Jan Levy on social insights, the digital void and human connection

What are the logistical financial challenges that a bereaved spouse faces when their loved one passes away?

Is it possible for a bank to help someone who has dementia feel safe?

What are the worries that people who are living with cancer have when it comes to their life-insurance policy?

These are just a handful of the human concerns that people around the UK have voiced when it comes to their finances. And concerns that can be answered when companies are willing to listen.

Jan and his team at Three Hands makes that listening and human interaction possible.

Jan Levy is the MD of Three Hands, a small socially minded business that sets out to create business value and social value, hand in hand.

Sitting in the space between businesses and non-profits, Three Hands develops leaders through projects in communities, helps businesses create and run high impact social impact activities and, increasingly, brings the voice of charities, and the ‘lived experts’ they support, into businesses.

As companies move closer to the digital world and become more disconnected from society, Three Hands is helping to fill the void through social insights.

Working with companies to create more connection with the services they need to offer. And the desire that customers have, to deal with humans.

We talk about the power of opening channels of curiosity and understanding different parts of society.

Jan explains what it means for business to be a part of society.

And what happens when you create empathy between two sets of people or two organisations.

Today Jan will bring all of this to life.

So grab that favourite beverage or throw on those running shoes, and enjoy this conversation with Jan.

And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:00:32:14
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed.

00:00:35:01 – 00:01:12:15
Philippa White
There’s an interesting dynamic in the world of business as companies continue to move to digital. This move is creating a bit of a disconnect with the services they need to offer and the desire that some customers have to deal with humans. Hello and welcome to episode 70 of TIE Unearthed. Today I’m speaking with my long term friend Ian Levy, MD of Three Hands, a small, socially minded business that sets out to create business value and social value.

00:01:13:00 – 00:01:56:10
Philippa White
Hand in hand, sitting in the space between businesses and non-profits, three hands develops leaders through projects in communities, helps businesses create and run high impact social impact activities, and increasingly brings the voice of charities and the lived experts they support into businesses. The majority of their clients are from the financial services industry, and what Ian and his team hear from their lived experts in difficult circumstances is that there is a need for banks to have a real role in communities again, to be more than just transactional.

00:01:57:06 – 00:02:13:05
Philippa White
In short, to be human in today, Jan will bring all of this to life. So sit back, relax and grab that favorite beverage. And here’s you. Hello, Jan. It’s lovely to have you with us today. Thank you for joining me.

00:02:13:19 – 00:02:18:06
Jan Levy
Oh, it’s such a pleasure. It’s good to see you. So lovely to connect across the world.

00:02:18:16 – 00:02:20:14
Philippa White
I know. So tell me, where are you? Our.

00:02:20:19 – 00:02:32:21
Jan Levy
I’m sitting at home in in southwest London right now in sunny sunny Roehampton and it’s at the time of reporting it’s almost the weekend, which sounds like we could all do with I guess.

00:02:32:21 – 00:02:55:05
Philippa White
It’s been a long week, but yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, it is really special to be sitting here talking to you because you, I think, are one of the first people that I spoke to in about 2004 when I had this rough idea of something that I kind of thought I might want to do, but I’m not really sure it’s sort of this idea.

00:02:56:01 – 00:03:01:01
Philippa White
And we’re working at business in the community or with somebody involved with business in the community.

00:03:01:01 – 00:03:28:14
Jan Levy
Kevin That’s a really good memory, and it was 2004. I was a business in the community, but and I don’t know how we connected, I can’t remember, but I do remember meeting all those years ago. You’re right. 24 I was at business in the community, but certainly had some ideas around how to take employee volunteering and turn it into more of a development proposition and turn it into something that the business could take really seriously.

00:03:28:14 – 00:03:36:18
Jan Levy
Because it wasn’t just about giving, but it’s also about developing people. And at that time, 24, those ideas would have been whizzing around my head.

00:03:37:03 – 00:03:58:23
Philippa White
Yeah, I’m so grateful to this day because obviously the connection has continued and and we will be talking about three heads shortly. But I mean, you and I have both been doing this basically since then. So for our listeners, I think it would just be really great. Tell us a little bit about you before you started Three Hands and yeah, what is your story?

00:03:59:09 – 00:04:22:07
Jan Levy
Well, I mean, first of all, I have to dispel the myth that I started three hands, but I’ll come to that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be giving original founder Simon Hamilton his juice. But I graduated from Edinburgh University and I was very lucky to be good friends with one or two young budding entrepreneurs, and one of them had set up a directory for students called Student Pages.

