2018 Best EMBAs: Tom Martin, University of Cambridge (Judge)

Tom Martin             

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

Age: 37

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A man who will make the world a better place! Husband, father and banker.

Hometown: Cambridge, United Kingdom

Family Members: Charlotte Spelzini (wife), Leo (aged 3), Dominic (aged 1)

Fun fact about yourself: At the weekend I’m Spiderman and Superman – often at the same time.  Although I’m an identical twin, this is of course fiction, and only in the eyes of my sons!

Undergraduate School and Degree: MEng Mechanical Engineering, Manufacture & Management (1st class), The University of Birmingham

Where are you currently working? Regional Director and Halifax Bank Executive Committee member (part of the Lloyds Banking Group)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

I am a Lloyds Banking Group London Ambassador – which means I work hard to ‘Help London Prosper’.  This involves working with key regional stakeholders, strengthening ties with and supporting communities, and of course, serving our customers. Within the Bank I also mentor six colleagues at different levels of the organization – guiding and supporting their careers.

I sit on the Advisory Board of a Fintech and have helped a number of others – all part of Lloyds Banking Group’s commitment to FinTechs in the UK. Hopefully you will be shortly aware of who they are!

Before my EMBA, I was a trustee of the Bank Workers Charity and Sport4Life. These charities do really important work in their respective fields. I will shortly be running the London marathon to raise over £3,000 for charity – this will be my sixth marathon, but certainly the one where I’m at my least fittest so it will be painful!

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In May last year I organized the breaking of a Guinness World Record during Mental Health Awareness week to do just that (i.e., generate awareness and conversations about Mental Health). I arranged for an official adjudicator and 379 people convene at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham to form the largest image of a mouth (i.e., we should encourage people to talk about mental health which impacts one in four of us). The event was made even better by fellow EMBA participant, Ollie Phillips, joining to share his experience of a forced premature retirement and the mental health challenges that brought such a powerful and heartfelt message to all that joined in.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Six months into my EMBA, I was promoted to my current role – part of the Halifax Bank Executive team. Halifax has just been benchmarked as the world’s leading Digital Bank (Finulta) and is one of the UK’s most profitable. I run 1/5th of the Halifax branch network, the Regional Director in Greater London – leading a team of c.2000 colleagues and 150 banking branches in and around one of the world’s most valuable and cosmopolitan cities. In Greater London, we serve three million customers and have a billion pound plus balance sheet.  We personally delight hundreds of thousands of customers every week. This large leadership role is a privilege and honour, and I couldn’t be prouder to at the helm.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It has to be Simon Learmount. From our first day on the course, he led an exercise where, in less than two hours, we’d learned all our fellow participants’ names – it had to be seen to be believed. During the induction week he facilitated us really getting to know one other through an infamous “Red/blue” game – unforgettable for anyone who takes part. Later on in the Programme, he facilitated our Team Consulting Project which was quite simply unforgettable and my highlight of the Programme. I later found out that he established the Programme at Judge, as the original Programme Director… and you can tell how passionate he is about it.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? This has to be the Team Consulting project. I would never have imagined going to Kazakhstan to consult for Kazpost (National Postal service) to help them digitise and prepare for their pending privatisation. A country I knew an embarrassingly little about before we visited, their hospitality was outstanding. Our work evolved and it was hugely satisfying to work with the Board of Kazpost, Board of KazakhTelecom and the Sovereign Wealth fund – a couple of times I did pinch myself! As a consulting team we came together to add real value. What a wonderful country and an experience I never will forget.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted to stretch myself and work with a really diverse set of brilliant people, but without leaving my current company. I’m a proud banker, but I dearly wanted to spend time with people from different industries, countries and perspectives. Coupled with the fact I have such a wonderful institution on my doorstep, it was just too much of a temptation to resist.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I never expected to form such true friendships! Friends who look after you in tough times, and who are brilliant to laugh with in the good.  Friends who tell you some ‘home truths’ when needed, and give you a nudge in the right direction.  Friends, from across the world, with whom I’ll share more good times with for many years to come.  There were friendships formed from travelling the world together and dining in different Cambridge Colleges each month. The learning experience is phenomenal and the academia is first class, but it’s my fellow classmates that help make it truly unforgettable.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Speaking to such wonderful classmates who are making a difference in the world is inspirational. As you get talking and working together, you realize that in your own way, you’ve got a lot to offer. It has given me the confidence that I too can, and will, go make a mark in the world and help make it a better place.

