PROFILE: Susan Grice, Bank of America; Banking on team spirit

Susan Grice is the corporate communicator with a collegiate approach

Susan Grice is the corporate communicator with a collegiate approach



In an industry often characterised as bitchy, Susan Grice - the new

corporate communications head of the Bank of America’s Europe, Middle

East and Africa division - appears to have managed the difficult feat of

being successful without making enemies. The nearest thing to a black

mark on this character is apparently her habits of losing security

badges and misdirecting taxi drivers.



Reginald Watts, who was Burson-Marsteller chairman and chief executive

during Grice’s three-year stint with the agency, says: ‘Susan is the

perfect embodiment of the successful woman executive. She is very

together, has an exceptionally good analytical brain and speaks in a

very controlled way.



‘I always felt she should be the head of a Shandwick or an Edelman

Financial.’



In her new role, Grice is tasked with developing an integrated

communications strategy for the division, amid feeling that the bank’s

public image does not reflect its true strength as America’s second

largest bank. Her recruitment follows a year-long part-time secondment

to the bank from Fleishman-Hillard, which continues to handle the

business through director Deborah Saw, and has recently had its brief

widened.



Grice, who is infinitely more approachable in person than her peers’

Superwoman-style accolades suggest, says that her transition from

consultant to client has not yet caused conflict.



‘Potentially it could have been very hard for the agency to take, but

Deborah Saw is a very good person to work with,’ she says. ‘My style is

rather collegiate, I like working with teams and I think of the agency

as an extension of my team.’



Grice says her objectives are three-fold. She wants to get the bank’s

strengths fully recognised, to establish a ‘communications mind-set’,

and to build employee pride in the bank. Given the nature of the job it

is perhaps surprising, then, that she reports to marketing and sales

director John Weguelin, rather than to divisional head Ralph Schauss.



Grice explains: ‘The Bank of America, like a lot of financial

institutions, has a quite complicated matrix structure. I have a dotted

line to Ralph Schauss and so that is no problem.



‘Working for John Weguelin is a joy as he is so attuned to

communications and marketing issues, which makes reporting to him and

getting ideas accepted very straightforward.’



Rather than follow the traditional route from a B-M directorship to a

senior role in a large agency, Grice moved out of the big agency scene

to set up Royle Communications (an offshoot of printer WR Royle Group)

and later established her own business Grice Wheeler with former Royle

colleague Sue Wheeler. When questioned on this, Grice - who has a five-

year-old son with husband Colin Chapman, chief executive of Financial

Times TV - says she consciously ‘stepped off that ladder’.



‘There is a buzz in having a senior job at the top of a consultancy,’

she admits. ‘But, even assuming I would have made it, I don’t know

whether that would have been out-weighed by the cost of what I could

have lost on the personal front.



‘Work is extremely important but it is not the only thing. Some people

can have a family and work 12 hours a day, but I would not have wanted

to.’



But Grice clearly has a commitment and passion for what she does. When

talking of how a recently-installed fixed camera point in the bank’s

City trading room has spawned scores of television interviews, she leans

forward in her chair, gesturing with her hands, seeming quite genuinely

excited.



As for the future, she says: ‘I might go back to work for myself or I

might never leave the Bank of America. I would never close any doors.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1984 Director, Burson-Marsteller Financial

1986 Managing director, Royle Communications

1990 Joint principal, Grice Wheeler Business Communications

1995 Principal, Grice Chapman

1996 Head of corporate communications, Bank of America’s Europe, Middle

East and Africa division



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