00:04:22:13 – 00:04:55:07
Jan Levy
Anybody who was at university in the UK in the nineties might even remember this, right? This big purple A4 directory, which was a sort of student’s version of the Yellow Pages. So anyone old enough to remember that I was lucky enough to get involved in that. And it involved essentially going to many, many university towns around the country, launching a local edition in each of these places, selling it full of advertising from local shops and services, and the best bit setting it for a discount.

00:04:55:07 – 00:05:21:13
Jan Levy
Vouchers for students, things like the free bus for wine with a meal for for this restaurant. So you can imagine it was quite popular with with students anyway. So that was you know, it started off as let’s try this for a few months after graduation, let’s join the team and ended up being the next seven years of my career where we took it from three towns to 32 towns in the UK and Ireland.

00:05:21:13 – 00:05:46:16
Jan Levy
We started research services among students marketing services and it was, it was it was a really intense few years. It was a lot of fun and I learned a huge amount and then I decided I should probably get a proper job. Although it wasn’t from a job, it was incredible. Why not go off and learn about business and learn how to do these things bigger and grander and better and make more money?

00:05:46:16 – 00:06:21:22
Jan Levy
And I so I did an MBA and I was at yes. A business school in Barcelona, which was just a fabulous place to be. I remember in one of the very early classes in the first term at the MBA, somebody said, What is the responsibility of business? What is the purpose of business? And an ex-lawyer in the class piped up and said, Well, the responsibility of business is to make a return for its shareholders and I thought, Yes, but no, no, because I’d been running a business, right?

00:06:21:22 – 00:06:41:02
Jan Levy
I was one of three partners in student pages and I was an owner and I knew that our focus day today was doing a brilliant job for students and doing a brilliant job for advertisers. That’s what our purpose was. And if we did that really well, and if we did it with good management discipline, then as owners, shareholders would make a return.

00:06:41:17 – 00:07:08:07
Jan Levy
Making a return for us could never have been the day to day focus, the day to day feeling of responsible party and purpose. It wouldn’t have worked. We had all of our efforts and energies had to be channeled on the student readership and advertisers. So I began questioning the shareholder primacy model of business school. Yeah. At the same time, one of my classmates who turned out to be a really good friend was obsessed with day trading.

00:07:08:11 – 00:07:24:09
Philippa White
Oh yeah. We had a lot of those in our business school as well. They said, do it in the classroom. And so you sometimes had some people sometimes going, Oh, sorry. And they’ve clearly just made a whole lot of money. That’s weird. But anyway, yeah. So yeah.

00:07:25:03 – 00:07:49:14
Jan Levy
So that got me into thinking, well, what a shares for this is not what shares are for, you know, this is not what the markets are for. You know, shares are there to bring long term stability and to make long term returns so the people can just do it for a time at night. So, you know, it just got me on a whole journey around questioning what is the role of business really, what is the role of business in society?

00:07:49:14 – 00:07:52:19
Jan Levy
But I suppose that those were the beginnings of going on this journey.

00:07:53:03 – 00:08:00:24
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s really interesting. Really interesting. I share similar experiences, as you probably know. So then let’s talk.

00:08:00:24 – 00:08:01:08
Jan Levy
About.

00:08:01:20 – 00:08:06:21
Philippa White
Three heads and then how did the organizing come about? But then also how did you then get involved?

00:08:07:01 – 00:08:25:05
Jan Levy
Sure, sure. Okay, quick. More potted history. One of the part of the MBA experience I want to mention was the summit between News one, News two and because I was quite long in the suit already and wasn’t required to go and do an internship because I’d already had seven years of work, I got to go and volunteer. I got to go and spend the summer in La Paz, Bolivia.

00:08:25:05 – 00:08:49:09
Jan Levy
Oh, wow. And I was working in a home for kids and I was supporting some English speaking physiotherapists in a disability center. It was an extraordinary experience, but anybody who’s been to La Paz will know that this is a city that sits in a extraordinary bowl beneath the Altiplano at 4000 meters. And if you at a higher point of the city, you can look down.

00:08:49:09 – 00:09:12:03
Jan Levy
And one day I walked up to a high point in the city, inevitably to a to a less prosperous area, a sort of poverty, in other words, and looked out over the city and saw a view of some big high rises in the middle of the city, in the business district, with big corporations names on them, American Airlines, Citibank, others.

00:09:12:11 – 00:09:41:09
Jan Levy
And then you look further out and you see these rings of ever increasing poverty. The further out you go save for one or two affluent areas in some of the lower parts of the city. And that, for me, looking over the city, was one of those moments. People talk about these moments. And that for me was a moment because I saw business in the middle and society around the outside, and I went, What is the role of those businesses in those communities?