My first step will be to set up a charity with my wife for a cause very close to our hearts. It’ll take us a few years, but we will do it. I’d have never contemplated this without the inspiration of my wonderful classmates.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I’m going to add one more in here – myself. I think it is so important to understand yourself – and where your energy comes from – so you can give your best to what matters.

I’m an early riser, and a 30 minute cycle ride to the train station, gets my day going. I’d then be typically flat out from 7.30 am until 4 pm in London, always taking a quick lunch break away from my desk.  Home by 6 pm to eat with my wife and two boys…there’d be wrestling or reading with them before I tuck them in! Then from 7-9 pm, I’d be on a Google hangout and/or doing a bit of EMBA reading. At 9pm, I’d watch an episode from the latest boxset with my wife. I’m pretty disciplined, but the 60 minutes exercise, the family time, the demarcation, it worked for me. I do plenty of travelling and that rhythm couldn’t always happen, but it certainly happened more often than not. That rhythm protected time for what mattered to me, and gave me the energy to throw into my family, work and education.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Simple – go for it!

I went for my EMBA interview from a Cambridge hospital where my wife had given birth to our second son a few days earlier. The day job was very busy. It would have been easy to think of multiple reasons for not doing it or postponing. It was a bit of a ‘sliding doors’ moment, and I went for it. Yes, it’s been hard. There have been frustrations, even the odd tear at home. When I look at back at what I learned and the pride that I’ll feel on Graduation day, I am so pleased I’ve done it! The tough times have been a bit tougher than I thought, but the whole experience has exceeded my expectations by some distance!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Taking myself and the courses too seriously in the first few months! I’ve been described as being a “machine”, because of the work I can churn out. I’m certainly organized, efficient and highly driven. However, this course encouraged a depth of self-exploration I didn’t know existed. I learned that life, even at a top class institution, didn’t have to be that serious. I learned to slow-down, enjoy the journey, and laugh more. I just wish I’d learned all this a bit earlier!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? That’s tough because they’re an amazing and inspiring bunch! It’s got to be Ollie Phillips though. He is a man who reached the pinnacle of world sport, only to have chance of captaining his country at an Olympics cruelly taken away. Still, he has come back incredibly and inspirationally from such a setback. Humble, friendly and kind – he’s just a top guy!  He’s also taught me a bucket load.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I walked into Judge Business School for an open day.  It was the first time I’d walked into a learning theatre since my undergraduate degree. The enthusiasm of students and the Programme Director was palpable. The 90+ Noble prize winners who had gone before as students or professors gave the feeling that this institution was something special. I just had to be part of it.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…Frustrated! After six months of starting, I was promoted. I have no doubt the ‘soft skills’ and confidence obtained in the former months of the course were crucial to enabling and equipping me with a successful step up. Without this course, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

In my dreams I’d be a footballer. At one stage I thought I may have had a promising career, but ended up only playing semi-professionally.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’d like to run a large Bank in the UK. Technology is disrupting. Greed has ruined some. However, Banks have played and will continue to play, a crucial role in society. I want to lead a bank that’s based on respect and trust, that people proudly work for, and one that gives individual and businesses great service and long term advice, to help them prosper today and tomorrow.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A good and humble man who wants to (and will) help make Banking a ‘force for good’ in society  #Purpose_driven.

Favorite book: Can’t Swim, Ride and Run by Andy Holgate. This tells the story of an 18 stone man who, over the course of a year, trains to complete an Ironman length triathlon. This is the first book I’ve read post EMBA, and has set the course for my next two year challenge!

Favorite movie or television show: It’s got to be Line of Duty. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a pacey UK Police Detective anti-corruption series, with more twists and turns than you could ever imagine!

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Very simple, but so important to me…

  1. Cook a lovely dinner for my wife – I’ve literally not done it for the last two years during my EMBA!
  2. Take my two boys to an Aston Villa football match.  I’m a huge fan, with so many fond adolescent memories of going myself, so it’ll be a very proud moment to take my own sons.

What made Tom such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Thomas was a pleasure to work with on his individual project (IP). He showed great commitment through the whole IP process and we had several meetings and calls in which he updated me on his progress and I provided him feedback which he took on board. I would encourage Tom to explore developing his IP further into a published piece of work. I believe it provides very good insights into the role of banks in the fostering of entrepreneurs and their significant role in the UK economy. Tom brought a lot of good insights and enthusiasm to the class and was one of the most active contributors.”

Othman Cole

Deputy Executive MBA Programme Director


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