public affairs can get a bit stuck on the old ways of doing things and there’s so much we can learn from related disciplines like law, marketing and regulatory engagement.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
I neglected this when I was younger and to my detriment. I’ve tried various things over the years and it’s the simple things that work for me, exercise, getting outdoors, socializing. In high pressure moments I try and slow everything down.
What do you do to unwind?
I spend time with my family and friends, cook, spinning, music, gigs. My wife and kids are great for taking my mind off work. I live near the sea which can make any problem lighter.
What is your favorite collaboration tool?
Teams. I struggle to remember life before teams. It’s helped us collaborate much more as a team.
How does your desk look?
It used to look pretty messy, but in this paper-less world it’s quite tidy. Clean desk policies have certainly helped.
When I’m at home I work in a garden office/glorified shed.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
I do, although I miss the days of firing off emails with blackberries – I’m showing my age now.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
Good question. I’ve learned a lot from former heads of public affairs at Santander and Lansons Communications and a lot from my team at Nationwide. I did a secondment in the Treasury during the pandemic and learned a lot. I’ve got huge respect for people doing public affairs in highly regulated sectors like finance and tech.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I check in once a day but try not to answer, I think it’s confusing for people back at base and not a great way to relax. One of the many advantages of working for Nationwide is that it’s pretty respectful of work-life balance.
Who is your idol?
I don’t really have idols but there are people who I really admire. Off the top of my head, I think Sam Altman at Open AI is super impressive (not only through showing how AI can write a very good ministerial letter) but his blog is packed full of good advice.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I’m a prolific starter of books and finish too few. I’m currently reading Doom by Nial Ferguson which looks at why catastrophes happen and how we can learn from them. I also enjoyed Build by Tony Fadell ‘the father of the I pod’.
Do you read anything before you go to bed?
I try but often fail.
Which time do you go to bed?
Early, i.e 9-10pm, given the wake ups and early starts.
Do you use LinkedIn and/or Twitter for work?
I do, I rely on twitter for in the moment views and information and I’m a big fan of linked in. I’d recommend ‘the state of linked in’ for a look at the more ridiculous posts.
How big is your PA department?
It varies, but currently 7.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
We sit in marketing and engagement but have moved around a bit over the past few years and work closely with our CEO and leadership team.
About Chris Bose:
Chris leads policy and public affairs for Nationwide Building Society and has experience across retail financial services, housing, mortgages and payments issues. During the pandemic he did a secondment to HM Treasury. He joined from Santander where he looked at retail financial services policy. Earlier in his career he worked at leading financial services consultancy, Lansons Communications, where he was deputy head of public affairs.
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