00:09:41:14 – 00:10:07:05
Jan Levy
And it was so graphic. Yeah, and the image is stuck with me ever since, and that became a bit of an itch to scratch. So. So I joined business in the community, had these ideas about how do you help businesses play a more meaningful role in society? And I had no experience in this area whatsoever of sense of employee volunteering and making it more meaningful and helping people to develop through.

00:10:07:05 – 00:10:18:00
Jan Levy
It became kind of area of focus for me. SAT down with Giles Gibbons, who was already running one of the partners in business. In business, yeah.

00:10:18:09 – 00:10:24:06
Philippa White
Can you put me in touch with Giles? Because I know you guys as well. You must have put me in touch with Giles because.

00:10:24:19 – 00:10:48:13
Jan Levy
I can’t remember how I came. We met through something, through business, music and etc. I explained to him what I wanted to do and he said, Have you heard of Three Hands? It’s this big organization up in Scotland you should contact. So I got in touch. I looked him up, wrote a letter, a very formal letter to the guy in charge, eventually heard back from him, turned out he was a one man band working in his attic in Nottingham.

00:10:49:08 – 00:10:54:07
Jan Levy
So? So where big organization in Scotland came back. I do not know. But Simon was a one man.

00:10:54:08 – 00:10:56:13
Philippa White
He did some great branding, clearly.

00:10:56:13 – 00:11:24:24
Jan Levy
Yeah, yeah. Punching above his weight already. He’s a one man band working out of the attic and with this idea to do what equals. And so I’m socially responsible, develop and take people out of business, give them really challenging, compelling projects in communities. Use them as a development mechanism for those people from business and have a great impact in usually on behalf of a single charity, but in the process and always when that’s what I want to do.

00:11:25:04 – 00:11:43:06
Jan Levy
Yeah. And I went, Well, he’s already doing it. And he’s got three brilliant case studies, one with Motorola, one with RPA, some one with Pfizer. So to cut a long story short, I joined up with him. Yeah, well, yeah. And I said, Simon, if he had no money and no clients at the time. So it was utterly foolhardy of me.

00:11:43:13 – 00:11:58:04
Jan Levy
This is something I’ll give you six months of my time because I could afford to, that I didn’t have any responsibilities really, you know, in exchange for a bit of equity and we’ll take it from there. And after six months we still had no clients. But I said, Let’s give this another three months, come on and I will.

00:11:58:05 – 00:11:59:14
Philippa White
And the rest is history.

00:11:59:14 – 00:12:02:13
Jan Levy
And then then things started. Yeah, yeah.

00:12:03:00 – 00:12:14:22
Philippa White
So talk to us about the model and the offerings and the power of lived experience, which I you’ve had how it works and maybe how you evolved yet.

00:12:14:22 – 00:12:38:24
Jan Levy
Absolutely. So we have a very clear purpose around creating business value and social value hand in hand. We do that by sitting in a space between businesses and nonprofits, just in social enterprises, just like you do. We bring the two together for mutual benefit through three highly impactful projects and programs that have actually a business rationale, actually a business benefit address, a business need and create impact and communities.

00:12:39:18 – 00:13:02:05
Jan Levy
We started, like I said, in the world of leadership, in talent development, taking people out of business, giving them projects with charities to help them to have leadership skills. What we didn’t realize at the time was that they were also getting tons of insight on issues in society, issues that we now call ESG issues we expanded out into more classically at the time called CSR type activities.

00:13:02:05 – 00:13:48:15
Jan Levy
So high impact strategic volunteering very often to very senior teams working with business, charity partnerships, even a bit of measurement and evaluation work. So that’s a strand of work we call community impact. And what we realized doing these two strands of work, leadership and talent development and community impact was people were going into the charities from businesses, taking on these leadership development projects, doing some really high impact strategic volunteering, and also coming out with insights on what’s going on for real people in society and real people who might have been their customers and one really nice illustration of that was that we want a two day leadership development module with Sky, as in the broadcasters,

00:13:49:17 – 00:14:06:00
Jan Levy
and we had them for two days at the R and B Cycles charity. And one of the stakeholders, the R and I B was a blind man, as you might expect. Right? The project was a strategy project for the R and B and I would get.

00:14:07:05 – 00:14:10:14
Philippa White
Maybe just for R and I B for the listeners.

00:14:10:19 – 00:14:30:12
Jan Levy
Yeah. Cyclones Charity World National Institute for the Blind. Yeah. Okay. And this stakeholder, the R and B said, well, he was blind, but not just visually impaired, but blind. He said to the guys, he said, Sky guys. He said, Well, I’m a Sky customer, I’m a fully subscribed sky customer. So you can imagine where this conversation went, right?

