Meet Colum Bancroft,
Growing up with four sisters and two brothers, Colum Bancroft learned from a young age the importance of respect and shared responsibility. “We learned that everyone must pull their weight equally,” he said. “I’ve always tried to bring these lessons into my work life—and to treat people equally and with respect.”
Based in AlixPartners’ Hong Kong office, Colum heads financial advisory services for Asia, and manages a team of economists, forensic accountants, forensic technology specialists, and data scientists, among others. Fostering a diverse and inclusive environment has been crucial to his team’s success, a lesson he learned early in his career, now spanning three decades.
“I had true mentors who consistently walked the talk,” Colum said. “Embracing diversity on their teams and treating people in the right way.”
He’s convinced this is why they were able to obtain successful results. Bringing in new people, whether those in the early stages of their career or those with different professional or personal backgrounds, provides a breath of fresh air, a new way of thinking about things. They contribute energy and dynamism, which can be important in getting to the root of complex issues.
“No one has a monopoly on good ideas,” he said.
As a member of the firm’s Women’s Empowerment (WE) Matters employee resource group, Colum helps to strengthen AlixPartners’ traditionally supportive work environment. When recruiting for the firm, Colum stresses the firm’s inclusive culture.
“We try to nurture a family feeling,” he said.
Since work at the firm often involves long hours, and people are under pressure to respond quickly to a client’s needs, a supportive environment is important.
“If there’s travel involved, we ensure people get back home on weekends wherever possible,” he said. “We make sure to give them time to spend at home when the pressure is off, so they can catch up with what they need.”
The firm’s awareness of these considerations “resonates with interviewees,” Colum added.
Through its flexible and supportive culture, AlixPartners wants to be sure it is retaining talented people and encouraging them to build a career. “We don’t want to see life events, like having children, as an impediment to career advancement,” Colum said.
To that end, WE Matters has been actively probing work-life balance and working to open the conversation up to consider issues from multiple perspectives, through both informal discussions and events featuring inspiring outside speakers.
Through this work drawing attention to these issues, which is ongoing, Colum has seen a transformation in his industry since he started his first job in 1989, when there was one female manager to 10 male managers.
“There’s been a big shift over the years,” he said. “Today, it’s completely different in the industry.”
The support firms give to their women employees when they choose to have a family, and to men who want paternity leave, are “hugely positive developments.” They enable people to balance career with lifestyle choices, “allowing everyone the opportunity to take their career where they want it to go. In our workplaces, the idea of the glass ceiling has almost disappeared. And society and businesses are the better for it.”
“I believe strongly that the diversity of teams we present at clients—at pitches, or during engagements, the way we interact with each other—has a positive influence on our clients here in Asia,” Colum said. “When clients go out of their way to praise the diversity in the teams we bring to the table throughout the different stages of a project, it’s proof that we’re on the right track.”