With her parents’ encouragement, Rashpal Martin joined NatWest at the age of 16, and “hats off to them, it’s paid me dividends”, she says. The bank has facilitated a path to senior leadership and provided her with “a platform to learn many skills”.
Currently Head of Digital & Telephony for Tyl by Natwest that sits within NatWest Ventures – the bank’s digital innovation hub – Rashpal shares her advice for young leaders and how she’s creating a culture of innovation.
Joining the bank at age 16
“I was brought up in a very strict Asian family,” Rashpal explains. “So when I was offered an administrative job at the bank (after doing work experience), my parents made it very clear that I was to accept it. Any dreams of doing A levels or going to university were to be forgotten.”
“This is because I was to have an arranged marriage and working in a bank would look really good for me. Some people might think that’s unfair but I knew my parents wanted the best for me and culturally that’s all they understood – it was a different time back then. So I thought: ‘let’s go for it’.”
Rashpal started working at NatWest on 4 July 1988, and since then she’s had experience across personal banking, business banking, project management and now NatWest Ventures.
“I’ve had so many opportunities. It’s been like working for different companies because I’ve done different roles in different parts of the organization, using different skill sets and meeting different people.”
Rashpal attributes a large part of her career success to the strong work ethic instilled from her parents.
“I will always give 110%, that’s in my DNA and the bank has recognized that. Being genuine and honest has also helped me – I don’t hide failures. And I’m always willing to learn.”
Being a young leader
Evidently, Rashpal’s leadership ability shone through from a young age. At age 21, she was asked to manage a team, an achievement she’s particularly proud of given she didn’t go to university.
“At the time, I’d never run a team in my life. It was quite nerve wracking because it was actually the team I was in, and a lot of my colleagues were older and had more experience than me. But I thought, what a great opportunity.”
If you’re in a similar situation to Rashpal and put in charge of your current team, she shares what has worked for her:
“It’s a challenge and it’s happened twice in my career. But the way I’ve approached it is to be open and honest with the team. I explain that I’m there to support and guide them but they’re the experts and I can’t do the job without them. Both times, people have come around.”
Rashpal’s other tips for young leaders are:
- Get yourself a mentor: “I was very late in getting a mentor, yet they’re so useful to discuss your thoughts and ideas.”
- Seize opportunities: “When I was younger, I was quite nervous to do this, but the best thing you can do for your career is grasp opportunities or seek them out, and have confidence in yourself.”
- Build resilience: “I remember a mentor once said to me, ‘Rashpal, you’ve got to build resilience! Life is not always going to go the way you planned it. Setbacks are inevitable, it’s how you choose to move forward and what you learn from them that’s most important.’”
- Don’t worry if you’re not the expert: “I’ve often been put in charge of functions that I’m not an expert in. That’s ok, you just need to seek out a basic understanding, and surround yourself with experts who can offset your weaknesses.”
- Seek feedback: ”I’m always asking for feedback. It keeps you grounded.”
And what makes a good leader? “You have to be self-motivated and able to inspire others. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you have to be inspiring. You’ve got to be a good listener, always thinking of the bigger picture and able to bring people on that journey.”
Becoming a mother
Rashpal did take a step back in work responsibilities when she had her daughter (now 23).
“I wanted to be able to spend time with my child, and do the school runs and attend assemblies.”
“The bank really supported me in that and back then, workplace flexibility wasn’t a common thing,” explains Rashpal. Along with their purpose-led culture, which is to champion potential, helping people, families and businesses to thrive, this is also the reason she’s remained loyal to the bank for 30 years.
Rashpal’s biggest advice for women balancing their careers and motherhood is to do what’s right for you.
“Don’t try and please everybody. Understand what your main priority is and there’s no right or wrong answer.”
Developing new skills in technology
In 2018, Rashpal was asked to set up a digital and telephony team for a new merchant acquiring business that was being created under NatWest Ventures: Tyl by NatWest.
It was the excitement of developing new skills in the technology and innovation sector that drove her to accept the job.
“You should always be thinking about what skills your next job will bring you. I’m not an expert in technology but I love to learn. I know this role is going to stretch me, introduce me to new technologies like artificial intelligence and add more value to my CV.”
Creating a culture of innovation is core to the mission of her new team. “Innovation has to be at the heart of everything we’re trying to do, because that’s what customers want.”
One of the ways Rashpal is creating a culture of innovation is by setting up an innovation committee within her team. It’s the committee’s job to share knowledge articles, identify learning opportunities and track ideas.
“We’re creating a culture where if people want to test things or learn new things, they can absolutely do that.”