00:14:30:12 – 00:14:54:21
Jan Levy
They went off topic from the project and a few of them sat down with him and said, What’s it like to be a Blind Sky customer? Yeah, but he told them each and it had had a profound impact on them. Yeah. And as facilitators we watched this and when I remember saying these words to Michael, I said, I think that’s called customer insight, right?

00:14:54:21 – 00:15:28:03
Jan Levy
And I think that’s quite powerful customer insight anyway. So that and some other sort of similar experiences led us to launch what we call social insights, and that is where we are helping businesses to learn about what is going on for their customers, predominantly their customers. Yeah, through the lenses of people we call the lift experts who represent the customers live the experts, you know, to use the sort of financial services, technical jargon, lift experts in various customer vulnerability circumstances.

00:15:28:15 – 00:15:32:15
Jan Levy
Okay. It was a visually impaired man, blind man, talking about what it’s like to be a sky customer.

00:15:32:18 – 00:15:53:07
Philippa White
And how would that look. So if you have a client and they get involved because it’s coming from the ad world, obviously focus groups exist. You know, you have very kind of them business type conversations. You might sort of get a group of people together and you ask questions. This is not that. It is so much richer than that.

00:15:53:07 – 00:15:59:07
Philippa White
And I think it would just be really interesting to just understand what is the what does that interaction look like?

00:15:59:07 – 00:16:22:04
Jan Levy
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s a great point about this is not quite the same as focus groups, one or two different shapes and forms, but there’s a really strong principle principle behind it that the guys, the client organization, the guys in the business are involved, that they’re part of the process. So I think a lot of our work, a principle behind it, is experiential, just like.

00:16:22:04 – 00:16:43:10
Jan Levy
Yeah, exactly. And so in a way we started doing this in so I gather in research work not being research by trade and in a way that was a great advantage for us because it meant we put in what we were really good at and we’re really good at creating experiences, visceral experiences in some cases. And that’s what we set out to do with this work as well.

00:16:44:04 – 00:17:18:22
Jan Levy
So this one proposition, which we call immersive innovation, it’s whole three day sprint around a problem statement that a business might bring in partnership with the charity and the people sports. So there’s a full day of a client team of, let’s say, 12 people just interacting with a charity and the people it supports. So might be interacting with a charity supporting older people with all sorts of activities and all sorts of conversations to help them understand what it’s like for an older person who may or may not be grappling with going digital with their banking.

00:17:18:22 – 00:17:39:24
Jan Levy
For example. And as a brief we got in the early days, was a life insurance company saying, you know, the world of cancer is changing. More people are living longer with cancer. We want to know if our life insurance products are still fit for purpose. And we set up a whole immersive innovation program with the brewery and charity Maggie’s.

00:17:39:24 – 00:17:55:12
Jan Levy
So yeah, you guys in the crime scene just interacting with people with experience of cancer for a full day, taking insights from those experiences, turning those insights into ideas for doing things better, turning some of those ideas into prototypes.

00:17:55:18 – 00:18:36:03
Philippa White
And also, I mean, just listening to you talks, I think what makes this immersion so important and I would say this is where we come in as well, it’s having that exposure to people that you wouldn’t normally have exposure to and therefore then developing that empathy, that cultural intelligence, those competencies that unfortunately many times in the business world, those types of leadership courses, that if they’re they’re more theoretical, it’s more of a theoretical conversation, but it is very different when you are living and exposing yourself to people that you just, you know, stepping out of that personal circle is often actually quite difficult.

00:18:36:03 – 00:18:50:22
Philippa White
We know it’s helpful, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult to find those opportunities. And if you can do that, you’ve found ways to get people just out of those silos and into situations that are difficult, that on top of that just builds that, you know, broadening horizons.

00:18:50:22 – 00:19:08:16
Jan Levy
And yeah, you’re so right. And I think one of the things that come out comes out of it from a way that’s so effective is as a learning mechanism is because you’re dealing with real people. Yeah. And you might remember you will remember some of these individuals for a long time to come. Totally. What we discovered, you could probably find a report and read it.

00:19:09:04 – 00:19:35:22
Jan Levy
Yes, right. But if you’ve experienced it and as you saw, heard it directly from people affected, it’s going to stay with you. It’s going to touch the heart as much as the head, and you’re far more likely to act on it as a result. It’s very powerful stuff. But, you know, a three day format isn’t always right. The pandemic was, despite all the horrors, ultimately good for us because it forced us into the online world.

00:19:35:22 – 00:20:00:24
Jan Levy
And we found that we could do insight sessions online very easily. The lived experts community that we saw as a build up of people in society affected by all sorts of issues, people very comfortable getting online in their own homes and talking about their circumstances in the comfort of their own homes. So we’re regularly now running inside sessions on various topics that are relevant often to financial services.

