Meet Ruth Handcock – the new Octopus Investments CEO
18 February 2019
We asked the new Chief Executive Officer of Octopus Investments to share her ambitions for the business, and also to reveal the things outside of work that bring her joy.
Can you tell us about your new role?
As CEO, I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of Octopus Investments, taking over from co-founder Simon Rogerson, who will be focusing on his role as CEO of Octopus Group.
We’re entering our next phase of growth at Octopus Investments, as we continue to work with UK financial advisers to deliver products and services to help more people realise the benefits of financial planning.
At the same time, we’ve restructured the business into three distinct divisions. Retail Fundraising is responsible for product development, distribution and operations, and the Growth & Innovation division will be developing new Octopus products and services.
Finally, we also have our Centres of Expertise. These are centralised teams that provide specialist support across all our investment businesses, helping us make sure we have access to the skills and talent we need.
This new structure has been designed to help us achieve our mission of being irreplaceable to financial advisers and their clients, both now and also ten years from now.
What are you most looking forward to?
First, I think there’s a huge part of the UK population that is still underserved by the financial services industry. There are lots of people who still don’t know where to go to get good financial advice.
We can help change that, by working in partnership with financial advisers to fill this advice gap.
Second, I’m interested in how technology can help us serve the financial services industry in an engaging, user-friendly way. It’s not about replacing humans with technology. The question we’ll be asking is: “how can we use technology to make financial advisers bionic?”
In other words, tech isn’t about replacing humans, but enhancing what they can offer.
And third, I’m really looking forward to working with and growing the teams at Octopus. I’m inspired on a daily basis by the people I work with and I hope we can teach each other a few things along the way.
What will your biggest challenge be?
It’s difficult to pick a few things from a sea of exciting opportunities. But I’m a natural completer. I don’t like taking on things I can’t finish. I believe in picking my battles and making sure things get done. I also want to keep us focused on our core business. It’s essential we continue to deliver the customer service we’re known for, because it’s fundamental to our future success.
What first attracted you to Octopus?
Primarily, it was the people. I knew they were ambitious, entrepreneurial and really values-driven. At Octopus, culture flows from the founders down, in a way that’s different to many places I’ve worked.
As well as being commercially successful, Octopus embraces change, thinks deeply about its customers, and wants to make a difference in the world. There are always loads of new things to get involved in.
We have so much ambition here, the problem isn’t finding things to do, it’s deciding what to focus on. You certainly don’t find apathy at Octopus.
What did you do before you joined Octopus?
I started my career as a consultant in the public sector, before moving into financial services. I worked in Sierra Leone for a year, helping the Ministry of Trade attract foreign investment to the country.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live somewhere unusual, and I worked for a phenomenal charity.
After that, I was Global Finance Director at Bacardi, driving revenue and managing expenses and responsible for a $2 billion profit and loss statement. I then joined Tandem, a start-up retail bank. I was Tandem’s first employee, working alongside its two founders, and this was where I learned the dynamics of how a financial institution works. It was like completing a Banking MBA in a year, while building a company and hiring 60 people.
What did the experience at Tandem teach you?
It was a very entrepreneurial environment. The two founders and I began with very little, apart from a vision to build a bank that always did the right thing by its customers.
Within four years we had one of the first new retail banking licences issued in over a century, and nearly £1 billion on the company’s balance sheet.
But like any start-up, it wasn’t without its share of bumps. We made loads of mistakes and did loads of things well, which teaches you such a lot. I also learned a huge amount about how – and how not – to place technology at the heart of what you offer customers.
How do other people describe you?
I asked a few friends this via WhatsApp – I won’t repeat exactly what they said! My husband says I’m very organised – he’s actually christened me ‘head of admin’ – so I’m the one who books holidays, plans where we’re going on weekends and organises the diary.
One friend also described me as ‘mean with cheese’, because I don’t like sharing it. I do really love cheese!
What do you do to relax?
I love to run. It used to be long distances, but that’s difficult with young children, so I usually run back to the station in the evenings. It separates office from home – which I find very valuable.
I also relax by playing with my kids. Doing the same Postman Pat jigsaw five times in a row is an amazing way to develop patience! It forces you to slow down – there’s no other way of dealing with young children.
What brings you joy?
My family has a weekend tradition called ‘Disco Bathtime.’ The kids have a bath to loud music and afterwards, we dance around the house for 20 minutes. They absolutely love it, and so do I.
Watching a two-year-old dancing is joy in itself. And going back to Sierra Leone every couple of years brings me joy as well. It’s a happy place for me.
What do you love most about working at Octopus?
I love that every day is completely different. I’ve always been drawn to jobs where I can do a million different things at once. I’m sure that’s some people’s idea of hell, but I love it.