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Tales of our Time: Taking the road less travelled

Michael Hayman | 17 May 2022

This piece by Michael Hayman first appeared in the Country & Town House June/July edition. 

Change is the ever-present journeyman through the ages, but often getting it right is something easier said than done. Each generation is different to the one that went before. But while for many centuries this might be best characterised as evolution, recent years have taken on more of the feeling of a full-time revolution.

Transformations in technology have brought with them immense accelerations in the demands on our lives in the way that we live, work and even relax. I heard one entrepreneur describe this as living in a world of dog years. Each new year is worth seven old ones.

This year, the private bank and wealth manager Coutts marks its 330th birthday and it’s fair to say that it has lived through quite a few chapters of change along the path of time. Its founder Thomas Coutts was described as ‘a man of singular judgement, with a warm and compassionate heart’.

That was then but it also may be a clue for now to help explain a culture that endures at Coutts. Last year the bank became a B Corp, which brings with it the goal of meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

It’s part of a new way of thinking in the business world, which follows the idea that companies can and must be a force for good because it is not only the right thing to do, but it is also how you emerge fit for the future.

When I interviewed Coutts’ CEO Peter Flavel for my podcast Change Makers, he made the case that this was the essential mindset because, ‘If you think we’ve had enough change, you’ve not seen anything yet.’

There is something of the entrepreneur in that statement and the freedom to see the future as an opportunity not an obstacle. Reflecting on his own career he said that, ‘Every time I’ve been faced with paths in the road – one that was safer and the other more interesting – I have always chosen the more interesting, riskier one.’

Change is always difficult. But often the difficult path is the more rewarding one, especially when it comes to future-proofing your brand and holding it and yourself to the highest of standards.

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