00:20:00:24 – 00:20:20:10
Jan Levy
But we’re about to do our first work in energy is really exciting and we’re building up this research community now, which we call our the experts research community, approaching 200 people from all over the UK, all recruited through brilliant charities that we work with and they want their voices heard and business. They’ve got things to say to business about their experiences.

00:20:20:10 – 00:20:53:10
Jan Levy
And these might be people with disabilities, they might be people with mental health problems and people who are financially vulnerable when it comes to cost of living. Crisis has been huge recently in terms of people being affected and many people who haven’t been affected before financially are now finding themselves compromised by the cost of living crisis. Some of the simple vulnerabilities are temporary, so bereavement, for example, we just ran a workshop on bereavement, what it’s like to be bereaved and deal with financial matters of a deceased spouse, for example.

00:20:54:08 – 00:21:14:17
Jan Levy
So really practical application for the experiences of grief. People in a financial services organization. We just did a series of conversations for a bank on mental capacity which really revealing in terms of the experiences of people with learning disabilities or with dementia, for example, and what it’s like to do that banking so.

00:21:15:04 – 00:21:37:06
Philippa White
That is you. I mean, how do you come up with the issues? Is that the word? But do you come up with the sort of the the ideas with the with your clients? Or do the clients come to you and say, because I can’t see a massive company coming to you and say, we’d like to understand about bereavement, but when you I’m sure you can go to the client and say, Oh, look, this is something through other conversations that come up, I think it’s interesting for us to understand this.

00:21:37:06 – 00:21:40:20
Philippa White
Oh, my God, we hadn’t even thought of that. Is that sort of a two way street? It’s interesting.

00:21:41:00 – 00:22:05:03
Jan Levy
Well, actually, interestingly, generally speaking, the business will say this is the issue, okay? This is the issue that’s on our minds when it comes to trying to do a better job for customers. So a bereavement was a really good example of that. That’s beautiful. When when our second brief ever in this space was on cancer, we went, wow, that’s heavy.

00:22:05:12 – 00:22:31:13
Jan Levy
So then the second brief, it was, you know, so it’s all driven by what the business wants to learn about. Yeah. So it’s fascinating. So it involves us doing some research. What are the charities we know in those spaces? Do we have lived experts in our community who have experience of this issue? And you know, the other lovely thing about it that we’re able to do is create a revenue stream for charities and for these and.

00:22:31:14 – 00:22:38:18
Philippa White
I know your impact report was a little bit of all the money that’s gone to charities as a result of it. It’s beautiful.

00:22:38:21 – 00:23:03:08
Jan Levy
So that’s exciting. And I think we’re just challenging, you know, that notion that the flow of resources always from business to charity, that it’s always charity needing help from business. You know, what we’re doing is getting expertize from charity to business. So so that’s exciting. That’s exciting. Yeah. So we’re spending much more time on the insight work and rapidly challenging how a lot of research is done.

00:23:03:08 – 00:23:24:17
Jan Levy
So to go back to your original question, the focus group thing, we’ve got up to five guys actively involved in these conversations. Some people might call participatory listening, so we facilitate them getting involved. So they’ll talk directly to experts about what they’re curious about. That’s all part of the experience I think that they have and what makes it memorable and effective.

00:23:24:21 – 00:23:40:23
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s really interesting. So as you know, I’m writing a book called Return on Humanity. I’m still playing with this subtitle, but for now, it’s how the power of humanity can unlock solutions and business leadership in life. And I sent an email about it recently and I.

00:23:40:23 – 00:23:45:03
Jan Levy
Was very excited to see it. I mean, honestly, I thought, this is this is what is needed.

00:23:45:11 – 00:24:09:10
Philippa White
Well, thank you. And I’m excited. I finished the sort of overall writing of it. But as anyone knows, writing a book is a beast. So I’m now sort of getting into the more meaty kind of details and pulling it to life. So anyway, it’s a nine chapter book. I’m into four chapters of proper pulling it together now. And yes, it will be done in the next few weeks, I think.

00:24:09:10 – 00:24:11:17
Philippa White
And then it’s proper editing, but we’re getting there.

00:24:12:04 – 00:24:17:22
Jan Levy
But I just love achievement so far. So honestly, just just achieving that is amazing. So thank.

00:24:17:22 – 00:24:44:10
Philippa White
You. Well, it’s it’s interesting. I mean, it’s a very it’s it’s full of stories. I think business books that are just full of theory are really boring. And I’ve never been a theory person. And I think talking about humanity and then having a book on theory seems to not make any sense. So it is a book on with just it’s peppered with tons of stories and to bring any I’m a story person I like I only really understand things if there’s a story to it and they’re like, Oh my God, that’s such a good point.

