David joined Ocado Solutions back in 2012. He started out working as Head of IR and Corporate Finance. Later, when he was appointed to the position of SVP North America, he took charge of leading crucial corporate partnership development activities in that region.
Prior to his tenure at Ocado Solutions, David worked as an investment banking Managing Direct at DC Advisory Partners and Daiwa Capital Markets. He advised companies on M&A, strategy, financing, and other important corporate finance matters.
And now—he has officially accepted a nomination as a Convrt Awards Judge. Thus, when we got the opportunity to sit down for a chat, we jumped at the opportunity. Here were the ‘nuggets of retail wisdom’ we gleaned from our conversation.
Can you describe your job in one line?
I would describe it as providing inspiration through building technology-based, lasting partnerships for mutual benefit.
What do you think makes a company stand out?
Doing things differently or thinking about things differently.
What do you love about the retail industry?
It’s incredible. There’s so much change. It’s an ever-changing industry.
When we look at the industry of grocery retail, it is ever-evolving. If we look back 50, 60, 70 years and let that inform us as to where it’s come from—and then we look at the change that’s taking place today, with digital and other technological advancements—very advanced mathematics, AI, and machine learning are being applied to data, which helps inform the industry—the pace of change is extremely rapid.
We’re living with an industry that’s very significant, very large. The pace of change is very dramatic. So I think this is an incredible industry to be involved in. From my personal perspective, it’s being in a position at the forefront of change and advancement in what is the biggest retail segment.
Looking back at the start of your career and where we are now, what do you think has really changed?
Within the grocery segment, we have to point to the very dramatic growth of online—and the growing appreciation of technological enablement.
And I think that can be applied to both what the retailer can do for the consumer—i.e, the customer’s journey and the customer interaction, the customer experience—but also what all of that technological change can mean for transforming grocery businesses in terms of their cost structures, as much as it is in terms of the user experience.
The other thing that I would really call out is the use of data, and the application and the analysis of data, to really drive the user experience through greater personalization.
But also, how you can use data to optimize operations—for example, through very advanced demand forecasting, which helps with your purchasing and inventory management.
If I were to give any advice, it would be to listen. Learn from those around you, and really have some self-belief—because I think without that, then you’re half defeating yourself before you start.
Can you identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
I don’t think there’s really been a single tipping point, but there’s certainly been a series of wins.
For example, the first time I won a transaction mandate—the first time that I started to secure very senior CEO meetings as I was developing senior relationships—and I think you start to recognize actually that there are more and more of these wins.
And some of them may feel like little wins at a time. But as they accumulate, you start to feel “yeah, this is really working.” If I were to give any advice, it would be to listen. Learn from those around you, and really have some self-belief—because I think without that, then you’re half defeating yourself before you start.
What advice would you give to retail professionals so they can thrive and avoid burnout?
Just take inspiration. That could be inspiration in terms of the way you approach things, build dialogue, or develop relationships. If I were to give you just one word, it’s inspiration.
Thinking about your team (but also in general), what are the top things or qualities that you really enjoy that you might find in other people?
Integrity, proactivity, and people who are personable and sociable.
If you weren’t working in this industry at all, what else would you be doing with your life?
I think I would do something I already do a lot of in my professional life—travel.
If I were to turn that around, the alternative to what I’d be doing is traveling, but for pleasure, adventure, and experience. I think travel really broadens and develops the mind—and is so valuable.
Is there anything else that you would like to recommend to your younger self?
To listen. But if I were to add to that, I think determination, diligence, dedication, and really learning through experience. Learn through doing things.
We all meet some celebrities in our field (or celebrities in general) at some point in our careers. Do you remember (or have any recollection of) anyone you felt most nervous about meeting?
I’ve been very privileged to meet some very special people. There’s always an apprehension when you are meeting with potential new clients or potentially very senior leaders—people that you yourself can draw inspiration from. So I think it’s less nervousness and it’s more excitement, tinged with a little apprehension.
Learn through doing things.
What does creativity mean to you?
I’ll use two words: think differently.
The Convrt Award is about authentic, independent recognition. Why do you think that’s important?”
I think that goes to the core of underlying the integrity and rigor in the award process.
What would you like to see from participants entering the awards?
I think through innovation and creativity, but while also addressing a real-life requirement or challenge.
It’s one thing to develop something because it might seem quite clever, but what’s its purpose? I really want to understand what the challenge is, or the requirement, or what purpose it is serving—and how the very sort of creative and innovative approach is addressing that.
We should live as a creative society, and creativity drives innovation. And we can only truly progress as we have more and more great ideas.
Any words of encouragement for entrants?
We should live as a creative society, and creativity drives innovation. And we can only truly progress as we have more and more great ideas. So keep working on them. They’re all good. Just make sure they have a focus and a purpose.