20 questions with Barclays Bank PLC chief information officer and diversity campaigner Anthony Watson
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
“One should never allow one’s fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of one’s own destiny”.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
“The big secret in life is that there really is no big secret at all. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you dream big, think bigger and work harder”.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2013?
Vladimir Putin. He is a sinister tyrant who is ruthlessly oppressing the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russian citizens. To think this is happening in a part of modem day Europe is simply staggering. I strongly believe our government should be confronting Putin over this human rights crisis.
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
Right now? See answer to question 15.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
Food without calories? Champagne without a hangover? I think I’d have to choose eternal youth.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the banking crisis?
I’m not touching that with a barge pole.
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
That’s a tough one. There are a few. I’ve just spent most of July and August in the USA, so that’s influencing my choice. I can’t stand how American’s use the word “awesome” or “awesomeness” in what seems like almost every sentence. Great Britain and America: two nations divided by a common language.
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
Honestly, I’ve never quite fully understood that particular idiom, but if one takes it to mean we should focus on our own domestic issues rather than ring-fencing money for overseas aid, then yes, I do believe that there is some merit in that argument. We certainly have enough need here at home. That said, it’s not quite that simple.
Charity work plays a very important role in my life. I strongly believe those of us who are more fortunate in life than others have a moral obligation to give back, in whatever way we can. I support several charities with my money, my time and my efforts. I’m a founding trustee and member of the board of The Inclusion Foundation: an independent grant giving charity that provides financial support, advice and assistance to charitable and voluntary organisations working in equality, diversity and inclusion across the UK. I’m also an ambassador for Stonewall (Europe’s largest LGB rights charity) and an ambassador for Diversity Role Models (an LGBT education and anti-bulling charity). I’m a passionate champion of diversity and equality and regularly speak to governments, companies, universities and communities in the UK, Europe and the United States. In addition, I visit schools across the UK to offer advice and guidance, to both students and teachers, in challenging homophobic bullying and celebrating equality and difference.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
This is a tough one. I spend an awful lot of time on my mobiles; candidly, I’d be lost without them but there is a time and a place. I can’t abide people who feel because they are on their mobile phone they have a license to be rude and detached from people and situations around them.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington (the first one, not the current one), HRH Duke of Edinburgh (the current one), Oscar Wilde, Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander the Great and Jesus (Christ, not the chap that dated Madonna). Plus copious amounts of alcohol, preferably Perrier Jouet Bella Époque Champagne. Although, if Jesus is dining with us maybe water would do fine – I read he can be quite creative with it.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
It would have to be La Petite Masion; not the bistro in Nice (which is very mediocre) but the restaurant in London (on Brook’s Mews, behind Claridge’s). Their Dover sole is literally to die for, which is handy given the question.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
You mean there’s not an acceptable time? When did this happen? Actually, I very rarely, if ever, drink on a weekday. On the weekends, however, I am a complete lush.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
A Hendrick’s gin martini stirred, with a slice of cucumber and served ice cold.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
I tend to prefer dinner parties. Partly because they are a more intimate setting and partly because I can’t cook.
Who is the most positive person you know?
I’ve had to think about this question a little. Over the summer I briefly dated a guy (he’s a celebrity of sorts, so I won’t name names to protect the not-so-innocent). He really is the most positive person I know; never thinks a bad thought, never does a bad deed, just a genuinely good, decent and positive person. However, on the off chance he might read this, he is by no means perfect. Actually, in a lot of ways he’s very hard work. That said he is one of the very few people in my life that just being around make’s me very happy.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
Tom Ford bespoke suits; it’s a very naughty and ridiculously expensive addiction. Chocolate fondant is also pretty high up on the list too.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
I’m not really a “tattoo” type of guy.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
Most probably an Aston Martin. I can be highly temperamental, even difficult at times but always a fun ride.
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
People are always surprised to hear (on the very rare occasion I actually talk about it, as I believe one’s faith is a very personal thing) that I read theology at university and that I was very nearly going to become a Christian minister. I still have a strong sense of faith; again, most people are surprised to hear this, especially from a gay guy. I class myself as “quietly Christian”.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
A 19th century French clock. Ever since I was a child I have loved timepieces. I’m also an avid watch collector.
Anthony Watson is managing director and chief information officer of Europe Middle East Retail & Business Banking at Barclays Bank PLC and is the only openly gay CIO of a FTSE 100 Fortune 100 company in the world. Amongst his numerous other roles, Watson is also an ambassador for Stonewall and Diversity Role Models and was voted Inspirational Role Model of the Year at the Out In The City magazine’s 2013 awards ceremony.
Follow him on twitter @AnthonyGWatson
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