00:24:44:18 – 00:25:02:13
Philippa White
And I think we know that from our work, which is all it’s experiential and it’s and you sort of get it from some thing bringing that to life for you. And I was actually talking to my aunt, my, my uncle, my uncle and aunt are from South Africa and my uncle and aunt were really involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.

00:25:03:09 – 00:25:17:13
Philippa White
My uncle was they were very close to Nelson Mandela. The stories are amazing. I grew up with those stories. God, I have to say, I talked to my aunt the other day just to check that she was okay with the stories and also to just get a little bit more unbelievable information about apartheid and just what they did.

00:25:17:15 – 00:25:44:05
Philippa White
And it was pretty extraordinary, just what I got out of it. But I found myself crying. I had about 10 minutes where I just couldn’t pull myself together. And it was it made me realize it’s a it’s a very it’s a it’s a pretty raw book of just real human stories. And that’s why I wanted to write it, because I just think we are all we’re all human and the more human we can be, the more empathetic we can be in the more understanding we can be, the better the world is.

00:25:44:21 – 00:25:51:01
Philippa White
But why in your mind? Mind? Sorry. Is being human centric important?

00:25:51:13 – 00:26:17:06
Jan Levy
You know, it’s something I’ve learned from our lived experts, from the people in this community, and particularly in conversation with going back to financial services organizations, because, of course, the direction of travel for them, very understandably, is digital tech in the future. Maybe it’s all around AI and that works for many of us, right? Amazing to log on, get on the app, do our banking, move on.

00:26:17:06 – 00:26:41:13
Jan Levy
No need for a branch, no need to speak to anybody for a lot of people. That’s just that’s great. Right. But what we’ve really learned is that as soon as somebody has a set of needs created by some circumstances, circumstances that are maybe lifelong or circumstances that are in the moment, like going back to bereavement, for example, there is a need for human contact.

00:26:41:23 – 00:27:08:00
Jan Levy
And whatever the topic, whatever the issue is, when we ask questions like, So what is the role of the bank? What is the role of the organization when it comes to this issue? It’s a really interesting question by the way, because it it opens up so many lines of inquiry. We invariably hear things that rely on a high degree of human involvement.

00:27:08:19 – 00:27:30:03
Jan Levy
And we hear things like in the context of the cost of living crisis. And this is talking to a financial services organization, but to provide me with a safe and warm space this winter where others can go, we hear things like just to be there with me by my side. We hear things like to be present in our world, to be present in our communities.

00:27:30:09 – 00:27:58:06
Jan Levy
I think this is particularly interesting with food banks because what we’ve also learned is that people have a complex relationship with money. The people’s relationship with money is obviously their money is obviously very important. It can be quite complex. So if you’re the organization that is privileged enough to look after some of this money, then you’re going to be seen as more than an organization that offers purely transactional services.

00:27:58:20 – 00:28:17:03
Jan Levy
For many, you’re going to be seen as a part of their lives. Do you bank with this thing? Isn’t there about the brand for example, you bank with? You got to trust this brand. You’ve got to be quite loyal to this brand. If you’re going to stick with them, you’ve got to be happy with this brand that you put your you entrust yourself to.

00:28:17:12 – 00:28:36:04
Philippa White
I remember bank I’m going to use name because I actually think it’s important. So I was in this was when I was still in England and I was banking with Barclays and I had arrived in London and you know, it was just Barclays Bank. And I remember feeling really frustrated because I didn’t I wasn’t able to ever get a hold of anybody.

00:28:36:04 – 00:28:59:02
Philippa White
And I wasn’t I mean, I didn’t have a lot of money. I was a lowly paid advertising executive. But I you know, I just didn’t have that. And I remember someone saying to me, and you can imagine I didn’t have loans I didn’t have there wasn’t a lot of involvement that I had. But even just the small relationship that I had with the bank and I remember someone saying to me, You’re more likely to divorce your partner than you are your bank.

00:28:59:24 – 00:29:25:20
Philippa White
And I remember thinking, Oh my goodness, really? People just put up with this. And I remember someone telling me about First Direct. They pick up the phone in one ring. Now I still I divorced my bank immediately. I have been working with working with, banking with first direct. I have had conversations with people about their dogs at First Direct people have told me what they did on the weekend.

00:29:26:01 – 00:29:46:02
Philippa White
They always pick up with at least one ring. There is always somebody on that. On the other end of the phone. And that’s still today. Today they have not changed. And that that for me, without question I will remain with I am such a lover of first direct because of the human experience. And again, I don’t have lots to do with first direct, but that is my experience.

00:29:46:02 – 00:30:04:14
Jan Levy
It’s so funny you mention that because I, I actually took the very same journey right from Barclays First Direct, I mean. Oh, really fantastic. We did. And what’s one really interesting observation about that is I feel everything that you do about that ability to speak to somebody, but actually over the last few years, they have also gone increasingly digital, as you’d expect.

