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How a Duke made an Impact in Silicon Valley


It was only recently that Elon Musk declared himself TechnoKing of Tesla. Only a few days later, the Duke of Sussex, sixth in line to the British Throne, was instilled as the Chief Impact Officer of BetterUp. A company that is making an Impact in Silicon Valley.

Over the weekend, the FT highlighted the successes of various job title idiosyncrasies by reviewing Google’s ‘In-house philosopher’, Microsoft’s ‘Galactic viceroy of research excellence’, AOL’s ‘Digital prophet’, and Amazon’s ‘Chief Evangelist’. The story was suggesting that following on from appointing one of these unusual job titles, the company’s shares then rose. With Tesla this remains to be seen. BetterUp are pre-IPO so that will be even harder to gauge.

The trend of unusual titles would appear to be one of the hallmarks of Silicon Valley. While the lure of appointing public figures to help out with your Tech firm or StartUp, continues even today. The former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK is still serving as Facebook’s VP Global Affairs, for instance.

Mental Health and the Global Pandemic

While attending a virtual StartUp pitch online (but in Krakow) last September, it was intriguing when the editorial team at #DisruptionBanking witnessed what can only be described as a huge rise in StartUps in the Mental Health sector. One of the StartUps we saw – Pokojowo – created by Seth McMillan, was one of the stand-out StartUps on the day.

Today, another StartUp in this sector has also hit the news. BetterUp of San Francisco has been pioneering growth for the whole person since 2013. It counts amongst its clients, companies such as Google, Airbnb, Symantec, Twilio and even NASA.

BetterUp helps “create hyper-personalized experiences for our members, and our interactive content, analytics, and real-time data also track progress and provide unparalleled insights for organizations and individuals”.

And BetterUp have been doing very well over the years, only in 2019 they were reported to have received funding of $103 million with support from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

During the pandemic though, mental health has risen up the list of priorities for many companies. This topic often overlaps with the wider coaching industry.

Mental Health in Banking

With stories about the long hours faced by junior staff at Goldman Sachs trending over the last week, it is hard to ignore the topic of mental health problems in banking. One of the junior staff spoke to the Guardian, highlighting the problems faced by many of the employees at Goldman Sachs. Sick leave for burnout, working through the night regularly, severe weight-loss, ‘inhumane’ conditions were just some of the problems that the CEO of Goldman Sachs had to respond to.

On a completely separate note, today we saw the first woman leader of a Wall Street bank’s bravest move yet. Some of you may have heard of ‘dress-down’ Friday. From this week Friday’s will never be the same though, with Citi announcing Fridays to be a Zoom-free day:

Hundreds, if not thousands of people in Citi and across the wider banking community will be breathing a sigh of relief and hoping that their ‘zoom-fatigue’ may finally be addressed.

And the news hasn’t stopped there.

The Royal Impact

Following on from his high-profile interview with Oprah Winfrey just last week, the Duke of Sussex or Prince Harry, didn’t wait long to continue his acclimatisation into the world of California.

Prince Harry has a history of going above and beyond the call of duty. One has to only look at the success of the Invictus Games initiative he helped setup for Paralympians with a military background just a few years ago. One of his many initiatives that have made an impact within society.

#DisruptionBanking approached Seth McMillan of Pokojowo for his thoughts on the high-profile appointment, Seth shared the following feedback: “We think professionals tremendously benefit from our workplace performance improvement services using psychologist sessions. Much like BetterUp are already doing.”

Prince Harry’s new boss praised his latest employee for his ‘natural chemistry’. Alexi Robichaux, Co-founder and chief executive of BetterUp went on to add:

“We were just so impressed, and really I think there was such a natural chemistry and synergy around the insights and the contributions he can make creatively to BetterUp in ensuring that we achieve our mission.”

Alexi added that: “As we crafted the role together, we came to the title ‘chief impact officer’, really denoting that he’s focused on our mission and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to achieve it on a bigger and grander scale to impact the lives of more people.”

Who is Alexi Robichaux?

Sitting on the cusp of Leadership and Human Resources, Alexi is a stalwart of the California eco-system, having himself completed his university studies there. But Alexi is not the first entrepreneur to push the topic of Coaching.

On the BetterUp site the Return on Investment (ROI) of Coaching is explained thus:

“Research shows that for an average large company with 10,000+ employees, the hidden cost of skill gaps, disengagement, and turnover are estimated conservatively at – $135 million. This is the cost of the status quo. But there is vast and convincing evidence that coaching is the solution.”

Compelling stuff that many Risk Managers, Data Scientists and Traders may be reading with a certain amount of scepticism. This isn’t for me, they might say, this is for the cast of Friends from the 1990s, upwardly mobile professionals living in Manhattan.

Alexi has tried hard to ‘democratise professional coaching’, and some of his talks at Conferences in 2020 show an ambitious approach to achieving this.

We would like to share with you one of the best interviews with Alexi available online today, from Davos 2020:

Alexi speaks about Emotional Intelligence, Resilience and the ability to Adapt. He talks about how to prepare employees for the continuing disruption we are seeing in the World of Work today. The interview is compelling, and you would be forgiven if you thought that Alexi built this niche.

The original Coaching Disruptor

In the 90s we were inundated with different forms of coaching and advisory services. By the early 00s this had reached a new level , and a young gentleman from Australia stood up in his crusade to disrupt coaching.

Brad Sugars started business coaching in 1993. By the 2000s he was ready to roll out a global coaching business – ActionCoach, where Brad is the CEO and Founder. One of the main arguments that Brad has always used in his drive to bring coaching to a wider audience was simple. If you own a football, baseball, hockey, etc… club you wouldn’t leave the Coach position vacant. Sugars reminds us later, that both our businesses and our personal successes can be developed having a Coach, its not just for athletes.

The Royal Twist

Coming full circle on the topic of coaching. While the world continues to recover from the effects of 2020, the topic of digital transformation will continue. Banks and Financial Services firms are like any other and will have to find new and novel ways to maintain their culture (often remotely), as well as engage and motivate their teams.

With someone like Prince Harry involved in a sector which provides some of the answers to the priorities that many banks face in 2020, the reasons not to address your company culture become harder and harder to find.

Gone are the days when coaches just used a rickety script. Today they know all about Data, Transformation, Company Culture, Cloud and many other aspects of your business. Maybe its time to think of a coach for your team, division, company, office?

Author: Andy Samu

#Coaching #Zoomfatigue #MentalHealth #Longhours #ActionCoach #BetterUp #RoyalTwist #Democratisation #JobTitle #SiliconVallley

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