00:30:04:19 – 00:30:22:03
Jan Levy
And I must say, when I used to phone them maybe a few times a year after we’ve had them once a year now, because I’m really happy with the app and all that. But I’ve noticed some bus shelter advertising recently in London anyway from First Direct, which is essentially focusing on the fact that you can give them a call and speak to somebody.

00:30:22:11 – 00:30:28:05
Jan Levy
Well, obviously realizing this is a thing, right? This is really important. It’s huge. But here’s.

00:30:28:05 – 00:30:40:08
Philippa White
Another time. 24 hours. Yeah, I’m in Brazil. I’m in Brazil. And I’ll be doing my banking at 9:00 at night. My time. Yes. So that’s sometimes it’s 4 hours ahead in England. Always pick up the phone.

00:30:40:08 – 00:31:05:05
Jan Levy
Right. But it’s based on schooling. Yes. But but talking of, you know, that that importance and the human contact and here’s something I heard just last week on an insightful and this was the mental capacity conversation. It was a lady with dementia. And she said and she explained to other people in on the zoom call and people from the bank we worked with, she said, You know, I have dementia.

00:31:05:05 – 00:31:22:15
Jan Levy
I’m not supposed to go out by myself, but sometimes I just want to. Sometimes it’s just have to, you know, I’m not supposed to because I might get lost and I might get confused and then I’m on my way home. But when I am in town by myself, I’m okay because I know that the bank is my safe space and that’s where I’ll go if I get confused.

00:31:23:01 – 00:31:37:06
Jan Levy
Really? Yeah. Well, and that’s not a transactional thing. That’s not. Yeah, this is it. That is. Wow, that building means something to me. That building is my safe space. Yeah. And now really, I just was blown away by that.

00:31:37:13 – 00:31:39:24
Philippa White
And was she talking about the actual physical space?

00:31:40:05 – 00:31:41:05
Jan Levy
Yeah. Yeah.

00:31:41:16 – 00:31:45:17
Philippa White
And so she would go if she sort of feels a bit she would go into the bank.

00:31:46:21 – 00:32:26:23
Jan Levy
Yeah. And they and then she said and then if I’m sure that they can call my husband. Yeah. Yeah. So you know. Yeah. That’s this thing about, about the role that you play in society and how you’re perceived by some and really what, what you’re there to do what, what is your purpose? And, you know, it’s not to provide safe spaces for people to you clearly, but it says something about the role of an organization in this day and age, where things are going digital, the importance of that humanity, and then the empathy that is required to go with it, the empathy and the understanding that is required to cope with a situation like that.

00:32:27:09 – 00:32:28:19
Jan Levy
Exactly. Exactly.

00:32:29:03 – 00:32:40:00
Philippa White
And I mean, do you have any other case studies or stories that you’d like to tell our listeners that bring to life your work? I mean, to be honest, you’ve given so many already, but I don’t know if there is anything else that you might have thought about.

00:32:40:06 – 00:33:00:08
Jan Levy
One, one more really, really quick one. And this was actually from quite a few years ago, people who know London might know of Croydon, Southland and know Croydon is sort of tower blocks. It’s a mini business center. It’s not known for green spaces. Right. And years ago, we own a program with some people from business and some young people from a charity.

00:33:00:17 – 00:33:19:10
Jan Levy
And, you know, I don’t even remember what the program was. It might have been part of a leadership and talent program, but it was in the icebreaker stage. Right. And the facilitator said to everybody, you know, just just by way of warm up, you know, if there’s one place in the world you could live and why, you know, where would it be and why?

00:33:19:11 – 00:33:51:24
Jan Levy
And everyone was well, I live in Barcelona, I live in Sydney, I live in the mountains. And this one boy came to his turn and he said he’s quite shy. And he said, Well, if there’s one place I could live with you, it would be Croydon. And the room just went to finish. Okay. Why is that? Because. Because there’s a lot of nice green space in Croydon and the peak there was this moment for the people in business going, okay, I sort of am beginning to understand the distance between somebody like him and somebody like us.

00:33:52:03 – 00:34:06:13
Jan Levy
Wow, this is a reality check on what is going on in some communities. Yeah. So so I think that, you know, some of these stories are about connections and helping people each other totally, totally.

00:34:06:13 – 00:34:32:07
Philippa White
And I love it. You know, it’s so funny because we talk a lot about curiosity with our work, the importance of curiosity. And we also talk a lot about the importance of talking to the locals. It’s it’s not just talking. It’s listening to the locals. And we have seen our work is international, right? So we have a professionals and they’re needing to solve issues with communities and organizations and completely other parts of the world.

00:34:32:07 – 00:35:03:00
Philippa White
So Kenya and I live in London or I live in New York or I live in Sydney and I need to somehow figure out this issue with a group of people coming together to help find a solution to this issue in Kenya. And and it’s just really interesting because even though people know that they need to ask questions and listen to the answers and they know that they don’t know anything about Kenya, it’s really hard for particularly more senior executives to be able to be curious.

00:35:03:05 – 00:35:24:03
Philippa White
And it’s so funny as children were curious, it’s very easy. But actually, if you stop and think about what does curiosity mean, it means you have to be vulnerable and it means you have to have doubt. And as a leader, the more senior you get, the more we’re kind of socialized to think that we have to have all the answers and we can’t show vulnerability.

00:35:24:03 – 00:35:45:22
Philippa White
But actually the only way that we can really understand is being vulnerable, having doubt and asking questions and asking the locals is the only answer, because it’s impossible for us as people in a certain demographic to understand the reality of another group of people in a completely different demographic. Like It is impossible.

00:35:46:05 – 00:36:08:14
Jan Levy
You’re so right. And what we see in business is that the more senior people get, the more removed they will be from, in many cases, the customers and the less modeling they will have. No, you’re absolutely right. And everything you said about curiosity just chimes with resonant leadership. That idea that you don’t know, you don’t actually have to have all of the answers.

00:36:08:14 – 00:36:17:23
Jan Levy
You can be a listening type of organization and listening type leader in order to be a better leader. Totally, it will expose some vulnerabilities.

00:36:18:05 – 00:36:34:11
Philippa White
We both have been on this journey for the last almost 20 years. I mean, I’m thinking of, you know, since we’ve gone off and started our own things, why in your mind just summarizing now? Why is what we both do so important for business and society as a whole?

00:36:34:11 – 00:36:54:09
Jan Levy
Let me answer that on two levels. One, in terms of what we do, in terms of learning and being curious, let me share with you my favorite quote from Bren√© Brown. Right? Maybe stories are just data with a soul. Yeah, that’s so nice. That’s exactly what we do right. Thank you, Bernie Brown. That’s what we do. We do.

00:36:54:09 – 00:37:37:19
Jan Levy
We do data with the soul. Oh, I love that. Isn’t that fabulous? Yeah, but on a broader level, why is it so important? Why is what we’re doing so important? Because precisely because we need to open up channels of curiosity and understanding between different parts of society, first of all, between business and society, to make sure that business is part of society and not a part from society, but also to open up to deeper levels of understanding on particular topics, on particular issues, so that guys and businesses working in silos so that people outside businesses understand why it’s actually very difficult for businesses.

00:37:37:19 – 00:37:59:10
Jan Levy
Sometimes when you create understanding and you create empathy between two sets of people or two organizations, it’s just going to be an easier, better place, isn’t it? And if you’re focusing on creating good outcomes for everybody to use the sort of just cliche, you know, stakeholder outcomes kind of philosophy, you know, I believe in the long term everybody’s going to be better off.

00:37:59:10 – 00:38:02:21
Jan Levy
So, you know, that’s what that’s what drives me. And that’s what drives us. The three hands.

00:38:03:06 – 00:38:14:02
Philippa White
Yeah. And that’s what drives me. And that’s why I’ve just always loved this connection with you since 2004. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners?

00:38:14:05 – 00:38:31:08
Jan Levy
Just really to say thank you for that, because it’s lovely to have this opportunity to chat. It’s always good when we compare notes. We have been on similar trajectories in very different ways and it’s so exciting to be able to sit down with you and go, Wow, this is what we’ve done. And there’s more to come.

00:38:31:18 – 00:38:32:18
Philippa White
There is more to come.

00:38:32:22 – 00:38:33:09
Jan Levy
It is.

00:38:34:02 – 00:38:55:01
Philippa White
It is. And I just we need to keep these conversations going because it’s really important what what you’re doing, the insights that you’re unleashing. Obviously, we work with similar companies at the moment, and the conversations I hear from them as well are just, oh, my gosh, do you know, three heads? And that’s it’s great that our worlds are colliding even more than they were.

00:38:55:04 – 00:38:57:24
Philippa White
And I just I think it’s just the beginning. So thank you.

00:38:57:24 – 00:39:02:20
Jan Levy
Thank no, thank you for having so much. Been lovely. Lovely to catch up. Yeah.

00:39:03:03 – 00:39:03:21
Philippa White
Until next time.

00:39:04:11 – 00:39:05:04
Jan Levy
Alright, bye.

00:39:05:22 – 00:39:29:04
Philippa White
Bye.

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